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Campaigners question why Ealing Council and its leadership have withheld important information about Warren Farm

Ealing Council has been accused of not revealing and sharing with the public important information regarding Warren Farm. It follows after a Freedom of Information request revealed that in 2018, Ealing Council recommended that Warren Farm Nature Reserve be designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC).

The latest concern comes after more than 21,000 people have signed the Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign to get Warren Farm designated Local Nature Reserve status.

The unpublished ecology consultants’ report, based on a survey in 2017, stated the much loved Warren Farm should be given Borough SINC status, which means that “damage to these would mean a significant loss to the borough”.

The previously unreleased report has now become known following Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Gary Malcolm of the Ealing Liberal Democrats, submitting a Freedom of Information request to the council and getting a partially redacted copy.

Ealing SINC Report Warren Farm section
Ealing SINC Report Warren Farm section

The importance of SINC is described in the Mayor of London’s London Plan as: “Areas of land chosen to represent the best wildlife habitats in London and areas of land where people can experience nature close to where they live and work.”

According to experts, it is good practice for London councils to review their SINCs every ten years, Ealing Council’s last completed SINC review dates back to 2007 and it now overdue.

Commenting on the report, Katie Boyles, Brent River & Canal Society (BRCS) trustee and Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign organiser said:
“We are not at all surprised by the findings of this SINC report that recommends our green space as a vital site of importance for nature conservation. It’s obvious to anyone who visits how amazing our meadow is and that it is bursting with wildlife. Indeed, we would go further than the SINC report.”

Ms Boyles added: “We believe Warren Farm Nature Reserve is of London-wide and national importance. Since this survey was done in 2017, our grassland and wildflower meadow has further re-wilded and it contains one of the richest collections of rare and endangered species in the capital. The site is home to Ealing’s only Skylarks, making up a quarter of London’s breeding population and London’s only recently recorded site for the nationally endangered Copse Bindweed. If the council’s development plans were to go ahead, this plant would become extinct in London.

“What is less clear is why Ealing Council has sat on this information for so long and why it took a freedom of information request to get to the truth. Withholding important environmental information from Ealing residents, whilst simultaneously planning to de-wild Warren Farm Nature Reserve, is hugely disappointing behaviour. This is not what we would expect from a council that claims to care about the environment. Warren Farm Nature Reserve deserves to be acknowledged and protected for future generations. We encourage Ealing Council to be open and transparent and to uphold the recommendations made in their own SINC review rather than ignoring them.”

Councillor Malcolm, who obtained the partially redacted report which recommends Warren Farm Nature Reserve be designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) in 2018 said: “Liberal Democrats and Warren Farm users say that if Ealing Council’s development plans for Warren Farm go ahead, endangered species will become extinct. It is also a scandal that Ealing Council has held onto this information for many years whilst planning to de-wild Warren Farm Nature Reserve. If its own report says that Warren Farm should be protected, then it should drop its plans for Warren Farm NOW. Liberal Democrats and the tens of thousands of angry residents in Ealing will continue to fight to protect Warren Farm.”

Another BRCS trustee, Phil Belman added: “We have been urging Ealing Council to carry out the SINC review for over five years. It was due in 2017, which was when this survey was carried out. The information from this review appears to have been omitted from its Local Plan, published in November 2022. The Local Plan contains proposals for developments on a number of sites, including Warren Farm Nature Reserve, yet the SINC recommendation is nowhere mentioned. Why not?

“Ealing Council must now carry out a habitat survey of Warren Farm, as its own Overview and Scrutiny Committee recommended on 21st February. To issue a draft Local Plan before completing the SINC review is sheer folly. The council must now complete this review and revisit the Local Plan as a matter of urgency.”

Neil Reynolds, chair of Ealing Green Party told EALING.NEWS the previously unreleased SINC raises a number of questions: “Why has this been ignored and hidden? Why are Labour councilors pretending they need further information on the ecological value of the site when they already have it?”

Mr Reynolds added: “The council’s own investigation makes it clear: Make all of Warren Farm a nature reserve. Now.”

BRCS Trustee Steven Toft commented on Ealing Council being unaware of what is on Warren Farm. He said: “Not only does Ealing Council not know what species are present on Warren Farm Nature Reserve, it appears not to want to know. The SINC review shows that the council has already been given some information about the value of this site. The council runs the risk of wasting a lot of money on planning the development of a sports facility only to find that it was unviable from the start. Wouldn’t it make more sense to carry out a habitat survey now before committing any more resources to this project?”

Warren Farm supporter and London Natural History Society forensic botanist Dr Mark A Spencer added: “The 2017 surveys, commissioned by Ealing Council, recognise that Warren Farm sits within a larger ecologically valuable landscape and that it should be protected. Our more recent work has demonstrated that the site contains nationally and regionally endangered species, many of which are considered priorities for conservation by the GLA. Despite knowing that we have undertaken further surveys, Ealing Council have failed to recognise the existence of our findings. In essence, they have rammed their fingers in their ears and shouted ‘la, la, la’ in the hope that the information will go away. It won’t!”

An Ealing Council spokesperson told EALING.NEWS: “As part of Ealing Council’s plans to declare almost two thirds of Warren Farm Playing Fields as a local nature reserve and the remaining third for cricket and football pitches, we agreed to undertake an ecological survey of the site and this is currently being commissioned. When this is complete we will review the results and take this into account in the next stage of our plans for Warren Farm.”

They added: “Although there have been previous SINC reports, these are now out of date and a full survey of all the boroughs SINCs is almost complete, ready for publication by the end of September. That SINC survey will be used as evidence to build on our emerging Local Plan.” 

The Brent River and Canal Society and the Warren Farm Nature Reserve Campaign are asking residents across Ealing to write to their councillors and ask them to call on Ealing Council to complete the SINC review, demand that the Local Plan be re-written to incorporate the information in the SINC review, halt the development plans for Warren Farm until a full Phase 1 Habitat Survey has been carried out.

Campaigners are also asking people to continue to sign the petition for Local Nature Reserve status for the whole of Warren Farm Nature Reserve.

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