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Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden says Ealing Council is “waging war” on Warren Farm

Businesswoman, environmentalist and Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden has added her voice of support to save skylarks and other wildlife at Warren Farm from being destroyed in plans by Ealing Council to develop the land into a large sports facilty.

Campaigners and nature experts have said if Ealing Council proceeds with its controversial plans, it will amount to “ecocide”.

In a re-tweet of a Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign tweet, Ms Meaden added her voice of support. Ms Meaden said to her 687,500 followers: “What is going on here… we know that Mature (sic) protects us. Both physically and mentally and we are literally waging war on her. This needs to stop…”

Speaking to EALING.NEWS, Brent River & Canal Society Trustee and Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign officer, Steven Toft said: “It’s great to have one of the country’s leading entrepreneurs questioning Ealing Council’s development plans for Warren Farm Nature Reserve.

“Deborah Meaden joins a growing list of high-profile experts and environmental campaigners who have raised concerns about this decision, including wildlife writer and conservationist Kabir Kaul, wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham; President of The Wildlife Trusts Liz Bonnin, President of the RSPB and Vice President of the Wildlife Trusts Dr Amir Khan; zoologist conservationist and wildlife TV presenter Megan McCubbin and TV and Radio presenter naturalist and ornithologist Iolo Williams.

“Deborah Meaden’s point about ‘waging war on nature’ is fitting. The proposed development would see our meadow destroyed and endangered wildlife lost. It certainly makes no sense from an environmental point of view. We are not convinced it makes any business sense either. There is a once in a lifetime opportunity here for us to safeguard this species-rich important grassland habitat for wildlife and the local community and we urge Ealing Council to take it.”

Neil Reynolds, chair of Ealing Green Party told EALING.NEWS: “It is understandable that Warren Farm is coming to national attention, it is a precious wild habitat, that’s why the Green party will tirelessly campaign to protect it, locally, at City Hall and Westminster. Ealing Council should make it a nature reserve now. All of it.”

Ms Meaden’s support comes following a Ealing Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) meeting on 21 February 2023 which approved the previous cabinet decision of Labour-run Ealing Council to build on Warren Farm.

Warren Farm

At the time of the cabinet approval on 25 January 2023, Ealing Council Leader Councillor Peter Mason tweeted: “Tonight, @EalingLabour agreed to move forward with our plans for a win-win at Warren Farm, where we’ll deliver both community sports & rewilding, to tackle the climate emergency & the huge health inequalities in our Borough.”

In January 2023, prior to the council cabinet meeting, campaigners and wildlife experts for a Local Nature Reserve at Warren Farm said that Ealing Council’s proposal to develop a sports facility on Warren Farm presents a serious threat to the borough’s only Skylark population.

The London head of the UK’s largest conservation charity, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has spoken of the importance of Warren Farm Nature Reserve as a breeding space for rare birds.

Warren Farm
Warren Farm

In a statement of support for the Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign, Andrew Peel said that the endangered Skylarks were down to just 50 breeding pairs in London last year, meaning that Warren Farm’s 12 pairs account for a quarter of London’s entire Skylark population.

Mr Peel said: “As an Ealing resident, I know that Warren Farm is an important green space, both for nature, and as a space for renewing local people’s physical and mental health. The mixture of habitats (grassland, brownfield, scrub, mature trees etc) support a variety of wildlife, including a crucially important breeding population of Skylarks (down to just 50 pairs in London), and other declining species such as Linnets and Kestrels. It is also important for seasonal visitors such as Stonechats, and as a refuelling point for migrants such as Wheatear and Whinchat.”

In a statement,  Dr Sean McCormack, founder and chair of Ealing Wildlife Group highlighted his deep concerns:

“I’m very disappointed that our leaders are pushing on with plans to destroy half of one our most biodiverse habitats in the borough, home to many rare species and the only site in Ealing where Skylarks can breed, a red listed bird of highest conservation concern. Having contributed to Ealing’s Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) which vows to protect and enhance habitat for this rare bird it’s shocking to hear that it’s apparently either Skylarks or sports facilities for children. This is disingenuous and misleading. We can have both. It’s also extremely concerning to see a real misuse of the term ‘rewilding’ when the plans involve the opposite, de-wilding. Warren Farm has already rewilded. It’s ecocide to undo that process.

“Warren Farm is not the place for sports facilities. And Natural England will categorically not grant this plan for Local Nature Reserve status when it will cause local extinction of this precious Skylark population if it goes ahead. There are lots of sports grounds that children can use, and far more suitable sites to make new ones that won’t obliterate nature on such a concerning scale. There’s only one place in Ealing where we can show children Skylarks, an indicator species for a really rich and valuable ecosystem.”

Kabir Kaul on Twitter said: “An outrageous decision by @_petermason and Ealing Council. Under these plans, half of Warren Farm will be replaced with sports pitches, driving Skylarks to extinction in Ealing. We want this meadow to stay rewilded, not dewilded.”

Chris Packham on Twitter commented: “The excellent @Kaulofthewilduk is on this case, it’s close to his heart and a valuable part of his and many others community. The site is home to a spectacular array of bird species, like Red Kites, Barn and Short-eared Owls, Starlings, Wheatears, Linnets, Mistle Thrushes. RT”

During a consultation period last year in which Ealing Council asked residents what do you like from Warren Farm, only 89 expressed interest in “opportunity to revive Southall FC”, while 1,001 said “Biodiversity and open/green space”.

Campaigners have warned that developing the rewilded wildflower meadow would leave Ealing’s only Skylark population with nowhere to breed and contradicts Ealing Council’s own Biodiversity Action Plan which confirms that Warren Farm is the only place in the borough suitable for Skylarks to nest.

The map above is taken from Ealing Council’s cabinet report showing one of the suggested sports developments on Warren Farm
The map above is taken from Ealing Council’s cabinet report showing one of the suggested sports developments on Warren Farm
Skylarks on Warren Farm
Skylarks on Warren Farm

In a previous statement, the council said: “Warren Farm is Ealing’s largest outdoor sports ground, but it has been out of use for more than 10 years, and the changing rooms and the pavilions are dilapidated. The council remains committed to ensuring that new sports facilities are delivered for the benefit of local people, alongside its ambitious plans for the rewilding of much of the site.”

It added: “Should the plans be approved by cabinet, the council will launch a study for the provision of sports pitches on the remainder of the site not included in the boundaries of the proposed nature reserve. The council will make further announcements on its full strategy for delivering sports facilities following this completion. Ealing’s Sports Facility Strategy supports a need for additional sport facilities in the area.”

The campaign for Warren Farm to be made Local Nature Reserve designation for the entire site and surrounding meadows continues. It already has over 20,000 signatories to the petition and people can support it by clicking here.

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