follow us: @_EalingNews
call us: 07488 352 974
email us:

Imperial College London say no plans for a sports facility on its land at Warren Farm despite proposals by Ealing Council to create large sports facility

In its first public comment regarding the proposals by Ealing Council to turn as much as half of Warren Farm land in Southall into a large sports facility, Imperial College London told EALING.NEWS, there are no plans for a sports facility on its land.

In a statement to EALING.NEWS, an Imperial College London spokesperson said: “We continue to work with Ealing Council to establish a Joint Local Nature reserve across land at Warren Farm.”

An Ealing Council spokesperson told EALING.NEWS: “There are no proposals for a sports facility on Imperial College London land. The agreement with Imperial College is that their landholding will be designated as a Local Nature Reserve.

“Should the plans be approved by cabinet on 25 January, the council will launch a feasibility study for the provision of sports pitches on the remainder of the site not included in the boundaries of the proposed nature reserve.”

The Imperial College statement follows concerns from campaigners who want to see Warren Farm in Southall be designated a local nature reserve who have written to all 70 Ealing Council councillors telling them to oppose moves to turn as much as half of Warren Farm land in Southall into a large sports facility.

This follows deep anger among residents and environmentalists who have accused the council and its leader Councillor Peter Mason of “ecocide” and being “environmentally reckless” and “ecologically illiterate” with its plans which they say will destroy the environment including the loss of the borough’s only breeding Skylarks.

In the letter, seen by EALING.NEWS, Katie Boyles, Warren Farm Nature Reserve , campaign organiser and Brent River & Canal Society, trustee writes:

“We are writing to you to express our serious concern about Ealing Council’s proposed development on Warren Farm, as outlined in the Cabinet Report published on 17th January 2023, The Future of Warren Farm Sports Ground.

“To be clear, Warren Farm’s sheer size and interconnectedness are key to its ecological value. Taking more than half of it would destroy much of the value of the rest. The site is already a rewilded piece of land. This proposal will mean a significant loss of biodiversity for Ealing.”

They then highlighted the reasons for why they it should be opposed:

“We therefore strongly urge the council to reconsider this plan for the following reasons:
1. The proposal runs counter to Ealing Council’s own Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP)
2. Loss of the borough’s only breeding Skylarks
3. Loss of biodiversity, as acknowledged in Ealing Council’s Local Plan
4. Loss of open space, as acknowledged in Ealing Council’s Local Plan
5. The development would be at odds with Ealing Council’s own Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy and would be counter-productive given the current Climate Emergency and the council’s biodiversity commitments
6. There is no public demand or support for this proposal
7. The council has not made the case for new sports facilities on this site
8. It is unlikely that Natural England would support this proposal”

This letter follows a weekend in which campaigners and supporters of Warren Farm have reacted with shock following the news and also anger at how Ealing Council leader Councillor Peter Mason reaffirmed that “we’re moving ahead this week with our plans for Warren Farm”.

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.

Skylarks on Warren Farm
Skylarks on 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.”

He added: “Warren Farm is equally important as a place for local people to walk / dog walk / rest, and play. There is an increasingly large body of scientific research showing that regular access to green spaces is vital in creating and maintaining people’s physical and mental health. In the words of the African proverb ‘Health is made at home, hospitals are for repairs’. Accessible green spaces are also vital for children’s development and play, affording great scope for interaction and imagination, as well as promoting their independence.

Local RSPB group, RSPB Richmond and Twickenham added in a statement:

Warren Farm is a very special place for wildlife. Members of our group regularly visit the site to see & hear the breeding skylarks, such an important area for them as a quarter of London’s breeding skylarks nest there. Add to that the linnets & kestrels that are both in decline & also nest there. We have seen wheatears & whinchats on their migration route stopping off at Warren Farm to refuel.

It is also an important area for the brown Argus butterfly too. It is an absolute travesty that Ealing Council are planning to redevelop Warren Farm which is such an important biodiverse area with various habitats. It’s also an important area for local people to walk, knowing that it’s been proven that accessible green spaces are so beneficial for people’s mental & physical Heath & wellbeing.

Campaigners for a Local Nature Reserve at Warren Farm say that Ealing Council’s proposal to develop a sports facility on Warren Farm presents a serious threat to the borough’s only Skylark population.

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

“Imperial College land is currently a trashed, horse grazed paddock next door to Warren Farm. The Council can only get away with calling this entire scheme ‘rewilding’ because they are going to allow this single paddock to rewild. It will take 10-15 years. Many species will be lost in that time. Meanwhile Warren Farm itself has been rewilding for well over a decade and is now an incredibly precious ecosystem as a result of that time for nature to recover. Destroying half of Warren Farm for soccer pitches nobody needs and cricket pitches that could be placed elsewhere is not acceptable in a climate and biodiversity crisis.

”Imperial College are being used as pawns in this flagrant ‘up yours’ to the Council’s own Biodiversity Action Plan and as tokenistic mitigation. It’s like chopping up ancient woodland with 500 year Oak trees and saying you’ll plant the same number of Oak saplings in their place. It’s simply not acceptable and makes no sense when we have alternatives available. Biodiversity value comes with scale, intactness and age. It’s also not a good look for an organisation like Imperial hoping to boost their green credentials so I would strongly advise their legal and PR team take a closer look at how this will impact their reputation.

“Council leaders are quite incredibly pushing through a plan which has been vocally opposed by the majority of respondents in their public consultation, over 15,000 respondents to the Warren Farm Nature Reserve petition, our 5,500 members of Ealing Wildlife Group and most worryingly they’ve shown they don’t have a clue about very basic ecological principles. Nor it seems will they listen to experts or evidence on the matter. It begs the question why they are stubbornly proceeding with a plan that virtually everyone but them objects to? Is there an ulterior motive? How is it acceptable to ignore and silence objection on this, and then brazenly state it’s democratic. It boggles the mind.

“I’m all for social justice and new sports facilities for children and communities in need, but in appropriate locations that don’t destroy incredibly complex ecosystems and rare species. Ones that cannot exist elsewhere and cannot survive on the crumbs left behind when this Council barges its plans through effectively halving the space for Skylarks, Barn Owls, rare plants, Slow Worms, Bats and the people that want to enjoy Warren Farm as it is. Fact is they won’t survive. A vital urban oasis needs protection. Chipping away bit by bit at these last refuges are why we are one of the most nature depleted countries in the world!

“There is still a chance to halt these plans and start from scratch with a solution that favours sports for children and saves our last Skylarks and all the other species that rely on this land. I challenge Cllrs voting tonight to vote no and let’s start discussions together from scratch, respectively and collaboratively. Let’s bring children from Southall schools to Warren Farm together and teach them about the unique wildlife that lives there. And let’s ask them if they’d like cricket and football pitches to be installed there or one of the 7 other sites earmarked as suitable in the Council’s sports review last July. One of the seven sites that are wholly more suitable and won’t destroy the precious little urban nature we have left.“

Local young naturalists Daniel Brasier and Rowan Watkins, both in Year 9 at Elthorne Park High School, said:

Daniel Braisier:“Warren Farm Nature Reserve is a unique meadow site in the London borough of Ealing that has attracted a rare breeding population of Skylarks. When I visit Warren Farm it is good for my mood and mental health. I have grown up with the rewilded Warren Farm and it is really sad that nature and the Skylarks are now under threat. I am a member of the Central London RSPB group and told them about the fantastic bird species at Warren Farm including Barn Owls, Little Owls and Skylarks. I felt it is vital for the world’s leading nature organization to be involved in the campaign to save Warren Farm for people and nature. When I asked for a supporter statement the group was happy to write one.”

Rowan Watkins: “It is so amazing to have skylarks within walking distance in Ealing. The song reminds me of the beautiful fields around my grandparents’ house and is my definition of a countryside summer. It would be an enormous blow to lose them, not only for me and many others but also for their overall London population.

Wildlife writer, conservationist and Warren Farm Nature Reserve team member, Kabir Kaul and wildlife TV presenter and conservationist Chris Packham voiced their support to the campaign on Twitter.

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”

Katie Boyles, Trustee of the Brent River & Canal Society (BRCS) and Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign organiser, said:

“It’s frankly speaking, environmentally reckless and it is fantastic that so many environmental campaigners are supporting us. The fact that Warren Farm hosts a quarter of London’s Skylark breeding pairs should be seen as a biodiversity badge of honour by Ealing Council. Instead, it is putting forward a development proposal that will destroy their habitat and see our only Skylarks disappear from the Borough of Ealing if given the go ahead on Weds 25th January. As the council’s own Biodiversity Action Plan states, nowhere else in the borough has the wide open space and abundance of food to enable our skylarks to nest and breed.”

Ms Boyles added: “Future generations deserve to grow-up hearing this bird’s iconic song and to benefit from this already rewilded, unique green space on their doorstep. We strongly advise the council to adhere to the results of their own Public Consultation and give all of Warren Farm, Nature Reserve designation. To do otherwise would show the council to be selectively democratic and environmentally backwards. It’s not too late to do the right thing.”

Local residents have also spoken out.

“I’ve been coming here for years,” said Jane from Acton who was walking her two dogs. “This is such a beautiful place. I first started coming here when I lived nearby and even now I come. It’s such a unique place in West London.  It’s quiet, it’s tranquil and is the perfect place for me time. But if there was a sports ground here, it will totally destroy all of that.”

Another walker with a dog was Beth who said: “I grew up in the country and when I came to London, it was so wonderful to have Warren Farm. Throughout Covid, being able to walk freely around here really helped and if it’s future is under threat, that is really shocking.  A sports facility will ruin everything for the wildlife here, for people coming and getting pleasure and enjoyment from walking and there surely are other places where it would be more suitable.”

With his two children, James said Warren Farm has been one of the few places he can take his son and daughter to and show them nature in the wild. “This is nature. What is here should be left alone and as nature intended. It is so amazing seeing so many birds and wildlife here. My children learn so much about nature and teach me about what they see. I never had this when I grew up and it’s such a benefit to have this here for all.”

Campaigners have said the plans are “stubborn, ignoring the overwhelming consensus of the local community and undermining democracy at worst” are due to be discussed at a cabinet meeting on 25 January 2023 at Ealing Town Hall.

Taking his Sunday run, James from Hanwell said he loves his runs. “Why do they want to change something that so many people from the area benefit from. It’s open and so amazing to run and hear the birds. It’s one of my favourite places to run.”

The people at Warren Farm emphasised much of what was being said by campaigners over the weekend.

 Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaigners have highlighted the council plans to designate five of Hanwell’s Meadows as Local Nature Reserve, as put forward in the Brent River & Canal Society’s vision to create and protect a Wildlife Corridor, but the council’s proposal only includes half of rewilded Warren Farm.

They also say that even though Warren Farm has recorded rare species, the council plans to develop the rest of the site as a sports facility.

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

Campaigners also highlighted that developing sport facilities counters Ealing Council’s own Climate and Ecological Strategy. In a statement, they said it “would be counter-productive given the current Climate Emergency and the council’s biodiversity commitments.”

In a tweet on 18 January 2023, Ealing Council leader, Councillor Peter Mason said: “In May @EalingLabour set out our ambitions for Warren Farm, to provide both a much needed sports facility, as well as London’s largest project to re-wild and re-grow a key part of Southall and Hanwell. Now, we’re getting on with the job.”

Councillor Mason followed up by tweeting on 20 January 2023: “ICYMI, we’re moving ahead this week with our plans for Warren Farm.Plans that were democratically endorsed last May. Plans for a compromise to get the best of community sports facilities and London’s largest re-wilding project.”

But residents and community groups are shocked by the plans which they say are “undermining democracy” by ignoring what people have told the council.

BRCS Trustee and Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign officer, Steven Toft commented: “We deduced, from comments by the council leader and deputy leader in August last year, that the proposal would look something like this and now our fears have been confirmed.

“The council talks about its biodiversity and re-wilding ambitions. Starting the new Local Plan with biodiversity loss and de-wilding seems an odd way of going about it.”

In a statement, Ealing 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.”

Liberal Democrat Councillor Athena Zissimos, spokesperson for the Environment including streets, parks, air quality and climate change said: “Liberal Democrats are very concerned that the three options in the Council report mean that around half of Warren Farm will be lost, meaning a significant loss of biodiversity and publicly accessible open space.”

Councillor Zissimos added: “Liberal Democrats have called for the whole of Warren Farm to be designated as a local Nature Reserve. Ealing Council needs to decide between skylarks and cricket and they cannot have both in the same space and they are fooling themselves if they think they can.”

Ealing Green Party chair Neil Reynolds told EALING.NEWS: “The plans for Warren Farm are an attack on nature. The rewilding of nearby land makes no sense if it comes at the price of destroying the existing habitat of protected species. If these rumoured plans are true then it would be a best a terrible error of judgement or even a cynical exercise in greenwashing.”

BRCS Trustee and former Ealing Council Senior Ranger Phil Belman added:

“In 2020, the government committed to protecting 30% of land for nature by 2030. Last November, the Labour Party criticised the government for ‘a monumental dereliction of duty’ over its lack of progress. Yet here in Ealing, our Labour council is planning to destroy biodiversity on its own land. Skylarks need space to nest. Taking half of Warren Farm won’t halve the number of Skylarks breeding, it will eliminate them completely.”

The Brent River & Canal Society and the Warren Farm Nature Reserve group are asking their supporters to take part in the Local Plan consultation and oppose the development of a sports facility on Warren Farm.

They have highlighted the following grounds as reasons to state opposition:

  • Significant loss of biodiversity (as acknowledged in the Local Plan’s Site Selection Report)
  • Loss of publicly accessible green space (as acknowledged in the Local Plan’s Site Selection Report)
  • Loss of habitats for endangered species
  • Loss of the borough’s only breeding Skylarks (as acknowledged in the council’s Biodiversity Action Plan)
  • The development would be at odds with Ealing Council’s own Climate and Ecological Strategy and would be counter-productive given the current Climate Emergency and the council’s biodiversity commitments.

Residents have until 8 February 2023 to make comments on the Local Plan and can respond by email to:

The campaign for Warren Farm to be made Local Nature Reserve designation for the entire site and surrounding meadows continues. It already has nearly 15,000 signatories to the petition and people can support it by clicking here.


Are you an Ealing resident with a story to share? Or spotted something we should know about?
Get in touch with us by emailing: or contact us on X @_EalingNews