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London Assembly Member calls on Mayor of London to stop Ealing Council plans for Warren Farm

Hina Bokhari, London Liberal Democrat Assembly Member has added her voice to support residents and campaigners challenging Labour-run Ealing Council over its plans to turn as much as half of Warren Farm into a large sports facility.

On February 21 2023, wildlife experts are due to speak at a Council scrutiny meeting arranged by Ealing Liberal Democrat Opposition Councillors. They will be providing information that if the council goes ahead with its plans to build sporting facilities, it will endanger local wildlife.

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.

Also taking place prior to the scrutiny meeting is a community protest from 5.30pm to 7pm outside Ealing Town Hall against the controversial decision for Warren Farm.

Ms Bokhari said: “Liberal Democrats believe that in front of us lies a golden opportunity to preserve, for the long-term, one of the largest reserves in West London. However, the Council appears to have ignored seven other potential areas where sporting facilities could be expanded without harming wildlife.”

She has also asked the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan to challenge Ealing Council leader Councillor Peter Mason over the plans. “I therefore urge the Mayor of London to write to the Leader of Ealing Council to implore them to re-consider these plans and explore what actions you may further take to prevent this from going forward.”

Earlier this week, a video featuring wildlife presenters including Iolo Williams. Dr Amir Khan and Megan McCubbin urging Ealing Council to stop with its plans to turn as much of half the land of Warren Farm into a large sports facility was released.

The video, introduced by Dr Sean McCormack, founder and chair of Ealing Wildlife Group, calls on the council and its leadership to leave Warren Farm as nature intended so that the local ecosystem is not destroyed which the wildlife experts say will happen under Ealing Council plans.

Dr McCormack told EALING.NEWS: “As we seem to be failing to impress on our local councillors just how important Warren Farm is ecologically, and how their plans place sports facilities on arguably the most important zone of the entire site with many rare species and acid grassland habitat, I needed to call in a favour. So I got in touch with fellow wildlife presenters who were just as shocked that this plan is being pushed through as a “win-win” for nature and sports when it’s most certainly not that. Nor is it rewilding, it’s dewilding what’s already had 14 years to develop.”

“There is still time to adjust the plans so the needs of our community and wildlife are met. I’m really thankful for these wildlife heroes for stepping up and recording their pleas to Ealing Council to reconsider their plans and develop sports facilities for disadvantaged youth in Southall in a more appropriate and accessible location. There are many options, not least the Imperial College horse paddocks next door. Or one of the seven other sites identified in the Council’s own sports strategy released in July 2022.

“As you can see from the video, we just can’t continue to chip away at the precious little pockets of nature and biodiversity we have left and pretend it’s in the interests of our children and future generations. Ealing Wildlife Group would again like to reiterate our willingness to collaborate on better plans that deliver sports for Southall but don’t obliterate one of the most biodiverse and wild habitats we have remaining in the entire borough. All of the experts here are urging the Council to listen and not go down this route which will undoubtedly waste a lot of time and money on a proposal that is grossly flawed and open to legal challenge from the outset. It needs revising, so we are asking councillors to withdraw their support and let’s start again with a clean slate”.

 

The presenters join with campaigners and supporters of Warren Farm who have raised concerns about what will happen to local wildlife following Ealing Council cabinet giving the go ahead to turn on rewilded land at Warren Farm which experts is dangerous to wildlife living there.

At the full cabinet meeting on 25 January 2023, all council cabinet members present supported the plans. One member, Genuinely affordable homes Councillor Lauren Wall was not at the meeting. The cabinet vote now paves the way for the council to launch a feasibility study for the provision of sports pitches.

More than 18,000 people have also now signed a petition for Warren Farm be made Local Nature Reserve designation for the entire site and surrounding meadows.

Announcing the cabinet support, 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.”

Katie Boyles, Trustee of the Brent River & Canal Society (BRCS) and Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign organiser, said following the Cabinet decision: “We are utterly dismayed with this decision. Ealing Council have chosen to destroy our wildflower meadow habitat that has had 14 years to rewild. A site with an astonishing array of vulnerable and rare species recorded thriving on it, verified by experts. The councillors who voted this through tonight have actively contributed to the extinction of Ealing’s only Skylarks and more.”

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”.

 

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

Following the cabinet meeting, Ms Boyles said at the time:

“We are dismayed by this decision. Ealing Council have chosen to destroy our wildflower meadow habitat that has had 14 years to rewild. A site with an astonishing array of vulnerable and rare species recorded thriving on it, verified by experts. The councillors who voted this through tonight have actively contributed to the extinction of Ealing’s only Skylarks.

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 18,000 signatories to the petition and people can support it by clicking here.

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