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Warren Farm campaigners still waiting for Ealing Council to release ecological reports on controversial development plans

Following the one year anniversary of Ealing Council’s controversial cabinet decision to turn as much as half of Warren Farm land in Southall into a large sports facility, Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaigners are still waiting for the Labour-run council to release ecological reports including a habitat survey of Warren Farm and the adjacent Imperial College site.

Campaigners have warned that developing on the rewilded 61-acre wildflower meadow would leave Ealing’s only Skylark population with nowhere to breed which they say 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.

A month after the cabinet decision and following a Ealing Council scrutiny meeting in February 2023, the council said it would be producing a habitat survey of the area. Campaigners say the survey has not yet been made available to the public.

More than 25,000 people have also now signed a petition to save Warren Farm Nature Reserve and keep it for nature use only.

The campaign seeks to save a quarter of London’s breeding Skylark population along with other endangered plant, insect and mammal species who call Warren Farm Nature Reserve home from Ealing Council’s plans to redevelop the land into a large sports facility.

Speaking to EALING.NEWS, Katie Boyles, organiser of the Warren Farm Nature Reserve Campaign and secretary for Brent River & Canal Society said: “This time last year we were horrified by Ealing Council’s decision to de-wild Warren Farm Nature Reserve, which was voted through unanimously by cabinet members.

“This hugely unpopular decision goes against national government and London-wide ecological policies and, even more shockingly, it goes against Ealing Council’s own environmental policies. After the decision was called in for scrutiny we held a massive family-friendly protest and the amount of support for our campaign has been nothing short of astounding.”

Ms Boyles added: “The number of signatories on our petition has flown over 25,000 and still it grows. We have received strong statements of support from nationally known conservationists and wildlife organisations, and our Warren Farm NR campaign has featured on BBC TV and Radio, Sky News and on Chris Packham’s latest online wildlife magazine show 8 Out of 10 Bats presented by Kabir Kaul.”

Ms Boyles also highlighted how long campaigners to save Warren Farm have been waiting for council ecological reports including a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation report that was due in September 2023.

She said: “A year on and the council has yet to come up with a convincing argument for dewilding one of the most ecologically important sites in London. We are currently awaiting ecological reports being undertaken by Temple Group ecologists, commissioned by Ealing Council, to be completed and made public.

“We are also waiting for Ealing Council to complete long overdue Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) reviews. The last one undertaken in 2017, which was buried and not made public, recommended all of Warren Farm NR receive SINC designation. Our expert-led team fully expects the same recommendation to be made this time. Ealing Council should honour the results of its own public consultation which was overwhelmingly in favour of protecting Warren Farm Nature Reserve’s biodiversity.”

Ealing Liberal Democrats leader Councillor Gary Malcolm has also challenged Ealing Council over delays in publishing its report into Warren Farm. Speaking to EALING.NEWS, he said: “”Liberal Democrats think that Ealing Council are hiding data which shows that the Labour plans to build on Warren Farm would cause devastation to many rare species.”

He added: “Liberal Democrats want to see the council speak to imperial College so any sports facilities can take place there instead of on Warren Farm.”

Ms Boyles added: “In short, Skylarks and football do not mix – however the council attempts to continue to spin the story. Adding the neighbouring Imperial College land to Warren Farm Nature Reserve would not compensate for the loss of rare plant species in the section of Warren Farm Nature Reserve earmarked for pitches. This would have negative London and UK wide ramifications.

“If Imperial College want to be seen to be rewilding, which we fully support as part of our original vision, they simply cannot claim to be doing good for nature whilst agreeing to the dewilding of a larger, already rewilded site. We will continue our robust campaign for Local Nature Reserve status for the entire site and would like to give a huge thank you to everyone who supports us and our wildlife under threat, and who value our rewilded meadow for all the health and environmental benefits it brings us. Ealing Council – vulnerable wildlife should not be ‘compromised’ and ‘mitigated’, it should be safeguarded. Let’s make 2024 the year of Warren Farm Nature Reserve.”

Chair of Ealing Green Party, Neil Reynolds told EALING.NEWS: “Local campaigners are right to be concerned about council’s lack of transparency over Warren Farm. Ealing Labour already have a report that recommended the site was protected, because of the rare species such as Skylarks. The have wasted £80,000 on another report in the hope they get a different answer. They should listen to the advice they have already been given by experts and the 25,000 on the petition: Designate Warren Farm a nature reserve now. All of it.”

Speaking to EALING.NEWS, an Ealing Council spokesperson said: “We will publish the initial Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) report as part of the next stage of consultation on our draft Local Plan. This consultation will start at the end of February 2024, when residents and groups will be invited to view and comment on the SINC report which will contain maps of the sites and justifications for SINC status.”

A Imperial College spokesperson told EALING.NEWS: “We continue to work with partners to consider the recommendations outlined by Ealing Council’s Cabinet and Overview and Scrutiny Committee in 2023. This includes supporting Ealing’s programme of ecology and habitat surveys at Warren Farm.”

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