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Ealing Council and its leader Peter Mason branded “environmentally reckless”, “ecologically illiterate” and “undermining democracy” over its Warren Farm plans

Ealing Council and its leader Peter Mason are facing growing backlash from campaigners and residents who want to see Warren Farm in Southall be made into a local nature reserve following details of Ealing Council’s proposal to allow a large sports facility to be developed on its green open space. They have called the council  “environmentally reckless” and “ecologically illiterate”.

These plans, which have been called “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.

 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

Katie Boyles, trustee of the Brent River & Canal Society (BRCS) and Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign organiser, said:”While we welcome the council’s plan for a Local Nature Reserve in the Brent River Park, excluding half of Warren Farm is like removing the jewel from the crown. As the council itself acknowledges, nowhere else in the borough has the wide open space for skylarks to nest safely on the ground and the abundance of plant & insect species they need to feed their chicks. That’s why they don’t exist anywhere else in the borough. Our skylarks are a threatened species facing UK and local extinction. This proposal would certainly make them extinct in Ealing.

“It is frankly speaking, environmentally reckless. Where is the accountability for the council to follow their own Biodiversity Action Plan? To adhere to their Public Consultation results in which the overwhelming majority of respondents want Warren Farm Nature Reserve preserved for it’s rare and precious wildlife? The site has had 14 years to rewild and yet sadly, despite our conversations with the council to date, the scientific facts of the matter and our community’s wishes are being at best watered down and at worst, ignored. Warren Farm Nature Reserve is at risk of becoming the biggest de-wilding project in West London. We strongly encourage Ealing Council to have an urgent rethink, there is still time to do the right thing.”

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.

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. I’m sure many children would agree to save this amazing natural asset we are lucky to have on our doorstep, and if they had a vote, would ask their Council leader Peter Mason to reconsider this ill thought out plan. It’s stubborn, ignoring the overwhelming consensus of the local community and undermining democracy at worst, and ecologically illiterate at best.

The Council needs to listen to experts on this if their Climate and Ecological Emergency policy or Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) mean anything at all. Skylarks, Barn Owls, Slow Worms, rare plants and insects, Bats and many other threatened species rely on this whole vast site to thrive, not a damaged portion of it left after new sports facilities swallow it up and leave the remainder for wildlife to share and make do with alongside a more concentrated public using the site currently for exercise, recreation and enjoying nature. The remainder will be a poor replacement and wholly unsuitable for Skylarks who need the large scale meadows currently there to avoid predators, as they are vulnerable ground nesting birds.”

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.

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