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Ealing Council leader Peter Mason “refusing to engage in” questions from Green Party deputy leader Zack Polanski over Warren Farm and health concerns in Southall

The deputy leader of the Green Party and member of the London Assembly Zack Polanski has raised concerns over questions that the leader of Ealing Council, Councillor Peter Mason is “refusing to engage in”. 

It comes after Mr Polanski wrote to Councillor Mason over controversial council development plans for Warren Farm as well as residents health concerns living next to Southall’s The Green Quarter which was formerly Southall Gasworks.

In an open letter dated 28 September 2023 and sent to Mr Polanski by Councillor Mason, the leader of Ealing Council addressed concerns in his five page response.  As well as Mr Polanski, other residents and groups across Ealing have challenged Councillor Mason and responded to his letter.

In the letter to Mr Polanski, Councillor Mason said: “I must start by thanking you for taking an interest in both Warren Farm and the Gasworks. Both projects have been issues of concern for many years, stretching back in the case of Warren Farm to well before 2010, and the Gasworks since 2009. Whilst I certainly appreciate the opportunity to address your questions, and to clarify the misconceptions within your letter, you should be aware that both matters have extensive background information freely available on the council’s website, a small proportion of which have been appended to this letter.”

In his comments on Warren Farm being turned into a stadium, Councillor Mason revealed: “I am happy to confirm that there are no proposals for a stadium at Warren Farm Sports Ground. The configuration of facilities is more likely to be a replacement sports pavilion and cafe, changing rooms, kit and equipment store, and an aspiration to deliver community facilities such as a classroom that can be made available to schools and community groups and relate to the future Nature Reserve. We intend to set the sustainability specifications for any facility strictly.”

On Southall’s The Green Quarter development, Councillor Mason commented: “I (and others at the council) correspond consistently with CASH, and this correspondence is published here: Southall Gasworks correspondence. This covers the matter you have raised regarding Berkeley Group sponsorship.”

He added in his letter: “We will continue to hold the Berkeley Group to account on a range of issues, from construction disruption and air quality to affordable housing provision, with all the powers available to us.”

“We are limited as a local authority in what we can do, but we will also continue to campaign for additional enforcement capabilities. As we have discussed with CASH on many occasions and have shown by publishing our independent legal advice, the Council would not have been able to demonstrate that a statutory nuisance had occurred, even when the foul smells from the remediation of soil at the Gasworks site were at their most acute and a soil hospital was in operation, regulated by the Environment Agency.”

Despite the length of Councillor Mason’s response, Mr Polanski told EALING.NEWS: “It’s clear from Peter Mason’s letter that there are still questions he’s refusing to engage in – pointing to documents, rather than answering simple yes or no questions, is evasive.”

Mr Polanski added: “Ealing’s residents rightfully expect transparency. It’s progress that Peter Mason is now entering into dialogue about dewilding Warren Farm and the issue of residents health in Southall. Rather than just engage with another elected politician though, the leader of the council should also be genuinely connecting to his residents.”

Speaking to EALING.NEWS, Neil Reynolds chair of Ealing Green Party commented: “It is disappointing, that this carefully worded and lengthy response has failed to give residents the reassurance they wanted.

“The suggestion of ‘Blended use’ would mean de-wilding Warren farm, when it should be made a nature reserve. Also there was nothing new or substantial for Southall’s long suffering residents on air pollution from the gasworks site.

“I am really grateful that yet again Zack is holding the council to account and show the green party in London is putting people and planet before profit.”

 

Zack Polanski meets CASH campaigners in Southall
Zack Polanski meets CASH campaigners in Southall. Photo: Andrée Frieze

Over the last few years as Ealing Council announced plans to develop Warren Farm and have a large sports facility on it, opposition has mounted.

More than 23,000 people have signed the Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign to get Warren Farm designated Local Nature Reserve status.

Chairman of the Brent River & Canal Society (BRCS) Phil Belman has responded to Peter Mason’s letter: “More species are being recorded at Warren Farm Nature Reserve every week, and the better we get to know the site, the stronger becomes the justification for delivering the BRCS Vision and designating the entire area as a Local Nature Reserve. It’s clear from the Council’s initial survey and from BRCS’s ongoing work how the results of the new ecological surveys will come back. We already know about threatened birds such as Skylarks and plants like Copse Bindweed to name but two.

“How long will Ealing Council keep wasting money on consultants? It’s time to recognise that 23,000 people are right, and that they won’t get the go ahead to ‘dewild’ half of Warren Farm by building a sports facility.”

BRCS Trustee and Warren Farm Nature Reserve Campaign Organiser Katie Boyles added: “As we approach 15 years in which Warren Farm Nature Reserve has been left to rewild, more is continually being revealed about the immense value our neutral and acid grassland habitat brings for wildlife, boosting Biodiversity Net Gain in the borough and beyond. It’s sadly still greenwash for the council to claim they will be ‘rewilding the majority of land across both sites, Warren Farm and Imperial College’. Our land has already rewilded with incredible results.

“Taking over half of Warren Farm is dewilding an already rewilded site no matter which way you spin it. We very much look forward to seeing the outcome of the ecological studies and, as always, our experts are here as volunteers to assist as required. No plans for a stadium is very welcome, but as we know, plans are always subject to change so we sincerely do hope that this statement will hold. In the recent State of Nature Report which makes for grim reading on the UKs plummeting biodiversity, The Wildlife Trusts and Natural England have been citing the abundance of Skylarks have declined by 56%. Warren Farm holds a quarter of London’s breeding Skylark population. Our wildlife and community deserves better.”

BRCS Trustee and Warren Farm Nature Reserve Campaign Officer Steven Toft commented: “Warren Farm is one of the most ecologically important sites in London. De-wilding half of it will destroy all of it. We hope that Ealing Council will declare the entire site as a Local Nature Reserve, deliver the Brent River & Canal Society vision and celebrate Warren Farm Nature Reserve as the centre point for rewilding and environmental education for the community within the Brent River Park. As ever, we are ready to work with the council to make this happen.”

Angela Fonso, co-ordinator at Clean Air for Southall and Hayes (CASH) and Southall resident said: “On the matter of Warren Farm, I live in Southall Green the ward that Peter Mason represents and I simply cannot envisage residents in a ward facing multiple economic and health inequalities, making regular trips to Warren Farm, to access sports facilities because the site isn’t served by nearby public transport routes. We have Southall Recreation Ground which is boundaried by housing within walking distance, yet Ealing Council has allowed the MUGAs and cricket wicket to fall into a state of disrepair. As well as removing the changing rooms on what was and is an ideal site for sports.”

 

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