Visitors to Warren Farm, which on Wednesday (November 25 2023) Ealing Council cabinet gave the go ahead to turn as much as half of the land into a large sports facility, have reacted with anger and concern that the council and its leader Councillor Peter Mason is not listening to residents.
At the full cabinet meeting, 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.
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.”
Speaking to EALING.NEWS this weekend, residents have said that the council is “out of touch with what people want”.
Harbinder from Southall said he was saddened by what the council is planning. “I’ve been coming here for years both by myself, with the family and with our dog. It’s the perfect place to walk, have some peace and quiet and be able to just get away from all the hustle and bustle. If they were to put sports facilities here, all of that would change, and it wouldn’t be for the better. This will destroy nature.”
He added: “I’ve also noticed recently the council has removed CCTV pointing to Warren Farm and a rise of fly tipping. Why aren’t they monitoring?”
The weekend visitors echo the views of campaigners and residents who want to see Warren Farm in Southall be made into a local nature reserve and are angry 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 “out of touch with what people want” and what they are planning is “disastrous to the environment “.
Another walker, Sarah from Brentford said: “This is such a unique place. I live in Hounslow Council and only discovered it during the Pandemic and since then been coming at least once a fortnight. People want it for what it is, not for sports facilities. If they wanted it for sports facilities, they would have not have left it dilapidated for over a decade. Ealing Council are out of touch with what people want.”
Doing her weekly 5k run, Dennis from Hanwell said it would be disastrous to the environment to do anything other than have Warren Farm as a nature reserve. There’s plenty of other places to build sports facilities. This place isn’t it. People of all ages and backgrounds come here to be at one with nature, nothing more, nothing less. They are being very irresponsible to residents and nature.”
As in previous weeks when EALING.NEWS spoke at Warren Farm, they emphasised much of what was being said by campaigners who want to protect the area from Ealing Council plans.
During a consultation period earlier this 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”.
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.
Following the cabinet meeting, Katie Boyles, Warren Farm Nature Reserve , campaign organiser and Brent River & Canal Society trustee, said:
“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.
“We can do so much better than this. We will continue our campaign, with support from conservationists and wildlife organisations such as Kabir Kaul, Mathew Frith and The London Wildlife Trust, Liz Bonnin and Chris Packham, the RSPB, Ealing Wildlife Group, London National Park City and so many more who can see the true value of Warren Farm NR for our wildlife and community.
“Since the council published its plans a week ago, 2,000 more people have signed our petition. We now have 15,400 petition supporters. Our campaign is gathering momentum. We will continue to urge the council to give Local Nature Reserve status to the whole of 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.
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.”
Residents and community groups were shocked by the plans which they say are is “nothing to be proud of” by ignoring what people have told the council.
In a tweet to Councillor Mason, Dr Sean McCormack, founder and chair of Ealing Wildlife Group said: “A misleading, gaslighting disgrace. Nothing to be proud of. I’d like to ask a ‘democratic’ question. How does a Cabinet meeting work? Is everyone given a point to address? Does everyone have to tow the party line? I find it hard to believe you all had the exact same opinion!”
Dr Victoria Williams, (@vrw123) said in a tweet: “Why are Ealing Council so sure “young people” will be in favour of destroying Warren Farm? This is a generation that listens to Greta Thunberg…never have young people been so eco-aware.”
Residents and environmentalists have previously 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.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Gary Malcolm, Leader of the Opposition, said: “Liberal Democrats have called for the whole of Warren Farm to be designated as a local Nature Reserve. We are very concerned that the 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 Athena Zissimos, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the Environment added: “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. We will continue to fight to save Warren Farm and the wildlife contained on the land.”
One supporter of the plans in a tweet response to Councillor Mason , Alex Crane (@AlexCrane33) said: “Now don’t let this get mired in endless consultation and listening exercises like with Gurnell leisure centre. Get on and deliver the sport and leisure facilities this borough needs, at pace”.
Ealing Green party chair Neil Reynolds told EALING.NEWS: “Tonight’s meeting was a depressing illustration of the Labour administration’s lack of commitment to the environment. These worryingly vague plans, constitute an attack on nature.”
Mark Eccleston (@MarkEccleston1) on Twitter said: “horrible and divisive debate tonight pitching a them vs us narrative… if you want to protect nature it logically follows you want to hold back poor kids – a cheap slur to distract from what’s going on. This is a slo-mo heist of an irreplaceable habitat. Lose lose ”
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 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: email@example.com
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.