Local Plan 'Could Mean the End' for Borough's Skylarks

Council confirms inclusion of sports facility at Warren Farm

Endangered bird can only nest in large areas of open grassland
Endangered bird can only nest in large areas of open grassland


Warren Farm Campaigners Say Consultation Backs Total Re-wilding

Public Meeting Being Held to Decide Future of Warren Farm

Concern Over Cricket Pitch Proposal for Warren Farm

Four Local Meadows Designated as Nature Reserves

Southall FC Hoping To Make Warren Farm Its Home

Call for All of Warren Farm To Be Made Nature Reserve

Boost for Warren Farm Nature Reserve Campaign

Mayor Fails To Endorse Warren Farm Nature Reserve Plan

10,000 Signature Warren Farm Petition Presented To City Hall

Could Skylarks Save Warren Farm ?

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A stark warning has been issued by campaigners for Warren Farm that the council’s proposed Local Plan may lead to the skylark becoming extinct in the borough.

The plan confirms the council’s intention to restore sports activities at the Local Nature Reserve which some believe could threaten the last remaining habitat in the area of the bird and other endangered species.

Ealing Council’s new Local Plan, published on 30 November, assumes that a sports facility will be built on the re-wilded nature reserve. The campaigners claim that statements by the council Leader and Deputy Leader strongly imply that they intend to use the majority of Warren Farm’s open space for sports with other areas being rewilded in an attempt to compensate.

At a scrutiny meeting called by the Leader of the Opposition in August, Deputy Leader Deirdre Costigan stated that the council intends to rewild over 60% of the total combined 33.5 hectare area of Warren Farm and the adjacent Imperial College land. As Councillor Costigan said, this would mean a Local Nature Reserve area of around 20 hectares. This implies that the sports facility would occupy the remaining 13 hectares and this would take up more than half of Warren Farm’s current rewilded area.

The Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign group warns that this would mean a reduction in publicly accessible green open space and a significant loss of biodiversity. The Local Plan’s Site Selection Report acknowledges the potential loss of space stating, “Although areas of public open space could be retained in the development, this is unlikely to be equivalent to the public open space lost.”

On the subject of biodiversity, the Local Plan’s assessment is similarly negative, “Site overlaps or is adjacent to SINC / green corridor / priority habitat / ancient woodland and will likely result in the partial or complete loss of the feature. Therefore it is unlikely effects of the development can be satisfactorily mitigated.”

Campaigners contend it is impossible to offset the loss of the Warren Farm Nature Reserve’s rare ecosystem by simply rewilding other areas because of its unique assemblage of species. This, they believe, would have ‘catastrophic’ impact on the local skylark population as the species choose it as a breeding ground because it provides 25 hectares of open grassland, full of wildflowers and insects, in which to nest and feed their chicks. Halving that space would not provide sufficient space for the skylarks it is claimed.

Map showing the impact of removing a 13-hectare area from rewilded Warren Farm. Picture: Warren Farm Nature Reserve

Ealing Council’s own Biodiversity Action Plan seems to confirm this assertion stating, “Despite several other areas of seemingly suitable open grassland habitat within the borough of Ealing, Skylarks have failed to expand their range beyond Warren Farm. It is thought that this may be due to the likes of Horsenden West and Islip Manor Meadows having too much surrounding tree cover and hedgerows breaking up the expanses of open spaces Skylarks need to feel safe enough to breed.

“Because Warren Farm appears to be the only site suitable for Skylarks to breed within the borough of Ealing, any future development or changes of use must take them into account.

“It is vital to minimise disturbance to breeding birds as well as avoid or minimise the introduction of vertical structures that may force them to abandon the site due to increased opportunity for predators.”

Katie Boyles, Trustee of the Brent River & Canal Society and Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign organiser, said, “Building a sports ground on Warren Farm would banish Skylarks from the Borough of Ealing. They need the wide-open space to nest safely on the ground and the abundance of plant & insect species on which to feed their chicks. The neighbouring sites do not have the same unique combination of factors that create this unique habitat for Skylarks. That’s why they don’t exist anywhere else in the borough. The council are fully aware that the borough’s only Skylarks are a threatened species facing extinction.

“Put simply, take away any of Warren Farm Nature Reserve and our Skylarks, among many other rare species hanging on by a thread here, will be lost forever.”

Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Gary Malcolm said, “Ealing Council should be clear before we end the year that it will not build on the grassland nor damage it with a football or cricket pitch, given the need to protect the whole site so that species like the skylark can be protected. There are plenty of other sites for sporting grounds in the borough. I have called for a meeting with the Council and interested parties but so far, they have chosen not to response. The silence is frustrating many.”

Warren Farm is highly valued as a local open space

Those opposed to development of the area say that the council’s own public consultation, the results of which were published in August 2022, provided no mandate for any action that would threaten the biodiversity of Warren Farm with a clear majority in favour of it being protected. Over 13,000 supporters have signed the petition to give Warren Farm official statutory Local Nature Reserve designation in its entirety.

The Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign is urging people to respond to the Local Plan consultation and oppose the development of a sports facility.

Residents have until 25 January 2023 to make comments on the Local Plan. You can respond by email at localplan@ealing.gov.uk.

The Warren Farm Nature Reserve petition also remains open.


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December 15, 2022

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