On Tuesday 21st February 2023 EWG Chair Dr Sean McCormack spoke at the Warren Farm Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) meeting called in by leader of the opposition, Liberal Democrat’s Cllr Gary Malcolm. Unfortunately, despite the first speaker Dr Mark A. Spencer speaking for nearly six minutes without interruption, Sean was told he was “well over time” by the Chair after just 3 minutes 25 seconds. Continuing, and only needing a short time to close his statement he was cut off just 7 seconds later when Labour Cllr Deirdre Costigan defending the Cabinet under scrutiny took her own microphone into her hands, and gave a shrug when the sound was cut. Suspicious? You decide, you can view here:
Incidentally Cllr Costigan was allowed to speak to defend her proposal to destroy rewilded Warren farm for sports facilities for 5 minutes 36 seconds before the Chair interjected, and the crowd objected, after which she continued for a further 90 seconds. So in the interests of not being censored, accidentally or otherwise, here is the full transcript including closing remarks that the scrutiny committee failed to offer Sean time to share after this rather unlucky and oddly timed ‘technical glitch’ with microphones:
“Warren Farm Nature Reserve doesn’t need Natural England’s sign off to be recognised as one of the most precious wildlife hotspots in Ealing. If we lose it we lose an extensive area of wide-open, grassland meadow habitat the likes of which cannot be found elsewhere.
We would, it’s true, lose Ealing’s only breeding Skylarks, that account for a significant proportion of London’s breeding population. But this is not just about Skylarks, a little brown bird that sings a nice song. I know lots of you listening tonight are wondering “what’s all the fuss about Skylarks?” Well, Skylarks are a symbol of wild open landscapes, a symbol of times when our countryside was richer for its abundance, humming with life, not depleted, grey and silent. They are an indicator species for the overall health of intact, vibrant ecosystems and for many other less visible or audible species. To have them breeding in Ealing is a jewel in Ealing’s crown. And an asset for this Council’s green credentials. Councillors, eliminate them at your own risk, it will be a PR disaster for this leadership. And despite what was said in the recent Cabinet meeting, they do not breed in any significant numbers across the road in Osterley Farm, nor will they survive on the crumbs of Warren Farm left behind if these plans go ahead. Incidentally they don’t “enjoy long vistas” either.
But let’s get off the topic of Skylarks, there are many other species that rely on this space in our increasingly urbanised landscape and that the Council’s own Biodiversity Action Plan promises to protect and enhance habitat for:
- Barn Owls
- Peregrine Falcons
- House Sparrows
- Slow Worms
- Grass Snakes
- Common Toads (not so common anymore!)
- Pollinators, Invertebrates and wildflowers galore.
All important, and all to suffer or die out if we keep chipping away at their habitat.
The proposed development is in breach of Ealing Council’s BAP but also its own Climate & Ecological Emergency Strategy. The Council’s own Local Plan red-flags the loss of biodiversity, habitat and green space in a parks-depleted area.
The addition of the Imperial College land to the proposed nature reserve would not mitigate this loss. And it is entirely misleading to suggest it would. To label this one of London’s biggest rewilding projects when it will obliterate almost half of already rewilded Warren Farm is a total nonsense. Having recently been through the process for a genuine rewilding project reintroducing beavers to the urban landscape at Paradise Fields, I can tell you Natural England are not likely to look favourably on ecological destruction dressed up as rewilding. It’s greenwashing, plain and simple.
Public and expert opinion is firmly against this proposal.
Since Ealing Council published its plans on 17th January, another 5,000 people have signed the petition asking for Local Nature Reserve status for the entire site, taking the total currently to over 19,000.
A number of high-profile experts, wildlife organisations and charities have criticised the decision and supported the Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign.
London Wildlife Trust have said they could run the entire site as a LNR and can get funding to do it. An offer to sponsor the site for rewilding has come through Rewilding Britain, brokered by myself to Cllrs Costigan and Mason, yet it wasn’t entertained.
In a climate and biodiversity emergency where wild spaces are being fragmented, depleted and destroyed bit by bit, we cannot chip away at these precious remnants of nature and claim it’s in the best interests of our children and future generations. This space is just too precious to ruin with sports facilities that could be accommodated elsewhere. The proposals are untenable. We need to go back to the drawing board to actually achieve a “win-win” for sports and nature in Southall. This could be a flagship rewilding project that puts Ealing on the map.
Ealing Wildlife Group are willing to collaborate positively to achieve these aims, but we are not willing to stand back and watch a misleading narrative carry out ecocide on one of our richest habitats, or be told that we don’t care about children’s futures for wanting to protect that.
Thank you. “