Sean’s speech, cut short at Warren Farm Scrutiny meeting

Sean’s speech, cut short at Warren Farm Scrutiny meeting

Dr Sean McCormack, Chair of Ealing Wildlife Group speaking outside town hall to the protest gathering

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: 

  • Linnets
  • Barn Owls
  • Peregrine Falcons
  • Swifts
  • House Sparrows
  • Bats 
  • Hedgehogs
  • 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. “

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Emma Chard-Cumming

    I’m appalled, genuinely appalled by the behaviour of Cllr Costigan! She’s clearly seen removing the cable from her microphone in order to cut off Sean. Why did the Chair allow this? This is not democracy. I do hope this video is shared widely so all of Ealing’s voters see what dirty tricks their Councillors do in order to bulldoze their plans through.

    1. Kevin Whitten

      I agree, totally. Cllr Costigan is out of order. Her behaviour here is reprehensible, to put it mildly. And the question remains: why did the Chair allow this? Sean McCormack was cut off when just a few seconds more would have allowed him to finish his argument. Cllr Costigan was given extra time to complete hers. Is this fair? Not by any stretch of the imagination! Anyone following the meeting, and there were plenty, would have reached the same conclusion.

  2. Steve Morey

    A fantastic speech Sean but tarnished by the fact you were cut off in an act that is undemocratic and quite frankly disgusting behaviour. Well done on your part though.

  3. Barry Riches

    Yoel Gordon is a councillor for the new Hanwell Broadway ward which used to be Elthorne. Unfortunately he is one of my 3 Labour “ representatives” on this rotten council. Our ward goes down to the canal and so is jutted right up to Warren Farm boundary. The council leader, Peter Mason, also used to be a councillor for this ward some years back and so will have close associations with councillor Gordon. Throughout my involvement with Warren Farm over a 12 year period I have had no positive, if indeed any responses from of my councillors ( always Labour ). What is going on in the Town Hall not only with regard to Warren Farm but also with the Local Plan proposing de sanctioning Metropolitan Open Land and allotment provision is nothing short than all out war on the green spaces that are needed now more than ever ( and which this Judas council falsely claims to champion ). The hypocrisy reeking from our council is staggering . It’s contempt and stubbornness knows no bounds. I am ashamed to be a constituent of Yoel Gordon and Ealing Council, which will become the pariah of London Councils with regard to protection of nature and the green spaces it needs to flourish should Warren Farm be sacrificed to sports pitches.As stated by people far more legally competent than myself there are massive contradictions in Ealings argument and these will eventually be shot down in the courts. In the meantime we have to stay resolute and oppose these obnoxious , tin pot dictators at every turn, we cannot afford to lose Warren Farm to such false and ignorant proposals.

  4. Tony Gill

    This was absolutely disgusting of Costigan. Hypocritical Costigan is known to have criticised Tory Led Thanet Council by stating “Thanet has been neglected & ignored by the Tories. From protecting the precious Kent coastline against the ravages of climate change to building a strong local economy not just based on airbnb…”
    Now I say that Ealing has long been neglected & ignored by Ealing Labour. From protecting the precious Warren Farm Nature Reserve against the ravages of climate crisis to building a strong local economy not just based on selling of our public land and our green space to Private Property Developers!

  5. Cathy Swift

    I’m impressed by your speech and appalled by the way the meeting was conducted in equal measure. How did you feel about speaking to the backs of some of the participants in the meeting?