Cockney sparrows threatened by incinerator, says Urban Birder

Tree sparrows: a previously common species, these are now increasingly rare

Tree sparrows: a previously common species, these are now increasingly rare

David Lindo, known for his television appearances as “The Urban Birder”, has described the decision to build a waste incinerator near the wildlife sanctuary at Beddington as  “simply devastating”, as environmentalists warn that the development could wipe out a colony of rare sparrows – an under-threat species once closely associated with Londoners.

Beddington Farmlands is home to more than 100 of species of birds and hosts one of the country’s largest populations of the rare tree sparrow.

Tree sparrows have seen a dramatic drop in their numbers nationally over the past 40 years, and Beddington boasted one of the few places to have retained breeding pairs in any significant numbers. Many conservationists are concerned that the operation of an industrial incinerator, with dozens of HGVs trucking in rubbish from across the south of England every day, will unsettle a delicate ecology and endanger the sparrow colony.

Lindo, who is a regular guest on the BBC’s One Show, where he demonstrates how to find wildlife in the midst of the city, said, “My heart sank when I heard that the council, the Greater London Authority and the Secretary of State have sanctioned the construction of the incinerator at Beddington Farmlands. This news is simply devastating.

“I used to regularly watch birds at this amazing site since the early 80s. To this day, it still remains a giant in the London birding scene and an important area for wildlife in general.

“Unfortunately, its fantastic potential as a major site for Londoners and for youngsters especially to learn about the beauty of nature has already been blighted. Beddington Farmand’s nationally renowned tree sparrow colony is already in steep decline. We cannot standby and let this wonderful area be destroyed.

David Lindo: the Urban Birder is backing the Save the Incinerator campaign

David Lindo: the Urban Birder is backing the Stop the Incinerator campaign

“Everybody needs to get behind the Stop The Incinerator Campaign. I am.”

Viridor, the operating company, wants to build an incinerator to burn 300,000 tons per year near the sanctuary site. Despite the company’s claims to be environmentally aware, earlier this year, before the bird breeding season began, Viridor cut down a sizeable area of trees used by the birds for roosting at the site.

Paul Pickering, the chair of the local Stop The Incinerator campaign said: “Viridor hoped for early approval of their planning application to Sutton council and wanted to ensure there were no obstacles that could delay site development.”

There are claims that Viridor’s act of “environmental vandalism” has already had a dramatic impact on tree sparrow numbers. “This cynical act has left the once thriving colony of tree sparrow all but extinct on the site,” Pickering said.

Peter Alfrey, a member of the Beddington Farmlands Bird Group, said: “Of the 11 special bird species that breed on site that were protected under Viridor’s previous planning permissions, all 11 have either declined or become extinct. Most alarmingly the tree sparrow- an iconic species for the site (the largest population in the south-east) has reduced from nearly 1,000 in 2007 to only 15 today.”

The plans to burn domestic, commercial and industrial waste from four London boroughs and beyond for the next 25 years are a disaster for the environment and human health, but very profitable for Viridor, Pickering says. “Alternative strategies of waste reduction – re-use, recycling and composting – have not been adopted by Viridor. We are left with a waste strategy designed to maximise profits for Viridor’s shareholders, rather than serve the interests of the people of Sutton and Croydon, our wildlife and the environment.”

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