Some of Croydon’s best-known and most popular open spaces are to be afforded similar status to a National Park, giving protection from the threat of development.
In a proposal to be considered by the City of London Corporation on Monday, what they have called “the South London Downs” is to become a National Nature Reserve. It includes Happy Valley and the adjacent Coulsdon Common and Farthing Downs, as well as Kenley Common and Riddlesdown, all open spaces which are managed by the City of London Corporation.
Comprising 1,030 acres, and beloved of walkers, runners, cyclists and the home for cattle, sheep and goats to help manage the natural eco-system, Happy Valley and Farthing Downs sit between Coulsdon and the Surrey Hills, which is already designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty. The South London Downs will be London’s third National Nature Reserve, joining Richmond Park and Ruislip Woods.
The proposed area includes Sites of Special Scientific Interest at Riddlesdown (calcareous grassland, vascular plant assemblage and scrub), at Farthing Downs and Happy Valley (lowland grassland, calcareous grassland, greater yellow rattle and woodland), and also extends as far as Hawkhirst and New Hill and the Sanderstead to Whyteleafe countryside area.
The wildlife there includes badgers, rare butterflies, dormice, rabbits, bats, kestrels, buzzards, hedgehogs and foxes. Coulsdon Common has several ponds, including two created from wartime bomb craters which are now home to frogs, newts and dragonflies.
The decision to create the South London Downs has been made by the City of London together with Croydon Council. Natural England, the government’s adviser for the natural environment, is expected to ratify its status in the autumn.
National Nature Reserves include the Derbyshire Dales, Dawlish Warren in Devon, Dungeness in Kent and Lindisfarne island in Northumberland.
“The National Nature Reserve will offer huge recreational potential to the large urban population of Croydon living nearby,” Colin Buttery, the City’s director of open spaces, said.
“It also provides excellent opportunities for education and research. The overarching vision is that nature is conserved, enriched and reconnected to people. The mission is to ensure the South London Downs National Nature Reserve thrives.
“The partners will act beyond boundaries, harnessing the power of partnership, combining passion, science and innovation to create resilient landscapes, rich in wildlife, where people can engage with the natural world.”
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