Croydon councillors will turn up in Coulsdon this afternoon on the hottest day of the year, maybe the hottest day ever recorded in these islands, to bask in the sun and in the reflected glory of the decades of hard work by the City of London Corporation for an event marking the borough’s downland being declared a National Nature Reserve.
The new status of the arc of land from Farthing Downs to Riddlesdown will be celebrated from 1pm to 5pm at the Ditches Lane car park.
Inside Croydon was first to report the enhanced status of what is to be called the South London National Nature Reserve since April. Conferred by the government agency Natural England, it is a positive reflection of the transformative work of the City Commons team and local volunteers and friends groups.
The status should ensure that these precious chunks of hillside and woods which link through around 1,000 acres of open space should be safe from any threat of development, and could also help ward off the possible exploratory drilling for oil, as was once proposed by a fracking company.
But regular users of the Downs have been getting more concerned about the increase in crime, anti-social behaviour, arson and attacks on the domesticated animals – Sussex cattle, sheep and goats which graze on Farthing Downs and in Happy Valley.
This week, hooligans have been observed deliberately worrying the herd of Sussex cattle, which includes 21 pregnant cows. The cattle were repeatedly being forced into stampedes by the group of youths, causing real risk that some of the cows might lose their unborn calves.
There are increasing frequencies of vehicles – after being stolen – being abandoned and torched on the Downs. Things have got so bad that the Happy Valley car park that the City Commons since July 15 has decided to close the car park at night so as to combat the criminality and anti-social behaviour there.
The various pockets of ancient chalk downland that form the new National Nature Reserve are generally under the care of the City of London Corporation, though the remains local responsibilities for the police and Croydon Council.
Will today be marked by Croydon’s cabinet members and councillors doing more than a bit of glad-handing and posting the usual virtue-signalling selfies on social media?
Despite the outbreak of anti-social behaviour, there has been little initiative shown, or offers of money to pay for extra policing and rangers, in an effort to curb the crime which is posing a risk to the National Nature Reserve almost before the ink is dry on the paperwork confirming the new-found status.
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