Our environment correspondent, PAUL LUSHION, reports on how the council, despite declaring a climate emergency, is now planning to destroy open spaces and rare wildlife habitats
The council’s voracious appetite for concreting over the borough’s precious green spaces has seen it include a piece of rare chalk grassland in Purley, among the latest set of sites being brought forward by Brick by Brick.
And the council’s blundering, loss-making house-builders also want to build more blocks of flats right next to a butterfly sanctuary in New Addington which provides habitat for some of the country’s most cherished species.
In Purley, worried residents have drawn up a petition which has already attracted nearly 1,000 signatures opposing the Brick by Brick plans for the green open space at Wontford Road.
Brick by Brick – and the council – are still pushing on relentlessly with their second wave of developments, involving two dozen schemes around the borough for 374 new homes, despite the covid-19 lockdown and the council’s wholly-owned developers inability to conduct any meaningful consultations.
Public resentment is brewing, with no opportunity to meet or protest against the plans. Online consultations that have been staged by Brick by Brick during the lockdown have been roundly criticised as unsatisfactory.
The destruction of green spaces, play areas and kids’ playgrounds belie previous promises made by Alison Butler, the cabinet member for housing, and the Labour-run council that they would seek to protect and cherish the borough’s open spaces.
The development plans for someof the sites also run counter to the ecological emergency declaration made by the council leader, Tony Newman, less than a year ago.
Purley resident Nicola Vincent put together the Wontford Road petition.
She said, “Croydon Council’s ‘Habitat Action Plan’ states that their aim is to conserve, protect and restore Croydon’s chalk grasslands. Yet there are plans to build new homes on Wontford Road Green which is just that: chalk grassland.
“In their ‘Habitat Action Plan’, the council states that meadow and other species-rich grasslands now cover less than 1 per cent of the UK. They state they are an important home for pollinators, and also help to prevent floods and store carbon.”
According to Vincent, when the council’s grounds maintenance teams do the right thing and allow the grass to grow, the Green is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including ox-eye daisies, field scabious, hoary plantain, yarrow, red clover, bird’s foot trefoil, bladder campion, wild basil, lesser knapweed, common dog violet and swathes of meadow buttercups, while protected species of bats (which feed on the rich supply of insects in the grassland), badgers and slow worms have also been seen there.
“We also have roe deer and tawny owls that you can hear at night,” Vincent said. “There have been sightings of the Jersey tiger moth, which is nationally scarce, and the chalk hill blue butterfly, a flagship species in the ‘Habitat Action Plan’.”
And she adds: “The plans to build are not only a threat to the natural environment but will also have a negative impact on the local community. The proposed plans of nine houses and a four-storey block of flats are totally out of keeping with the area.”
Locals have even done what the council, and Butler, asked them to do by nominating the Green as a ‘Local Green Space’, which was supposed to be protected by the council.
“Very soon after our application, Brick by Brick delivered leaflets informing the neighbourhood that they had plans to build on it. The reviews for our nomination as a ‘Local Green Space’ won’t occur until 2021.
“Our voice is being totally ignored.
“This green is a natural beauty spot, it’s astonishing it should even be considered for development.”
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