A Member of Parliament has intervened over the serious damage to the wildlife habitat and the destruction of one of London’s largest nesting colonies of house sparrows, following reports of the ecological calamity by Inside Croydon.
Elliot Colburn was elected as the MP for Wallington and Carshalton in the General Election held last December, unseating LibDem Tom Brake.
Brake, who helped to establish a local ecological charity during his 22 years as MP, is thought to have never once questioned incinerator operators Viridor over their management of the Beddington Farmlands nature reserve. New Tory MP Colburn has done so within his first six months in the job.
Inside Croydon reported earlier this month how water levels of the lakes in the Beddington Farmlands had been allowed to drop, rendering ground-nesting lapwings and plovers vulnerable to attacks by foxes and other predators on what were supposed to be “predator-proof” islands.
And now, according to a report on a specialist conservation website, “The tree sparrow colony at Beddington Farmlands – which used to be one of the biggest in England – is all but lost following a shocking decline of the species at the London site, with analysis in the Beddington Farmlands 2019 Bird and Wildlife Report suggesting failed habitat management as the key factor.”
It is Viridor and their partners, LibDem-controlled Sutton Council, who are principally responsible for the habitat management of the site and the enforcement of planning conditions.
The website, birdguides.com, reports: “The site owners at Beddington, Viridor, built a 300,000-ton incinerator some 20 metres from a significant part of the tree sparrow colony – permission for which was granted in 2013 – and it is that year when the most stark crash occurred. In 2012, 61 pairs fledged 365 young, but in 2013 nine pairs fledged 42 young.
“As of 2019, the number of individual birds and brood efforts is in single figures and it seems unlikely the colony can recover from this point.”
Colburn fired off his letter to Viridor on Monday, in which he wrote, “Two very urgent concerns regarding the Beddington Farmlands have come to my attention.
“First is the reports that nesting birds, including endangered species, have suffered fox attacks following low water levels in the hot weather. Could you please advise what action is being taken to prevent this?
“Second relates to reports that building work at the Oak Copse protected site has started during the lockdown without planning permission, including the felling over more than 20 trees.
“Could you please advise who owns this piece of land, who is responsible for the felling, and if any planning enforcement is taking place?”
Two days later, and Viridor have failed to respond to Colburn’s first question, although they were quick to provide a “nuffink to do with us, guv” response regarding the unauthorised felling at Oak Copse, which they say is on land outside of their control.
It is understood that Sutton Council, belatedly, has issued a stop order on the tree felling, but this has been ignored by the developers and the council says that they are taking “further action”.
The concern over Oak Copse is that once this corner of the nature reserve is stripped of its trees and habitat, it will be easier for developers to seek to industrialise the area and build on it.
According to an email sent by LibDem council cabinet member Jayne McCoy to another Sutton councillor, the trees were illegally felled some time ago. A retrospective planning application for the site would be rejected by the council, McCoy believes, due to the status of the land, though she has refused to reveal who owns the land.
Today, MP Colburn said, “I’m trying to find out who does own the land, along with what ‘further action’ actually means.”
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