CPRE tells Mayor Khan to make Farmlands a new public park

Beddington Farmlands: the CPRE says it wants promises kept to maintain and improve the nature reserve, while making it much more accessible to the public

Beddington Farmlands, the site of disused 20th-century landfill and sewage works, should be turned into one of 10 new parks for London, according to an environmentalist charity.

The Campaign for Preservation of Rural England has picked the wildlife-rich but sometimes scruffy bit of south London open space as one of the sites for its proposed new public parks, while ramping up pressure on incinerator operators Viridor and the local enforcement authority, Sutton Council, to accelerate progress on what was once intended to be the fulcrum of a nature reserve along the entire length of the River Wandle, including Mitcham Common to the north and Beddington Park to the south.

Other sites in south London identified by the CPRE for new parks include beside the River Quaggy, between Kidbrooke and Lee Green in Lewisham, as well as Grove Park, next to Hither Green Cemetary, and an area known as Dandy Fifth Park in Deptford.

Beddington’s lapwing population was devastated last year because of inadequate maintenance. Photo: Peter Alfrey

“London has just half the green space it needs for a population its size,” the CPRE says.

“And yet there are many green spaces in London which are just sitting idle – at best ignored by the authorities, at worst deliberately run down by owners and coming under threat from development.”

The first eight identified by CPRE include “amazing green and protected sites which have been undervalued by the authorities – but which local communities want to bring back into use and turn into new parks”.

They say, “We want to gain commitments from the Mayor of London and the relevant boroughs to work with local groups to transform these spaces into useful new parks. Some of these areas can become nature reserves; some can become improved sports facilities; some can be traditional parks. Some are so large they can be all of these.

“We want the GLA and the relevant London boroughs to make a clear statement for each site that it will not be released for development; to promise to give each site a new identity as a park to be managed in conjunction with the local community; and to encourage landowners to bring down fences and reinstate public access.”

The CPRE is particularly scathing about the mismanagement and neglect of Beddington Farmlands, which is described as one of “London’s forgotten green assets”.

At 400 acres, Beddington Farmlands is slightly bigger than Hyde Park, and together with Beddington Park and Mitcham Common, it is one of the largest contiguous green spaces in south London.

This is how the nature reserve at Beddington Farmlands was planned. Viridor has been slow at implementing its improvement works

“The site is an important area for wildlife, is classified as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation and protected Metropolitan Open Land and it was once a jewel in London’s ecological crown,” the CPRE says.

“But its wildlife is now in shocking decline and promised management plans have been endlessly delayed.

“The latest breeding birds survey shows eight species now extinct, failed or in drastic decline. The lapwings at Beddington Farmlands are now threatened with imminent local extinction. The tree sparrow population has collapsed from a thousand birds to a single breeding pair in just a decade.

The Viridor-operated incinerator at Beddington dominates the area, in so many ways

“And there is next-to-no public access to enjoy this vast area of open space at the heart of the Wandle Valley Regional Park.

“The site is now the location of an incinerator being built by Viridor. Planning permission for the incinerator was given by Sutton Council in 2013 on condition that a comprehensive management plan was drawn up to deliver an abundant, flagship nature reserve for local people and wildlife. Viridor was required to restore the surrounding area, set targets for increasing key wildlife and restore the site into a mosaic of important habitats for wildlife.

“Today the incinerator is finished but the restoration plans have fallen way behind.

“Residents are campaigning for the Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve to become a reality.

“They want Sutton Council, Viridor and Thames Water to put an end to the delays and work together to restore the site, deliver the promised nature reserve and manage the land competently to ensure the survival of the lapwing as well as other bird species reliant on the habitat.”

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