It’s time to re-set our approach to Beddington’s nature reserve

CROYDON COMMENTARY: The threat of enforcement action against incinerator operators Viridor, and the waste management company, Valencia that now runs the former landfill site at Beddington, is too little and much too late, says conservationist PETER ALFREY

Wing and a prayer: lapwings are one of the under-threat species at Beddington. Pic: Peter Alfrey

Together with other campaigners, I have been calling on Sutton Council to act against those responsible for the development of the Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve for their breaches of planning conditions for more than a decade. Over that time, the delays to habitat creation have led to catastrophic declines in the local wildlife populations, many of which may now be irreversible.

The tree sparrows are sadly now long gone and the next iconic species on the extinction list is the northern lapwing. A petition to save this species at the Farmlands has gained the support of more than 66,000 signatories.

Yet even since the petition was started, the lapwing population at Beddington has declined from a high of more than 20 pairs to only four pairs. The species could already be “biologically extinct”, with low productivity and no end in sight to solving the habitat requirement problems.

For Sutton Council now to be taking legal action after years of neglect all seems too little, too late.

Not only could the enforcement be too late, but KKR & Co Inc, the multi-billion American global investment company that owns incinerator operators Viridor, who originally owned the leasehold on the nature reserve (and remain a primary shareholder) have recently sold it to what appears to be a shell company called Valencia Waste Management.

There are doubts whether Valencia would be able to survive any legal challenge over the planning failures, and this could all mean the taxpayer might be left to pick up the bill of creating the reserve – which was promised by Viridor in return for being able to build the incinerator.

There’s also doubt whether, in these financially testing times, Sutton Council will have any real desire to get involved in a costly legal battle.

So, hopefully, a more amicable solution can be reached where the council, the local community and Valencia all work together to develop the reserve and secure adequate funding and its long-term future.

In the post-EU exit framework, there are now numerous green financing incentives that can assist in solving the problems at Beddington Farmlands which were not available in the past. Since the original restoration plans were agreed, there have also been several shifts in nature conservation approaches.

There have also been many technological advances in recent years that assist with citizen science monitoring so what with new Green Financing Initiatives (such as carbon credits and biodiversity net gain credits), new government financial incentives (through Environmental Land Management Schemes, ELMs ) and new citizen science monitoring there are cost-effective ways to develop Beddington Farmlands.

The Wandle Forum is currently putting together a prospectus that aims to set out a modern, post EU-exit community vision of how the Beddington Farmlands community can all work together to create a flagship nature reserve.

The wildlife and local community at Beddington Farmlands do not need an expensive show trial. What we all need is genuine collaboration and an inspiring shared vision.

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Read more: Viridor’s charge sheet: incinerator operator’s eco-vandalism
Read more: CPRE tells Mayor Khan to make Farmlands a new public park

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4 Responses to It’s time to re-set our approach to Beddington’s nature reserve

  1. Ian Kierans says:

    Is it not about time that those who disobey planning conditions are penalised?

    Surely removal from preferred supplier status by HMG all departments would focus minds of international companies to fullfill their commitments.

    Perhaps it is time there was a independent regulator of Public funded contracts and all procurement contracts with environmental or other significant risks are measured that they areintially fit for purpose and at the back end have severe penalties for breaches and polluting.

    Even in America they are very hot on foreign companies that pollute – Quid pro quo!

    • Lewis White says:

      I think that Ian is so right.

      Thinking about how to make sure that developers deliver exactly what the Planning Permission allows–and the very important “Conditions” which often relate to the details of Landscaping and trees– I think the solution, simpoly, is Money. In the form of a refundable Deposit .

      I am not talking about small applications for minor works, such as householder projects, but for significant projects, ranging from a block of 4 flats or more.

      The developer would have to deposit a significant and proportionate sum of money , or Bond, at the time of approval. Perhaps 5% of project budget. Construction would only be approved to go ahead once the bond was in the Council’s bank account.

      If the developer builds it to the approved plans, and all the landscaping is done to specification and approved timetable, the Deposit or Bond gets refunded.

      If they don’t, it doesn’t ! Not until it is all finished.

      The developers would have to get the funding from Banks or Bond financier companies.

      This would require a much-needed change in attitude shown by bad developers.

      It would also require a Government willing to do something to give teeth to Councils and enforcement.

      In addition, a Planning Application should provide a lump sum, like a building control fee, to cover the reasonable cost of planning inspections by the Planning department enforcement team. A 3 year project would need more inspections than a 1 year project– so the Inspection fee would have to reflect that

      We have repeated examples of developers in Croydon not building to plan, and failing to do the landscaping– this would stop, if the developer forfeited a significant sum. That includes flats and other projects…..

      rather like the Incinerator land restoration.

  2. Haydn White says:

    How dare you attempt to get Virador to spend share holders profits , we are in the business of making money not spending it on a half baked promise we made years ago.

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