Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fairlop Wetlands

Three years ago, almost to the day, I posted an item about a proposal for a new Nature Reserve on the Aldborough site where gravel extraction was coming to an end. It had all gone a bit quiet, but has now been resurrected by local birdwatchers. I’m not sure if anything has actually happened to arouse their interest at this particular point in time, but thought a reminder would be in order.
The site is to the rear of the Dick Turpin pub [I have been in that one] as shown in the google earth picture, above. I’m not sure of the status of the planning application but it appears from the birder’s emails that Lafarge are having some difficulty in finding enough material to infill the site as is required by their original planning application to extract the gravel. The material used is mostly, I understand, from building excavations elsewhere and gives the council a revenue stream of some £2.4m. However, not filling in, or partially filling in, opens up other possibilities for a more varied wildlife habitat, like wetlands.

It is this potential for a site akin to that in Barnes that needs to be explored taking into account the educational value and that most of the wildlife is already there and would be displaced if the site is restored to basically a field. It could also be a nice little earner for the Council if they play it right.

More here.


  1. You are right, the nature reserve is pretty much in the bag (allegedly), but unfortunately that is not until AFTER the council has made this 2.4million in infill.... this infilling is a disaster for the site. The wealth of wildlife is there now, and the wetland habitat created by the extraction is what has caused it to become so rich.

  2. You've got the location right and yes several years ago there was a planning application to extract gravel from the site.
    The planning permission was approved with the condition that restoration was to be for a Nature Reserve as the farm was considered too small to remain a viable farm and that discussions would be on-going between the tenant farmer/contractor (Lafarge) and the Council and as far as I know that continues! At the time there was an exhibition and certainly the vast majority of local residents welcomed the scheme as they saw it as an ideal opportunity to watch all these different species of bird from quite literally their back door!
    We have reached a stage where the gravel is coming to an end in this area - in addition the building/construction industry has suffered during the recession - that has meant the demand for minerals (as well as gravel) has not been so high, however to sell what is there sometimes needs other bits in the mixture and the importing of materials has to have the expressed permission of the Council to do so. I am given to understand that even 'higher' powers such as DEFRA and the Dept for Local Govt keep a very close watching brief as to what does or does not happen and heaven help anyone deemed to breaking the rules/guidelines/statutory instrument etc!
    If there is any change in what was originally sought for - we all have to go back to those 'higher' powers for approval - and that applied to the original condition to turn the area into a Nature reserve rather than farmland as these Govt Depts are expected to keep a total of how much of each type of land there is in the whole country and whilst 42 acres may not seem large compared to these huge farms - as we all know its the little things that add up!
    Discussions are still on-going between the parties - certainly what must be ensured is that whatever details form this scheme that it is managed properly, and can be sustained for the benefit of residents and environment well beyond the usual 5 year 'aftercare' period!

  3. Just to add to Vanessa Cole's comment (which is a full and fair summary of the situation at Aldborough Hall Farm) I would confirm that the Aldborough Hatch Defence Association will keep a careful eye on what emerges in the future. We fully supported the change of land use on competition of the gravel extraction from Agriculture to Nature Conservation - and will expect the Council to ensure that this happens. It would make an ideal centre on its own or as an adjunct to Fairlop Waters - properly managed.
    Of equal concern is the proposed gravel extraction at Aldborough Hatch Farm - on land opposite the Dick Turpin and bordering on St. Peter's Church and Oaks Lane. Lafarge have promised an exhibition to consult residents prior to any planning permission being sought. The exhibition was first mooted in 2007, then 2008, then 2009 and now - well, perhaps, sometime this summer. When it is confirmed we will advise Barkingside 21 so that maximum publiicity is obtained - and as many residents as possible visit the exhibition to put their views across. The AHDA will be insisting that the precedent set on Aldborough Hall Farm of a stand-off of 150 metres from residential properties is agreed at Aldborough Hatch Farm, too. And we will also be concerned at the possibility of the Bridal Way from St. Peter's to Station Road, Barkingside, being excavated.
    Ron Jeffries
    Chairman, Aldborough Hatch Defence Association

  4. As well as nature reserves, gravel pits make excellent fisheries, and give a constant supply of revenue..take a look at Lea Valley Park


  5. Please note that whilst I cannot disagree with Councillor Mrs Cole as she is "as I was" and therefore up to date on what is happening on The Fairlop Gravel Working Party a sub committee set up to look at and monitor the workings on Fairlop. I am aware that DEFRA decided to interfere with the original Application back in 2003/4 which effectively stopped the importation of clean fill they could never understand that if you remove 912.000 metric tonnes of material it tends to leave a very large hole which needs to be filled in (as was the practise on previous applications). this application was plagued from the start when a substance called "montmorillonite" Volcanic Ash to You and I was found in one particular area which after being extracted had to put back where it came from, and then DEFRA got involved because the Councils Land Management could not agree with what was wanted and what was required and agreed back in 2002 under the Planning application number 2118/00. now that application was agreed on the premise that the land would be restored to agricultural use with the exception of a small area west of Hainault Road which would become a nature reserve. I know that changes were made all under delegated powers which means the public were not told and neither were councillors as the changes should have gone back to the Regulatory Committee but never did. what has happened has happened it does not bode well for Aldborough Hatch Farm which is next on the list when Lafarge and the Council cannot get Hall farm sorted out mind you they still haven't finished with Painters as anyone using Painters Lane will note.

  6. It seems silly to declare that you are going to designate the land as a nature reserve, and make that part of the proviso. And at the same time continue with the infil, which lafarge are struggling to complete, and is detrimental to the wildlife that are already living there. This Saturday I noted 500 Lapwing, 48 Golden Plover, 30 Snipe, 4 Green Sandpiper, 44 Stock Dove, 87 Teal, 56 Shoveler, many Skylark, Linnet, and 1 of the Brown Hares... This infilling will render this habitat useless to most of those species.
    Perhaps there is revenue in fishing, also in car-parking, or day permits, even retail if well used. There is no reason why this area should not be as valuable as rainham or barnes, both of which receive income to sustain them (cannot clarify ammounts). But the £2.4m revenue that infil will bring is not sustainable anyway - why not take a proper look at a long term plan for a nature reserve that is WORTH conserving.

  7. I see this as a simple issue of preserving biodiversity at a local level something that is allied to Local Agenda 21 of “thinking globally and acting locally”.
    The quarry now support a large amount of uncommon birds (51 species) many of which are birds of conservation concern and not found anywhere else in the borough.
    The current restoration scheme for leisure usage/a nature reserve will lead to the loss of all the wading species (Approx 15 species) plus many of the other 36 species.
    2010 has been declared the International Year of Biodiversity by the United Nations – the year that celebrates the diversity of life on Earth, including every plant, animal and micro-organism.
    I would ask is it not time to fully support Biodiversity. Especially within this declared celebratory year.
    I would ask everyone to support this project to provide quality wetland areas for wildlife in the area not just another dry grassland so called nature reserve.
    Please write to Cllr Nolan (Cabinet Member for Resources) to voice your support

  8. Listen To Chris Gannerway if anyone knows what is right and wrong with this land he is the one to ask. On the 14th April 2000 Chris produced a paper outlining improvements to this area which went to the then Environment Committee and the Fairlop Gravel Working Party, we were shown exactly what Brett Redlands "As Lafarge was then known) had done with earlier gravel workings in other parts of the country and they told us that there was no reason why such works should not be carried out here. BUT the fly in the ointment was then and for all I know still is the Councils intransigence and lack of foresight as to what can and cannot be done. The issue always was bringing the land back to agriculture even though only one farm was and still is producing food crops the rest are being kept fallow and subsidised by us. Profit as well as mineral planning guidance are what drives the needs and requirements on these sites. Revenue on the sale of gravel and sand extracted were and I assume still are in the region of £2.4million per annum not as far as I am aware on the infill although that may have changed.

  9. Cllr Loraine Sladden12:41 pm, March 05, 2010

    It is absolutely true that the land known as "Area D" has already been granted planning permission to be restored as a Nature Reserve ! When the original plans were submitted, a condition was included that this area is to be restored as a Nature Reserve rather than revert back to farmland.

    I fought hard, and won funding for a Biodiversity Officer for our Borough , so I am absolutely thrilled with this news and feel it is a step in the right direction . 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity and the proposals for this nature reserve , hopefully will be well received by all residents in our Borough and also highlight the importance of biodiversity and how the effects of the 21st Century could be detrimental to our life and the scale of impact on us if we fail to address issues now.

    A five year programme of after-care will be put in place to monitor the restoration , and I am sure Francis Castro and his team will be overseeing this to ensure that we achieve the right balance to ensure our wildlife and plant life flourish and are well protected.

    Thank you to all who are taking an interest in our conservation projects

    Best Wishes


  10. Dear All,

    Sorry for the late reply, Ann and I have been away for a fortnight and have just got back.

    To set the record straight we as (C P Rudge & Sons)ventured when we were operating out of Aldborough Hall Farm (the house, yard and buildings were sold by LBR and are now in private ownership) to retain the existing scrapes and develop a lake as a waterfowl sanctuary this we spoke out about at the exhibition held in the tearooms by Lafarge in the summer of 2007, and today we are still keen on developing this idea. C P Rudge & Sons Ltd currently farm 16 acres, but due to limited access this land is designated as set aside, in 2014 there is an option for 30 acres to be returned to C P Rudge & Sons Ltd. In 2007 we agreed to the land being re-designated for leisure use as we recognised the potential for the land as a valuable resource for the local community and wildlife, we were also keen on having a 'Butterfly House' located at the farm as at the time the 'London Butterfly House, Syon Park' was closing.

    We are still keen on developing a visitor centre and Farm Shop and have made suggestions to LBR's land agent regarding a new site for a Farm Shop and visitor center with a new access through the allotments next to the Dick Turpin. In 2007 we had found European funding available and when speaking to my financial backers there was also considerable interest, things may be different now due to the economic slump, but I am sure that with proper planing and by offering a wide range of additional activities on site we could generate a lot of interest, (I am not interseted in a amusment park).

    During the last few years we have had pressure from LBR to give up our existing holding and any future options, we have been concerned as to the use the land would be put to, so to this date our activities are limited. We watched keenly when the first scrapes were dug, the first lake formed, for a while we were privileged to have our own (virtually) private Wildfowl Sanctuary.

    Ann E Wilderspin
    Clive S Wilderspin

    C P Rudge & Sons Ltd

  11. A thank you to all for your emails regarding the proposals for the land on Fairlop referred to as Area D.

    I have recently visited the site with Councillor Sue Nolan to be able to fully understand the issues you have raised.

    The agreed restoration for Area D includes the provision of some 1.9 kilometres of hedgerow, a water scrape for wildlife and a reed bed. Opportunities are now being explored with the gravel operator Brett Lafarge to identify additional options to further increase the bio-diversity of this area. Please be assured that both Sue and I take your concerns very seriously and will do our utmost to ensure that our wildlife are protected.

    Thank you for taking the time to express your interest in this matter.

    Cllr Loraine Sladden & Cllr Sue Nolan