Tolworth's open land is shrinking


Open Space in Tolworth is shrinking. Hectare by hectare, open land is now covered with new development with more in the pipeline. This ranges from the: LIDL headquarters on Jubilee Way (photo below); 106 apartments at Tala Close  (formerly a field adjacent to Tolworth School photo above); and related infrastructure projects.

The  London Plan Annual Monitoring Review 2016 (No. 13) stated,

'The largest area of locally protected open space that was subject to planning permissions in 2015/16 is 2 hectares at the Tolworth Girls School and Recreation Centre in Kingston upon Thames which will provide housing as part of the scheme to expand and remodel the existing school'.

New developments require infrastructure, so 'edgelands' or areas on the fringes of industrial estates are used for cycle routes, access roads, etc. No new areas of POS (Public Open Space) are actually provided. In fact the Travel Plan for the development at Tolworth Towers infers that open space not publicly accessible, is available for public use. An inference of the space being recreational ground available to the residents of the new development is made  below.

“Tolworth Recreation Centre is located off the A3 Kingston Bypass approximately 1,500m to the west of the application site, and provides a gym, badminton and squash facilities, with an adjacent Gymnastics Club.

There is also a climbing centre and indoor bowls club in close proximity to the Application Site. There are a number of recreation grounds in the local area including King George’s Field, Tolworth Recreation Ground, Kingston University Sports Ground and Alexandra Recreation Ground.”
Page 20, paragraph 3.7.4

Echoed in the Environmental Statement for the Cambridge road estate regeneration, page 93 states (slightly paraphrased):

“Baseline evidence has identified a number of open spaces, which exceed policy requirements in terms of size and proximity including the Royal Parks which exceed the recommended sizes for Regional and Metropolitan parks and a closer number of Parks and Gardens- namely Kingston Cemetery- which is defined as ‘Parks and Garden’s in the Kingston Green Spaces strategy’.

So areas once reserved for nature are now required for dogwalking and recreation including Kingston cemetery and Richmond Park a National Nature Reserve outside the borough.

In turn, open land is being fenced/partitioned/floodlit for more intensive use and this is especially noticeable along the Hogsmill/Bonesgate corridor. This use compacts the ground and inhibits the lands ability to act as a sponge making it more likely for the river to flood. see the importance of the ability of open land to act as a sponge  here

 IN 2016 I wrote a post on the planning application to build on a field adjacent to Tolworth Girls school

tolworth-girls-school-planning-app.html Variation of planning permission 14/10306/FUL to allow amendments to the layout of the  of 106 residential units, highway works, sports provision and landscaping  were made 16/10089.

An ecological consultancy Ltd (PJC) was commissioned by Tolworth Girls’ School & Sixth Form and Gleeson Developments Ltd to undertake an extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey on land adjacent to Tolworth Girls’ & Sixth Form School during 2012. The habitats on site were determined as areas of woodland and scrub as well as hedgerow and tussocky grassland.

Viviparous lizards were found on the site, a species protected by law.Various assertions were made regarding mitigation for the loss of habitat, including refugia, bat and bird boxes, removal of non-native species such as Japanese knotweed etc.  Residents made videos of the wildlife including Kestrel, buzzard, blackcap and wonderful numbers of house sparrows 

So where is this new habitat, refugia and bird boxes, hedges? 

Where are the sparrows?  Or open eaves for swifts? or any bat boxes?

Could it be here amongst the 'refugia' of broken tiles and dumped rubbish

Or here amongst the green concrete with ring barked trees lacking strimmer guards and astro turf driveways?
or here among the Japanese knotweed, green alkanet, asters and buddleja all species on the London Invasive species list and the first, a notifiable weed.

Is this is the standard of new habitat accepted in Kingston it doesn't bode well for the slow worms at Kingsmeadow.


  1. Simply appalling. And Natural England, The Royal Parks and The Mayor of London's office are simply happy to watch this dereliction of legal duty happen in order to support economic growth plans for London

    1. Interesting that you mention the Royal Parks. Although they have no jurisdiction on this application, there is a 500m buffer zone around the Parks that is within the purview of a Site of Special Scientific interest and they have been extroadinarily quiet on applications within this zone( as well as the Stategic Environmental Assessment that sought to avoid development that might increase visitor pressure on their sites).


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