Measuring outcomes for biodiversity: Kingston upon Thames
I have written several posts looking at the outcomes for biodiversity, particularly at infill and infrastructure developments in Kingston. These include:
- Tolworth Girls School & Tala Close
- Harlow Gardens, Lower Marsh Lane
- Gasholder site
In addition, comments have been sent to councillors, planners etc. regarding general loss of biodiversity at these and sites.
Perhaps it's time to draw a number of conclusions so that we do not make the same mistakes at Cambridge road estate and linked sites: Kingsmeadow and Cumberland house
For this investigation, ecological surveys were obtained for the schemes (usually by FOI requests). The surveys attested to the protection of certain habitats and species in law and policy; and a requirement for the Mitigation Hierachy to be applied; along with Net Gain for biodiversity as per the National Planning Policy Framework.
The final Ecological Recommendations have were then matched against the planning conditions and the sites were visited post-development. On no occasion were the results favourable. Usually, the recommendations were not followed and there was:
a loss of:
- Habitats such as semi-natural and amenity grassland, scrub, mature and semi-mature trees;
- Strategic areas such as wildlife corridors; informal fences have been replaced with concrete soil-boards; and rabbit/deer/hedgehog proof fencing at the New Malden Pipe Track;
- Protected species such as bats, viviparous lizard and possibly this year - slow worms;
- Lost bird species: kestrels at Tolworth; and priority species such as house sparrow at the gasholder site and Tolworth;
- Badger setts: destroyed and disturbed often without a licence (Kingston R**** School, P**** Manor); and
- Priority species of fungi.
an increase in:
- Pollutants such as lighting (especially where non previously existed);
- Increase in plants on the London invasive species list (5 at Tolworth; The New Malden Pipe Track);
and a retention of:
- notifiable weeds including Japanese Knotweed;
Some of the losses have been Mega; in the London Mayors Annual Review 2017, Kingston featured as having the largest loss of a protected area of land of the London Boroughs (2 Ha of Metropolitan open Land at Tolworth Girls) and now LIDL HQ at Jubilee Way must follow a close second.
So why has this happened?
Planning conditions have only paid regard to the Landscape Conditions; landscaping has often ignored the biodiversity reports. These may have been written five years before the Landscape Plan had been submitted for the Discharge of Conditions.
- The landscaping has been designed for people: conservation areas are in the wrong place with the wrong species (standard shrubs are being used instead of tree species);
- No one seems to understand the conditions;
- No bat or bird boxes are installed;
- Trees are often allowed to be planted in troughs, which shortens their life to around 5 years;
- No one seems to care:Seething Wells Sites-of-importance-for-nature conservation. Letter to councillors
What should be done?
Perhaps the following could assist:
- Rangers for problem sites particularly Tolworth Court Farm;
- An independent scrutiny panel for biodiversity similar to the Design review panel;
- An ecologist in the Planning Department advising the planners of the conditions to include for biodiversity.
- Planners should ask for LEMPs before construction as the do with CEMPs (Landscape and Ecological Management Plans);
- Scaling back some of the total footprint developments, which are all about greed-lets be honest.
- Spend some of the Community Infrastructure Levy money we are raking in: we are told CIL can only be spent on (damaging) infrastructure projects yet this is not the case in other boroughs.
- Repairing wildlife corridors especially on Kingston Hill where Nature Recovery Networks have been identified (Natural England 2020). Wildlife shares a lot of our footpath network yet many of the boroughs footpaths are being lost or flytipped/trees are felled by developers or have planning applications Lawn Tennis. (The latter may have been refused but only after the trees were felled.
- Public Space Protection orders: PSPO orders
Have you a good news story of where a development included some tangible biodiversity benefits?
I only know of only one site in Kingston.