Residents fume as West London beauty spot may have football pitches built on it

residents fume as west london beauty spot may have football pitches built on it

Campaigners want Warren Farm Nature Reserve to be legally protected.

Residents say their fears are coming true after Ealing Council revealed plans to potentially build new cricket and football pitches on a much-loved beauty spot. Under the proposals, areas of Warren Farm will be designated Local Nature Reserve status – but not all of it will be protected from future development.

Residents have been fighting to designate the whole of the 61-acre urban meadow in Norwood Green as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) for years. The LNR designation would protect the meadow from development and keep it as a place of beauty for residents.

On Wednesday, January 25, Ealing Council’s cabinet is set to discuss the future of Warren Farm. The plans, which will be decided by councillors, show that parts of Warren Farm will be designated an nature reserve, but a section of the meadow will still be reserved for sports facilities that the council claims are desperately needed in the borough.

Campaigners welcome the official LNR status, but the inclusion of sports facilities has left many disappointed. They are now urging councillors to reject the proposals at the meeting this week.

Katie Boyles, trustee of the Brent River & Canal Society (BRCS) and Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign organiser said: “Excluding half of Warren Farm is like removing the jewel from the crown.

“The site has had 14 years to rewild and yet sadly, despite our conversations with the council to date, the scientific facts of the matter and our community’s wishes are being at best watered down and at worst, ignored. Warren Farm

Nature Reserve is at risk of becoming the biggest de-wilding project in West London. We strongly encourage Ealing Council to have an urgent rethink, there is still time to do the right thing.”

BRCS Trustee and Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign officer, Steven Toft added: “We deduced, from comments by the council leader and deputy leader in August last year, that the proposal would look something like this and now our fears have been confirmed. Warren Farm’s sheer size and interconnectedness are key to its ecological value, so taking a chunk out of it destroys much of the value of the rest.

“It will mean a significant loss of biodiversity for Ealing. Developing half of Warren Farm will do more ecological damage than putting a development anywhere else in the borough.”

Warren Farm is home to hundreds of plants, insects, mammals and birds including yarrow pugs, yellow-necked mice, little owls, barn owls, wrynecks, ancient oak trees, rare clovers, slow-worms, toads and bats. It is believed to be the only place in the borough suitable for skylarks to nest.

The area was earmarked for a new training ground for Queen’s Park Rangers Football Club, but after nearly a ten-year battle with local opposition groups, the plan fell through in 2020. Since then, more than 14,800 people have signed an online petition begging Ealing Council to make Warren Farm an LNR.

Campaigners are encouraging residents to share their concerns will local councillors to stop the plans for Warren Farm. In a letter penned to all councillors, campaigners say: “This proposed development would be environmentally reckless.

“Warren Farm is already a Nature Reserve in everything but an official designation. It has had 14 years to rewild, yet it is now at risk of becoming the biggest de-wilding project in London.”

Despite plans for sports pitches on the cards, Ealing Council says that the LNR will be “London’s largest rewilding project”. The new nature reserve will be created with land next to Warren Farm, Earl of Jersey land and land owned by the Imperial College London.

The sports ground on Warren Farm has been out of use for more than 10 years but remains the largest sports ground in the borough. A recent Indoor and Outdoor Sports Facility Strategy, in collaboration with Sports England, has outlined the importance of sports facilities in the borough, Ealing Council has said.

A report, which has been submitted to Ealing Council’s cabinet, says: “The growing population of Ealing and surrounding boroughs also confirms the importance of Warren Farm, to ensure that Ealing’s large, young population has access to high-quality sport facilities and open space. Warren Farm is in an area where deprivation is higher than in the rest of the borough, and where people’s life expectancy is lower because of this deprivation.

“As such, the facility could play a vital role in improving the health of the local community. Given that this poor health is linked to deprivation, an affordable pricing structure will need to be implemented if the facility is to have an impact on this group.”

A number of proposals have been submitted for consideration. The plans include the creation of cricket, football and 3G pitches while also providing land for the local wildlife.

Should the plans be approved by the cabinet on Wednesday, the council will launch a study for the provision of sports pitches on the site not included in the boundaries of the proposed nature reserve. The council will make further announcements on its full strategy for delivering sports facilities following the completion of the study.

The final respective boundaries of the proposed LNR and sports facilities will be confirmed in the future after consultation with residents and local groups. All decisions are subject to council cabinet approval at the next meeting on January 25.

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