• CarolineShah

We must stop them destroying nature by pretending it's not there

Updated: Aug 18, 2020

"See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil"

Our public authorities across London - including Kingston - have got quite a long way in pushing through massive development plans without assessing their real effect on the natural and historical environment and biodiversity

But the cat is out of the bag and we must stop them in their tracks now

We can only do this together

Their game has been to push plans through simply by ignoring issues relating to nature or biodiversity or heritage, by speaking in vague generalities that mean nothing and by refusing to refer to any detail

False assurances, empty positive statements, a lack of evidence - a great psychological game to create a sense that all is well and decisions are sound when they are not. And we only find out when it is too late

By not talking about things that matter, they have brushed those things under the carpet

For example, Kingston council pushed through a strategy - the Direction of Travel - to develop massively across the Borough. This strategy should have been accompanied by a Strategic Environmental Assessment, but the council did not complete one. We all know it would have shown that the plans were not sustainable from an environmental point of view. Instead the report to committee, recommending approval of the strategy, simply stated, without comment or analysis or evidence:

Environmental implications: None

London Plan targets similarly did not apply any environmental constraints on the scale of development planned across the capital

The Mayor of London's office took away any environmental constraint criteria which would have limited the number of homes that could be built in areas of high biodiversity value (such as Kingston) or lacking in public green space (such as Kingston) or near protected habitats - (such as Kingston or much of North London that is up for large-scale redevelopment) when it got London boroughs to work out how many housing units they could squeeze on to "large" sites in "opportunity areas" and "areas of regeneration" as the major part of such Boroughs' housing targets in the new London Plan. And everyone somehow forgot to consult Natural England on whether they agreed with a methodology for agreeing housing targets across London that had removed all environmental considerations

Is this how Kingston council think that they can get away with NOT discussing and taking in to account the environmental impact of the demolition and rebuild at three times density of the Cambridge Road council estate in Norbiton, Kingston, which is an area of nature deficiency and which is the home to an amazing array of wildlife, biodiversity and mature trees; by simply ignoring it?

Is this how "regeneration" and "growth" gets approved all over London?

Alison Fure, environmentalist and biodiversity champion, highlights here the destruction of nature and biodiversity that is planned on the Cambridge Road Estate, but which the council is likely simply to ignore so that a decision-making committee can wave these massive development plans through: "Environmental impact: none"

As Alison says in her excellent blog post on the proposed Cambridge Road Estate redevelopment which is being consulted upon now:

"none of the wildlife areas will be optimised: 60 years of naturalisation will be wiped out leaving a biodiversity crater in Norbiton; increasing the urban gradient beyond the tolerance of birds and bats; increasing the urban heat island effect perhaps beyond the tolerance of people and trees"

With no public green space within the vicinity of the new packed-in high-rise development , thousands of new residents on the Estate will also head to Richmond Park SAC for their recreation. This will have huge negative implications for the survival of that rare, ancient and ostensibly protected woodland and grassland habitat.

The effect of hundreds and hundreds of thousands of extra visits from new residents living in the massive new developments planned in Kingston, Hounslow and The Alton Estate in Roehampton who will similarly be heading to Richmond Park have also simply been ignored

Over and over again, our public authorities across London simply pretend that there are no environmental or biodiversity effects from the development being planned and pushed through

I wonder how many other Boroughs did not carry out properly a Strategic Environmental Assessment of their local transport strategy on which the Mayor is relying for a massive reduction in pollution across London in the face of a 20 year period of an unprecedented amount of demolition and construction, a surge in new residents and a likely significant increase in traffic levels

Kingston council, for example, never completed the Strategic Environmental Assessment that is legally required to be conducted alongside its local transport strategy and has never published the statutory report due in February 2019 which is meant to show how environmental considerations were taken in to account in agreeing what transport is necessary to support growth across the Borough. Actually, it can't find the report anywhere

In the meantime, Kingston has completed the first stage of consultation on its new Local Plan without completing any screening of the effects of planned development in and around Kingston on internationally protected habitats on the Borough's border - Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common as well as those further afield - or on biodiversity in the Borough itself. Kingston's minimum new housing target of 964 units a year is already 2 1/2 times higher than when the last screening exercise took place in 2010, and that screening was anyway meaningless

The 2010 screening drew stupid conclusions like Wimbledon Common was not under threat by increased visitor numbers because most of the visitors were "dog walkers" and that trampling was unlikely to have any impact on the habitat of the stag beetle in Richmond Park just because they said it would not. It also said that pollution in the Borough would come down as a result of the policies of the new Core Strategy. Pollution went up

No scientific evidence; no rational basis for the conclusions reached; completely overlooking facts and anything that might stop their plans

We must come together and challenge the London Plan on the basis that there is no evidence that development on the scale agreed will not cause harm to protected habitats and species and to our natural and historic environment

We need the help of Marc Willers QC to see if we can take such a challenge forward. Please donate now

Thank you

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