Warren Farm Nature Reserve demonstration at Ealing Town Hall

Warren Farm campaigners keep optimistic despite agreement on sports facilities

Members of a nature reserve protest remain optimistic about their cause despite an agreement by Ealing Council’s committee over a proposal to build sport facilities.

Warren Farm Nature Reserve held a demonstration outside Ealing Town Hall on Tuesday evening, as a meeting of Ealing Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) took place.

While the OSC voted in favour of the council’s proposal, it would only do so after additional measures before a final decision is made.

Katie Boyles, Brent River & Canal Society (BRCS) Trustee and Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign organizer said: “Of course, we are disappointed that the councillors did not reject the development proposal outright, knowing the irreversible environmental damage development would cause to Warren Farm Nature Reserve.

“But the fact that they called for a full habitat survey of both sites is a move in the right direction. This is not over yet.”

The two measures in question were a habitat survey of Warren Farm and the nearby Imperial College (IC) site, as well as re-opening discussions over using the IC area to broaden options for both nature and sport to co-exist with less potential damage.

The Warren Farm Nature Reserve’s Cause

Warren Farm was once a sports field, but grew into a wildlife park over the past 14 years as it was no longer in use and left to rewilding.

The Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaigner believed that the project would only serve to destroy the natural system instead.

Among the key reasons for the movement to stop the proposal was to protect the endangered skylark bird species that could go extinct in Ealing according to wildlife experts.

Campaigners pointed out that the plan would oppose the council’s own Biodiversity Action Plan that records Warren Farm as the only place in Ealing for skylarks to breed.

Many high-prolife figures and experts criticized the idea, from the likes of wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham to Dr. Amir Khan.

One week prior to the town hall demonstration, the campaign organisers sent letters to all councillors about the importance of Warren Farm to the wildlife.

Some of the roughly 2,500 members at the demonstration attended the cabinet meeting at Town Hall and made their feelings clear to Councillor Gary Malcolm.

Malcolm and the rest of the OSC listened to evidence by wildlife experts as campaigner played skylark songs outside the building.

While the result of the meeting was not as hoped, Boyles believed that their display was well-received by the committee.

She said: “We are confident that we can ensure the council do not de-wild Warren Farm Nature Reserve, which, as our experts showed during the meeting, is one of London’s greatest ecological assets.

“The strength of feeling from our family-friendly demonstration outside no doubt helped to focus their minds too.”

The campaign also have a petition to support their cause on, with a total of nearly 20,000 signatures at this moment in time.

The Ealing Council’s plan

The proposal by Ealing Council was set in motion early January, as leader Peter Mason detailed a proposal to apply for Local Nature Reserve status for part of Warren Farm.

The remaining section would be for new sports facilities and fields as part of their Sports Facility Strategy, formed in July.

The proposal was approved after a council cabinet meeting on the 25th of January.

Mason said on the council’s Around Ealing website: “At the election last year, we pledged to deliver a compromise for Warren Farm – a vision which would see the overwhelming majority of the land rewilded while also delivering much-needed sports provision for the community.

“We know just how important the site has become for wildlife and we are proud to have a rare and valuable acid grassland habitat right here in the heart of the borough – supporting wildflowers, butterflies, bees and lots of different bird species.

“We want to protect this, and we also believe that our young people deserve to have sports facilities nearby again.”

A spokesperson for the council said after the Tuesday demonstrations that they were pleased with the progress of their project.

The current situation looks in favour of the proposal going through, but there is reason to believe that it may change direction.

Featured Image Credit: Warren Farm Nature Reserve

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