Hither Green LB Lewisham

Habitat surveys at Hither Green, London Borough of Lewisham

Client: London Borough of Lewisham

Objective: Expert Witness at Public Inquiry

The Ecology Consultancy was commissioned by the London Borough of Lewisham to undertake a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) of Hither Green Sidings Borough Grade II Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC).

This was to ensure that a refusal of planning permission could be robustly supported and that The Ecology Consultancy was was confident of success in representing the Borough as Expert Witness.

The task

The Hither Green Sidings SINC occupies a linear plot of approximately 5.6 hectares in the southeast of the London Borough of Lewisham. An equestrian centre, comprising stables, paddocks and grazing fields, operates in the north and centre of the site.

The development proposals were to clear vegetation from the site and establish new and extensive grazing paddocks. These sought to compensate for the loss of the habitats on site by creating native hedgerows and planted tree-lined boundaries on its periphery. However, the site has intrinsic value for flora and fauna and, as it connects further designated sites across London’s landscape, it also has an important function as a green corridor.

The solution

Our PEA survey data was supplemented by records of present and historical ecological interest both at the site and within a 1km radius of it from Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL, 2013). This data search crucially included the site’s designation as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation and its function as a green corridor linking two other SINCs across the borough. Consideration was given to the potential presence of Priority Species of Principal Importance for Biodiversity (SPIBs) under the NERC Act (2006); Species and habitats listed on the London BAP were also reviewed.

The ecological interest of the site and the proposed development was evaluated in terms of the Lewisham Core Strategy (Lewisham Borough Council, 2011) and policies relating to nature conservation. We confirmed the site was afforded protection under a local plan policy that ‘seeks to protect and prevent the loss of trees and open space, protect, promote and manage biodiversity and, preserve and enhance urban green space and green corridors’.

Our recommendations were provided to ensure compliance with the relevant legislation, Lewisham’s ‘Core Strategy’ and The Mayor’s Biodiversity Strategy Proposal 3.

The outcome

On the basis of our acting as Expert Witness and providing the evidence gained from our surveys at a Hearing, the Planning Inspectorate upheld Lewisham Local Planning Authority’s decision to refuse planning permission for the proposed development. The Planning Inspectorate agreed that the site’s intrinsic value for flora and fauna, and its function as a green corridor, would be impacted as a result of the proposals, and that these impacts had not been fully taken into account in the development plans.

The Ecology Consultancy provided the key evidence to demonstrate the site’s value through extensive survey work. Our team of ecologists showed that insufficient ecological data had been obtained to support the planning application, and we were able to establish that ecological impacts had not been thoroughly considered.

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