Helping us protect biodiversity with the help of a Lord or two

We really should make use of the peers who have local government experience in the Lords more, so I decide to.

We have a site in Kingston where biodiversity is being destroyed. Seething Wells Filter Beds is a ‘Site of Importance for Nature Conservation’ and Metropolitan Open Land where nature had flourished after Thames Water left in the late 90s, but now the private owners are spraying pesticides, draining the standing water, cutting back grasslands and trees. They have even resorted to using goats to munch though all the vegetation on site! And as a council we are pretty powerless to stop them!

Sound familiar?

We think they want to get the site downgraded so they can have an easier route through the planning process build on it (past planning applications have been refused) but the local community wants the council to protect the biodiversity here, to make it a great nature reserve for future generations.

So what can we do?

We can’t enforce against wildlife crime (Police matter). We can’t use planning legislation, as we don’t want mass residential buildings on the site. We can’t control the use of pesticides (it’s by the River Thames, so that’s the Environment Agency). We can’t control their cutting back the vegetation or the draining of the water on site and hence the loss of birds and bats. We can’t even insist they let us on the site to monitor their activity and the effect on flora and fauna.

So we’ve taken our fight to Westminster with the help of our Parliamentary colleagues in the Lords to get new legislation to give us these powers. Lord Jonny Oates, who’s a local resident as well, has tabled an amendment to the Environment Bill to give Local Authorities the right to inspect and enforce prevention of biodiversity loss on important sites like Seething Wells Filter Beds.

His initial amendment at Committee Stage seemed to confuse Government Minister, Lord Zac Goldsmith, when he said Councils have these rights already, but when challenged by Jonny failed to be able to find any! Now a new and improved version of the amendment is back at Report stage and Jonny has explained the situation we face in Kingston, it might get some traction.

We need your help.

We know this amendment will help us with Seething Wells Filter Beds, but the next sticking point seems to be that this may be an isolated problem, so not worth legislating for. Do you have examples in your area where important biodiversity sites are being destroyed by private owners? Maybe it is laziness or cost cutting causing the destruction, maybe they want to build at some point in the future and think this makes it easier or maybe they just don’t care about the site. Send me any examples you know about, so we can show Government this isn’t just about our site, and if they are serious about protecting biodiversity they need to work with councils up and down the country by giving us the power to protect the sites we care about.

If you have a local campaign you want to raise in the Lords, get in contact with [email protected] in the LGA Liberal Democrat Office and he will advise.

* Councillor Liz Green is the former Leader of RB Kingston Upon Thames and the LGA Liberal Democrat Sector Improvement Lead.

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  • Yes absolutely support this. My dad was a vicar I was lucky enough to grow up in a small rural village west of Durham The vicarage had large gardens the street was surrounded by fields and woodland,my dad was not the world’s best gardener so large parts of the garden were wild, covered in what were then called weeds but now would be called wild flowers. I know chilldhood memories are not allways accurate but I remember dandion, clover, buttercup, daisy to name a few and in the summer every flower had at least one bee and other insects on them for a while I was the next David Bellamy / Attenborough. I mention all that as context.
    Our local councill has for the last few years encouraged the ‘wilding’ of road side turfs, roundabouts and other green places, they have done well, wild flowers abound pretty much in every green space, but, bees butterflies, and other insects don’t. I was walking through our park over the weekend and there was a huge growth of lavender, beloved bees, I stopped to look and saw two, two were there once would have been tens. So long story short, please support this amendment. For the record my local council is Lib Dem and on this they have done very well, but still the flowers are there, the insects not so much 😰

  • Dan Falchikov 19th Aug '21 - 7:38pm

    Thanks for highlighting this Liz. It’s a shame you didn’t mention the local campaign group – who have been fighting to save the site (often sadly in the face of indifference from the council).

    I’m sure they would welcome new powers to protect the site – but they would also welcome Kingston Council using its current enforcement powers too.

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