Seething Wells

The Seething Wells Filter Beds is a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, and it’s one of many across the country that needs a change in the law to enable the Council to protect its biodiversity. So we have launched a petition asking Government to ‘Give Councils the power to protect nature reserves

Current legislation is a mess, involving the Council, Police, Environment Agency and English Heritage. We think the Council should be the single reasonability authority for all nature reserves, including those in private ownership.

The Seething Wells Filter Beds was a Thames Water facility that they stopped using back in 1992. Since then, nature has come back to the site in abundance. It has bats in the under road tunnels, flora and fauna, London grasslands, insects that need standing water and the birds that feed off them. It is also historically significant as it played an important role in proving cholera was waterborne in the mid-1800s.

The problem is the site is in private ownership, and despite the Council’s efforts, the owners have no interest in looking after the biodiversity on the site; they are stripping the land. It is clear that they want planning permission for housing (3 applications have already been refused, and appeals dismissed) and will not stop destroying the nature on site until they get it.

As ward Councillors, we want to protect this site and others like it, but it is clear the existing legislation is a mess as there is no one responsible authority. The Council cannot force the owners to maintain the site for biodiversity protection, so we think Councils should be able to force owners to enter into a Biodiversity Partnership Agreements.

If you agree, please sign our petition to give Councils the power to protect nature reserves, such as the Seething Wells Filter Beds

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

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • It would be helpful if Councillor Green could clarify the ownership of this site and whether Thames Water still own it – or have sold it off to a third party. It may well be a consequence of privatisation. In March 2017 a judge imposed a record fine of £20.3m on Thames Water after large leaks of untreated sewage, totalling 1.4bn litres, occurred over a number of years.

    Now Thames Water is regulated under the privatisation Water Industry Act, 1991 and owned by Kemble Water Holdings Ltd, a consortium formed in late 2006, and formerly owned by Australian-based Macquarie Group’s European Infrastructure Funds. Currently the largest shareholders are Canadian pensions group OMERS (23%), BT Pension Scheme (13%) the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (9.9%), the China Investment Corporation (8.7%) and the Kuwait Investment Authority (8.5%).

    Here is an issue (also present in the Care Home crisis) that Liberal Democrats have shied away from ever since the Clegg ‘Revolution’ and Cable’s privatisation of the Royal Mail : the growing conflict between the public interest and private interests (often based in offshore tax havens). If the party continues to dodge the issue it will be seen as having nothing worthwhile to say and of being an irrelevance

    We no longer live in a Victorian/Edwardian free market of competing small firms owned by (sometimes benevolent) first generation Liberal Party supporting Methodist millionaires. We live in a world of multinational corporations which operate in tax havens such as the Cayman Islands. Their private interests often conflict with this country’s public interest.

    The issue needs addressing.

  • Here’s a different take on the issue.
    At present I am working with a group of local people who are trying to get permission to manage a piece of woodland. At present virtually all public nature reserves near where I live have been handed over by the council to a charity run by a local businessman, funded by the public purse. Local people have no input into the running of the reserves. They are, in the truest sense, alienated from their own landscape.
    So I’m afraid I don’t agree that all nature reserves should be run by local councils. With the exception of complex sites that require particular expert input, most reserves should be run by local people, at a neighborhood/parish level.

  • David Raw, the site is owned by a private company registered in the Isle of Man. They bought it off Thames Water about 10 years ago.

  • Chris Cory, it is not that I think all nature reserves should be run by Councils. However, we believe that Councils should be able to ensure they are maintained to enhance biodiversity. This is why we are calling for all sites to be covered by a Biodiversity Partnership Agreement, so that Councils have the power to enforce against those that damage these nature rich sites.

  • @ Liz Gree “the site is owned by a private company registered in the Isle of Man”.

    No surprise there then, and of course we can all guess why it’s registered in the Isle of Man. It really is time the Liberal Democrat Party took its rose tinted policy specs off about the nature of modern business and the impact of offshore accounting……. not only in terms of lost revenue to the Treasury, but also on grounds of accountability to the public interest.

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