Biodiversity and major events

Comments to Lambeth from Helen Firmiger on the effects of events on biodiversity and on Lambeth’s responsibilities

RE Brockwell Park Events Strategy 2018

I am writing to express concern over Lambeth’s events strategy for Brockwell Park, and to point out certain legal and statutory issues regarding biodiversity, which appear to have been omitted in putting together this strategy and current proposals. If I have missed any separate information which covers the points below, I would be grateful to see a copy.

1) Biodiversity Duty As you will be aware there is a duty on local authorities and other public bodies to take account of biodiversity in your plans and services, as specified in Section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. ‘Public authorities should consider how wildlife or land may be affected in all the decisions that they make.’ You will also be aware that Brockwell Park is a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) Borough Grade 1 in your local plan. The entire park is designated and the Biodiversity duty unquestionably applies. Further information on the Biodiversity duty is here: Unfortunately, I cannot see any place that Lambeth has taken account of this, there appears to be no mention of ecology in your Event Strategy for parks, or in the current proposals for Brockwell Park.

2) Lambeth’s own commitment to Borough SINCs. This is how Lambeth describes Sites of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation on its planning policy website. ‘These are sites which are important on a borough perspective in the same way as the Metropolitan sites are important to the whole of London. Although sites of similar quality may be found elsewhere in London, damage to these sites would mean a significant loss to the borough. As with Metropolitan sites, while protection is important, management of borough sites should usually allow and encourage their enjoyment by people and their use for education. Further information on SINCs can be found in our Local Plan, in particular policy EN1.’ Lambeth appears to be proposing two events which would cause damage to Brockwell Park, hence in its own words initiating a significant loss to the borough. Even more significantly, the proposals being considered deny access to a substantial portion of this site, an even more significant loss to the borough.

3) Policy issues around access: education, mental health, equality   To focus on a line from Lambeth’s summary of the relevance of a Borough SINC (full paragraph above): ‘…while protection is important, management of borough sites should usually allow and encourage their enjoyment by people and their use for education.’

3a) These sites should clearly be open to the public and schools. It seems ludicrous that Lambeth itself might then consider denying its residents access to large parts of this valuable site, for some of the most important months of the year.

3b) Lambeth will be aware of its own issues around mental health. It is now widely recognised across public health bodies that access to quality green space provides positive benefits to mental health, and also fights obesity, for residents. Public Health England recognises the need for protection of green space, for example gives an example intervention in its Prevention Concordat for Better Mental Health: Prevention planning resource for local areas: ‘Create and protect green spaces within neighbourhoods to generate better physical and mental health outcomes for individuals and communities. Accessing green spaces can not only encourage physical activity but other benefits such as greater community cohesion and less social isolation; opportunities for meaningful volunteering experiences;’

3c) Furthermore there is an equality issue here. Research has repeatedly shown that urban green spaces are particularly important to black and ethnic minority residents, who in many cases, find it harder to access nature in the countryside. The Design Council, for example investigated this issue in Urban Green Nation and Community Green. In summary research revealed: ‘in areas where more than 40 per cent of residents are black or minority ethnic there is 11 times less green space than in areas where residents are largely white. And the spaces they do have are likely to be of a poorer quality. Although where you live and the services you receive is intimately related to income, our research found a difference, by ethnicity, that was over and above what would be expected for level of income alone.’

‘Providing good-quality green space is a hugely effective way to tackle these inequalities. Green space has been proven to reduce the impact of deprivation, deliver better health and wellbeing and create a strong community. The simple presence of green space is related to a reduced risk of serious problems like depression and lung disease. Living close to green space reduces mortality, which can help reduce the significant gap in life expectancy between rich and poor.’

4) Legal issues relevant to species present

4a) Bat species recorded include Pippistrelle, Noctule, Daubentons, Leislers, and Serotonine, all of which are from protected by law from disturbance. 4b) Bird species recorded include House Sparrow, Nuthatch, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Goldcrest, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Whinchat, Common Redstart, Redwing, Meadow Pipit, Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel, Hobby, Sparrowhawk, Swift, Swallow, House Martin. All of these are protected from disturbance during their nesting season (peak period February to July), legally protected until August. According to Government guidance, ‘These activities can affect wild birds, particularly during breeding season: • trimming or cutting trees, bushes, hedges and rough vegetation • renovating, converting or demolishing a building • creating disturbance, eg noise, lighting and vibration’

5) Other species of concern: While not legally protected, the Council has the aforementioned Biodiversity duty to pay regard to all wildlife here, which contribute in its own way to our mental health and our children’s development. Habitats here include: • Grasslands and meadows, where a range of grasshoppers, butterflies and other invertebrates are found in late spring and summer. These grasslands, as seen during the Lambeth Country Show, are at significant risk of trampling by event visitors, by event traffic, or potentially, through increased pressure from displaced park visitors by the fencing off of a significant patch of the site. • Mature trees, which should be protected • Ponds and lakes, containing sensitive waterfowl, invertebrates and fish. • Shrubberry and hedges, significant for small birds, and dominant along the Herne Hill side of the park The grasslands would certainly be affected by any increase in festivals, particularly in summer. It is less clear whether other areas would be affected by large festivals, however they should still be fully surveyed and damage avoided by Lambeth before taking any action.

5) Capacity and Seasonality We already have one major event regularly held in this nature site of Borough importance. The Lambeth Country Show, while causing some damage, is to a certain extent appropriate for this site, this is because: • It promotes access to nature: It gives all our city children and adults a rare chance to encounter farm animals, horses, horticulture, crazy plants, wildlife charities, vegetable personalities, falconry and bee hives. • It is freely open to all • It is held relatively late in the year, in July. This allows a certain range of wildlife to get through the active spring element of their lifecycle, including birds fledging, and grasshoppers hatching and mating. It was previously held in August, which is to be honest, a better time for it. • It does not involve any disturbance at night.

6) Recommendations: These are complex issues and I am sure you will discuss these with your own professionals and take legal advice on how best to follow your duties and avoid breaking the law. If any future festivals are to be held in the park, these in themselves should follow the principles above.

• The festival should be late in the year (after mid July).

• It should promote nature

• It should be freely open to all.

• It should not involve disturbance at night. In planning and assessing event applications, the Council should take account of the following:

• Ecology should be considered, surveyed and steps set out to protect it

• Particular consideration should be given to the fragile grasslands.

• Legal issues around birds and bats should be considered

• Cumulative impacts of more than one event should be assessed • Impact on local communities and their health should be assessed

• Equality issues around impact on mental health should be assessed.

Lambeth should celebrate Brockwell Park as a significant natural asset for all communities. This should be a starting point in any event strategy for the park. Until these are dealt with in a sensible and transparent manner, I strongly object to any plans to increase festivals in the park, and object to the plans for Lovebox and Field Day.

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One thought on “Biodiversity and major events

  1. Robert Holden

    Brilliant, lucid and totally convincing. Dare we hope that Lambeth Council will read it, understand it, and then respond in the only possible and sensible way?
    If this has been written by Helen Firminger ( F-i-r-m-i-n-g-e-r ), whom I have known for many years, please make sure that her name is spelt correctly in future despatches.
    Many thanks and best regards,
    Robert

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