Save Our Crayford Marshes - Don't build on breeding habitat for Corn Bunting and Skylark!

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Save Crayford Marshes - Don't build on breeding habitat for Corn Bunting and Skylark! Crayford Marshes support a number of declining bird species including the red-listed Corn Bunting and Skylark which live, feed and breed across this area. It provides foraging habitat for Kestrel, Little Owl, Barn Owl, Swift, House Martin, Pheasant, Stonechat, Marsh Harrier to name just a few as well as passage migrants such as Wheatear, Hobby, Quail, Whinchat and Ring Ouzel. Reptiles are often observed in this area as well as mammals including Weasel and Water Vole sadly one of our fastest declining mammals. Roxhill Development LTD have submitted plans to build a rail freight interchange on the Crayford Marshes. We the undersigned call upon Bexley Council to reject planning application 15_02673_OUTEA for a rail freight interchange on Crayford Marshes on the grounds of flawed sustainability claims, scale, visual intrusion, damage to the Green Belt, a substantial part of a designated Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, the reduction in amount of habitat available to the small remaining populations of certain red-listed bird species in Bexley, notably Skylarks and Corn Buntings and overall loss of yet more of the Borough’s natural capital. Central to the applicant’s case is that it is a major project of ‘strategic’ importance that outweighs the amount of damage, and that this was the basis upon which the Secretary of State approved a previous version of the scheme, despite it being rejected by Bexley. We believe that ‘strategic’ must include helping to meet the goverment’s international treaty commitment to reduce UK resource consumption to sustainable levels by 2020 as well as its carbon emissions target. This application is not part of a conherent, co-ordinated plan to do the former, instead it is about aiding the transport of even more goods around the globe, and since the object of government economic policy is in reality to continually increase net resource consumption, then any short term gains in reduced long-range HGV movements and CO2 emission savings will be outweighed by net traffic growth in the longer term. We note that the scheme will destroy a significant amount of the Green Belt, including almost 50% of the Crayford agricultural and landfill Site of Importance for Nature Conservation – shown to be of London level importance for invertebrate species - and around a quarter of what little is left of the Crayford Marshes area as a whole. This should also be seen in the contect of recent Bexley Council approvals for the destruction of the majority of the Erith Quarry SINC, building on 10% of Crayford Rough and on fields next to Crossness Nature Reserve which support red-listed breeding birds.The applicant claims that the best part of this SINC will be left intact, that the rest is of poor value and that its landscaping work will deliver a net benefit to wildlife, although quite how is not specified in much detail. This approach also ignores the intrinsic value of larger areas of habitat and the unmeasured plant and insect food resources they will produce. There is a wildlife crisis in this country. 60% of species have declined over the last 50 years and 31% have declined strongly. We reject the idea that the way to tackle this is to try and cram ever more wildlife into ever less space. Instead we should be improving the wildlife value of all the sites we have left. In particular we object to the major threat this presents to breeding Skylark and Corn Bunting in Bexley, both red-listed due to significant declines and both the subject of taxpayer funded schemes to recover their numbers . The applicant says that there will be a negligible effect , that displaced birds can go elsewhere in the general area and that most breeding territories are outside of the proposed development footprint. The London Wildlife Trust believes that one to two-thirds of the 9 pairs of locally breeding Skylarks could be lost. The fact that there were 2 Corn Bunting breeding sites in the directly affected area when there are reckoned to be no more than 20 breeding pairs in London as a whole is significant. The future of the Skylark in Bexley has already been compromised by the Crossness decision. We are dismayed by the mounting cumulative losses to Bexley’s wildlife and other open spaces, which are the jewels in the Borough’s crown. We believe that the size of the development and the intrusive road bridge across Crayford Creek will mean that visitors to Crayford Marshes from Moat Lane and the Thames Road area will have to go even further out along the footpaths to get away from the trappings of industrialisation and enjoy the mental health benefits of quiet, wide open ‘countryside’. Green roofs and the transfer of land ownership of the rest of Crayford Marshes, with an endowment for wildlife management were touted as positive features of the previous application, but both are absent from this second, re-heated version. If Bexley Council never-the-less decides to approve this scheme, it must insist that a development of this size installs a substantial area of green and/or brown roofs to help mitigate wildlife losses. There should be space for this in addition to, and amongst the proposed solar energy installations. Whilst the applicant promises a Management Plan for the wider marshes, this is proposed to now be implemented by the existing land owner organisation, a body which has hitherto appeared to be unable to fully deal with various thorny issues around usage of the marshes or prevent the loss of scarce species from them. The Council should press for a management mechanism that is open to discussion with stakeholders, publicly accountable, sets high targets for wildlife enhancements, is monitored in terms of implementation and outcomes and that is resourced sufficiently to stand a realistic chance of at least off-setting the wildlife impacts of this scheme. The land within the development site boundary must also be thoroughly surveyed at regular intervals in future to assess any species losses against the current baseline data. If this development is allowed to go ahead it could result in the local extinction of Corn Bunting and Skylark. We must not allow this to happen. Please sign this petition so that both Roxhill Development Ltd and Bexley Council, who have the power to grant permission to demolish this important area for wildlife, know how strongly people feel about the loss of biodiversity here. We would also urge you to write a formal objection to outlining your concerns.