Wilmer Place Planning Application 2013/1583
Abney Nature Reserve 16 May 2013
larvae live in veteran poplar pollards
last recorded in London 1966
The new application for development at Wilmer Place should be rejected on the grounds that:
by virtue of its size and proximity to Abney Park Nature Reserve it will do significant, irreparable damage to the ecology of the area;
the development will destroy the woodland edge habitat in Wilmer Place by changing the light conditions from completely open to completely shaded;
it will also shade and crowd the veteran poplars on the boundary of Abney reserve;
the above represents a significant threat to the borough’s most valuable nature reserve and for these reasons the proposed development would breach LDF Core Strategy Policy 27 on biodiversity;
the proposed building is incompatible with the Hackney Biodiversity Action Plan for the same reasons;
the proposed development would also breach National Planning Policy Framework guidance on veteran trees and LBH tree policy;
the proposed development is incompatible with the site allocation by failing to “preserve and enhance the character and appearance of the Conservation Area, and respect the heritage and biodiversity value of the Cemetery” (Site Allocation 135 Wilmer Place);
the development would result in significant loss of open space and is incompatible with LDF Core Strategy Policy 26;
the developer has provided insufficient information for the planning authority to properly assess the proposed building's ecological impact;
the developer has not conducted sufficient investigation into the ecology and likely impacts;
such investigation as has been done, and such information on ecology as has been provided, is inaccurate, and or misleading, so as to inhibit a proper consideration of the issues;
the developer has not conducted an Environmental Impact Assessment as required by law for a development of this size and nature in this sensitive location.
Right - Fig. 2:
Girdled Mining bee
Nationally Notable A.
Wilmer Place 13/5/13
Early Mining bee
Andrena haemorrhoa. Left - Fig. 3:
Nesting aggregation in Wilmer Place
Process and Ecological Evidence
To properly assess this application the planning authority must know the full extent of the adverse impact the development would have on the ecology of the development site and the adjacent Abney Park Nature Reserve (Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation and designated Local Nature Reserve). Without this basic information it is impossible to take a view on the relative merits of the development as against its harm. Only when the full extent of the potential damage is known can a balanced view be taken and a considered application of policy be made. The starting point must be a proper evidence base.
The ecological evidence provided in support of this new application is identical to that provided for the rejected application 2228/2012. That material is both inadequate and inaccurate.
This development is over 0.5 Ha in size and in a sensitive location. It qualifies under Para. 10b Sch. 2 Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations (see para 53 below), by law an EIA should be done. An EIA would have identified the issues raised in this objection and saved considerable time and money. The failure to do an EIA has allowed the developer to design an inappropriate building for this location, one that is completely inconsistent with national and LBH planning policy.
Wilmer Place contains a vegetative border along all sides. It is at its widest on the north and western boundary with Abney Nature Reserve. That border comprises a grass verge which is approx 200m long x 0.5-4m. In addition to this, trees and shrubs in Abney overhang the development site. The development site therefore contains over 500m2 of green space.
The majority of this 500m2 Wilmer Place green space is contiguous with Abney Nature Reserve and, contrary to the developer’s suggestion, it is indistinguishable from it ecologically. Flora and fauna do not recognise legal boundaries.
The Wilmer Place greenspace is therefore of similar quality and value as Abney Nature Reserve which is designated a statutory Local Nature Reserve (LNR) and a Metropolitan Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (Metropolitan SINC).
Abney's designation is the highest of any greenspace in Hackney and the Metropolitan status indicates its importance for London as a nature reserve.
The contiguous Wilmer Place greenspace/Abney boundary is a woodland edge. It is therefore most accurately and simply described as Abney's eastern woodland edge. Habitat edges are of particular value to wildlife because they offer a combination of resources associated with multiple habitats. These ecotones are recognised as important, species rich environments.
Abney's eastern woodland edge is particularly important because the Wilmer Place car park is open space. This means that light penetrates to the ground all day and some or all of the area is in direct sunlight for a large part of the day. This is not true of Abney's other boundary edges because elsewhere Abney is surrounded by a 2m high brick wall. Such a wall would have been present at the eastern edge (a small part remains) but it has long since been removed. The current boundary between the legal ownerships is marked by permeable metal railings.
Fig. 4 Maiden's Blush moth Cyclophora punctaria
Hackney BAP priority species
Wilmer Place 22/8/12
Fig. 5 Sunfly Volucella zonaria
Nationally Notable, London BAP
seen Wilmer Place August 2012
The west and north side of Wilmer Place form a very valuable part of Abney's woodland ecosystem. This is easily demonstrated by the fact that many protected species occur across the legal boundary, inside Wilmer Place.
No proper surveys have ever been conducted in this area but on a few brief visits in June and August 2012 and May-June 2013 over 120 species were recorded, including:
60 species of flowering plant (excluding the trees and shrubs overhanging from Abney);
1 pteridophyte (fern) – destroyed in Feb 2013 by developer's prior to planning committee site visit;
Over 60 invertebrate species of which 38 have so far been identified, including:
Maiden's Blush moth Cyclophora punctaria – this is a relic species that is otherwise extinct in north east London (Fig. 4). The record in Wilmer Place is only the second insect ever found in NE London and compliments the one found by moth trapping inside Abney in 2008. Because of its local importance this moth is protected under the Hackney BAP as a priority species for Hackney woodlands (Hackney Woodland Habitat Action Plan 2012).
Sunfly Volucella zonaria – a large hoverfly designated as Nationally Notable and a priority species under the London BAP (Fig. 5).
No less than 12 different species of bee including Girdled Mining bee Andrena labitata Nationally Notable A and London BAP priority species (Fig. 2).
Around 20-40 Early mining bees Andrena haemorrhoa are nesting in Wilmer Place (Fig. 6).
The leafhopper Liguropia juniperi. A very recent colonist to the UK, first recorded in 2008. Known from only a few sites in London (Fig. 7).
In addition the Bat Activity Survey found three species of bat using Abney's eastern woodland edge. Woodland edges such as the one in Wilmer Place are vital for urban bats for feeding and navigation. All bats are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act and national and local BAPs.
Fig. 6 Early Mining Bee nest Fig. 7 Liguropia juniperi Fig. 8 Nigma walckenaeri
Approximately 20 nests recent colonist to UK Nationally Notable A, L. BAP
Wilmer Place 13/5/13 Wilmer Place 22/8/12 Wilmer Place 22/8/12
In complete contrast and contradiction to this incontestable observation data the developer's ecological report on the development site concludes:
None of the 4 different habitat types possess any significant ecological value. The terraced buildings show limited evidence of historical bat use.
Although the Abney Park Cemetery is immediately adjacent with potential for ecological connectivity, the habitat within the proposed development site is not favourable as a receptor to species from the park.
No evidence of protected or non-native invasive species was noted, although the latter may be nearby within the Park.
The nature of the habitat (including the dominance of modern buildings and hardstanding) means that (other than for bats), ecological impact from the proposed development is likely to be negligible.
The discovery of so many rare and protected species demonstrates that the Wilmer Place/Abney Eastern Woodland edge is extremely valuable habitat, and that the ecological report on the development site submitted by the developer is deeply flawed.
This is not a matter of opinion. The developer’s report is flatly contradicted by irrefutable evidence of identified species, many of which have been photographed in situ (see photos).
The Wilmer Place/Abney Eastern Woodland edge would be destroyed by building to within 2m of the existing legal boundary. This has not been admitted or identified anywhere by the developer. This failure to identify the ecological impact of the development means any decision based upon the developer’s evidence would be unsound.
The authority must reject the application or require a full ecological survey of the development site. Given the developer’s propensity to misrepresent ecological evidence this should be conducted by a new, independent ecologist. Particular emphasis should be placed on the entomological fauna.
Abney's Veteran Poplars
The trees on Abney Nature Reserve's eastern boundary include eight mature black poplars Populus x candanesis. These trees are old pollards and they contain various characteristics of value to wildlife.
All the details listed in the developer's tree survey as negative features of these trees (e.g. cavities, bracket fungi, deadwood, ivy, etc.) are negative as regards amenity, but they are positive as regards habitat. The developer's arboriculturalist accurately describes veteran trees but fails to identify or label them as such.
These observable physical characteristics alone are sufficient for someone experienced in conservation to realise these trees are valuable habitat. The fact that nowhere in the report does the arboricultural consultant refer to conservation, or the fact that the site is a nature reserve, suggests that he was ignorant of the site he was assessing.
The value of these trees is however even greater than the simple physical characters suggest. Specific information is known about fungi and fauna species associations with Black Poplars at Abney.
Abney's veteran poplars are known to play host to five London BAP species , four Nationally Notable invertebrates and a hoverfly designated as Red Data List Vulnerable. This very rare hoverfly Pocota personata (Fig. 1) was only discovered at Abney in May 2013. The larvae live in the crowns of rotting poplars. The species has not been recorded in London since 1966. It is of the utmost conservation value.
Other rare invertebrates include wood boring weevils (Cossonus linearis Fig. 12) and brown tree ants (Lasius brunneus). Rare fungi include Silky Rosegill (Volvariella bombycina (Fig. 9), Ossicaulis lignatilis (Fig. 11) as well as the very rare and beautiful Orange Shield cap Pluteus aurantiorugosus (Fig. 10). In addition Tawny owls breed successfully in Abney's Black poplars every year. These are all protected species and many or all are highly likely to occur in the boundary poplars. This is unsurprising since poplars are recognised to be important for deadwood and decay related species. The trees are also likely to host bats and may host a bark beetle first recorded in London at Abney in 2011 (Pediacus depressus).
These trees are of the highest conservation value and must be fully protected.
Despite the ecological value of these veteran trees, the developer wants to build within the root protection areas (RPAs) and would provide insufficient room for them to grow. Instead of protecting these trees, the development would accelerate their deaths and thereby destroy their precious habitat. The development would therefore be contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework, Core Policy 27, the British Standard for Trees on Development Sites (BS5837) and DMLP Proposed Policy DM35 - Landscaping and Tree Management.
Breaching basic guidance on protecting veteran trees and ignoring industry best practise is inconsistent with the sensitivity and respect required for a site of such importance.
Fig. 9 Silky Rosegill Fig. 10 Orange Shield cap Fig. 11 Ossicaulis lignatilis Volvariella bombycina Pluteus aurantiorugosus London BAP species
London BAP species
Broader Impact on Abney Nature Reserve
The developer has admitted that Abney Nature Reserve will be adversely affected by shade from the proposed building. However it is claimed this can be mitigated by felling trees inside Abney.
The logic and merit of this 'mitigation' is disputed but what cannot be disputed is that if the development is permitted, a significant part of Hackney's most valuable nature reserve will be adversely affected by shade. That is, large scale irreversible habitat damage to a Metropolitan SINC.
All light and heat loving species within this shaded area would be adversely affected. This includes protected species listed in the attached schedule (Appendix 1: Abney Protected Species Threatened by Development).
In particular key BAP species like White-Letter Hairstreak butterflies and Maiden's Blush moth have been observed on or very close to Abney's eastern boundary. This is significant because the purpose of a nature reserve is to act as a reserve for expansion and recolonisation, not as a prison or a zoo. It is vital that the boundaries are open and permeable to facilitate movement of wildlife to and from the reserve. Large, imposing buildings that shade and block movement necessarily have an adverse impact over and above impacts relating to direct shade.
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