An abandoned sports center is now home to owls and plants on the UK’s Extinction List – but for how long? | Climate News

Over ten years ago Warren Farm was abandoned – what was a sports center fell into disrepair and soon nature took over.

Today it is home to a quarter of London’s larks, as well as kestrels, owls, linnets, slowworms and plants that are on the UK’s endangered list.

Amateur photographer Julian Oliver spends his time on the reseeded land, snapping photos of the wildlife. He recently found a type of common crab spider, or thanatus striatus, which was a new addition to the reserve’s known ecosystem.

He said: “I’m here so often, recording what I find for the nature reserve. I go around to find as many insects and spiders as I can, photograph them and then try to identify them. And time Every now and then something pops up that you know shouldn’t be here or is rare and that makes it really exciting.”

Now the council is in a battle with local activists who want the land preserved.

The council wants to reclaim it, build a new community sports center for the people of Southall. Local activists want the land to be preserved as a nature reserve, to protect the delicate ecosystem that has arisen.

Councilor Peter Mason is the leader of Ealing Council and said: “What we are trying to do is provide sports facilities which are hugely important for the young people of Southall and Hanwell and beyond.

“It’s a community with the highest levels of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, some of the lowest levels of physical activity. And we want to make sure the kids in Southall have places to play. cricket and the sport in the future.”

Photo: julian_with_a_camera
Photo: julian_with_a_camera

After years of conflict, the council has found a rather controversial compromise. They will reuse part of the reseeded site for sports fields and buildings and designate the rest as a nature reserve.

Activist Katie Boyles says that’s not an option: “We’re absolutely not against sport. Sport is really important, but what we’re saying is you can’t destroy valuable habitats like [Warren Farm].

“You can’t ‘destroy’ more than half of the site, because that will eventually destroy the whole site. It’s not a compromise. We think it’s not a win-win, as they like call it. It’s actually a lose-lose.”

This reseeded land is part of a growing tension.

The government has pledged to protect 30% of land by 2030 in a bid to boost the UK’s biodiversity and will also need to support new buildings like homes and community spaces. But construction and biodiversity rarely go hand in hand.

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From heavy vehicles compacting soil to cutting tall grasses and gnarled thickets that provide habitats for wildlife, the impacts are wide-ranging.

Dr Alex Opoku is an expert in construction and biodiversity at UCL and the University of Sharjah. While he says the best way to protect ecosystems like Warren Farm’s is to not build at all, there are ways to mitigate the impacts.

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He said: “It is clear that construction has a negative impact on the environment, there is no doubt about it. But construction and biodiversity can co-exist, because we can build green roofs, green walls, we can create green spaces within these construction activities.

“We need to plan carefully to ensure that we can reduce the negative impact of construction activities on biodiversity or on the environment in general.”

As the UK tries to rebuild its wildlife, construction projects like this will have to learn to co-exist with nature.

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