Delays to restoration of South London reserve 'depriving' locals


Delays to the restoration of Beddington Farmlands in South London are "depriving" locals from accessing the land, a recent council meeting heard. 

One councillor asked whether the company behind the Beddington Farmlands restoration project was taking Sutton Council "for fools". The 161-ha site is a famous birding location with more than 250 species recorded. It links to adjacent Mitcham Common and Beddington Park form one of the largest green spaces in South London.

Returning the former sewage works and landfill site to a nature reserve was one of the conditions of the building of the Beddington incinerator, granted in 2013. It was supposed to be completed by the end of 2023 but this is now "highly unlikely".

Water Pipit is one of many species that winter at Beddington Farmlands (Oliver Woodman).

The site was previously owned by Viridor but was taken over by Valencia Waste Management in April. Andrew Turner, from the company, was grilled by fed-up councillors at a meeting last Tuesday [6 December 2022].

He said: "Valencia Waste Management is fully aware of the concern of the council and residents and are fully committed to the project." He stated that the project manager leaving in the summer has been a blow to the project and a new plan will be produced in January.

But the company was slammed by Councillor Sheldon Vestey who said delays are impacting residents who should have been able to access parts of the land by now. He said: "It is pretty abysmal. Speaking on behalf of the residents of Hackbridge something I hear routinely is that they are being deprived. They are being deprived of access and resources they were promised from the incinerator. I myself have a disability and I've been unable to access this area, there are no paths which there should have been by now."

Three hides have been installed but are difficult to access for those with mobility issues, according to a council report. The council claims it has provided "substantial informal and formal advice" regarding improvements needed to the paths for the past two years.

Despite this, Viridor and now Valencia have not applied to make these improvements. It would involve submitting a variation to the existing restoration plan. The report adds: "This is of considerable concern to the public as appropriate levels of inclusive access are a key part of the restoration plans."

Councillors asked why the new company was yet to make any progress despite being in place for the past eight months, with one accusing Valencia of taking the council for fools. Councillor Vanessa Udall said: "It is an awfully long time of not putting anything on the table, it is incredibly disappointing and it is kind of taking us for fools. We are sitting here waiting for information and talking in ifs, buts and maybes."

Mr Turner assured a project plan will be delivered to the council in 2023 alongside plans for the paths.