Fairlop Waters Masterplan- is it the right vision?

Fairlop Waters Masterplan – too much ‘celebration’ not enough ‘Conservation’?

The latest consultation, has a ‘Vision’ for Fairlop – “to conserve nature, ecology and biodiversity and to celebrate community.” Does the Masterplan meet that Vision? or an entirely different one?

They asked why Fairlop Waters is important to people and said that “almost everyone we spoke to was in agreement. The park provides a large, open space of natural beauty, where both people and wildlife can explore and live, side by side.” (Future Fairlop Consultation phase1)

Fairlop Waters Masterplan consultation - is this what we really want
Fairlop Waters Consultation Masterplan with labels

Despite this the Masterplan has practically every part of the ‘large open space of natural beauty’ covered in activities, play area, events, car parks, wedding marquees and all but the kitchen sink thrown in. If the Vision truly is “To conserve nature, ecology and biodiversity and to celebrate community.” Then this is it too muchcelebration‘ and not enough ‘conservation

We mustn’t forget that Fairlop Waters Country Park, part of Fairlop Plain, is a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) Grade 1 and recommended as a Site of Metropolitan Importance (SMI) status by the GLA. It is also Green Belt. The masterplan runs the risk of turning it in to a municipal park rather than the Country Park enjoyed by so many. Nature must come first!

Before completing the Future Fairlop Masterplan survey (consultation) Please read The London Wildlife Trust’s comments below.

London Wildlife Trust’s comments on Fairlop Waters Masterplan consultation

The London Wildlife Trust have been involved with Fairlop Plain for many years. They issued their comments on the Masterplan in March 2022. Its separated into 4 sections, items of High Concern, Medium Concern, Items Supported and Questions/Suggestions & points of clarification. We hope this will help when completing the Consultation survey.

HIGH CONCERNLondon Wildlife Trust’s comments PDF report available here
(9) Events area where existing popular events like the fun fair or winter, community markets or other pop-up events and activities.We note this has been moved towards the road in the latest version, which in principle we support. It should be as far from the water and near to the key entrances as possible to reduce its impacts on the rest of the site. Key question is scope, scale and usage (frequency, numbers, timing, volume, etc.) We estimate that the capacity of the area allocated would be several thousand people to visits concerts, open air cinema, etc. This infers night-time activity, so potentially excess lighting might come into play? This is a feeding area for bats all UK species of which are legally protected. Sound will also be an issue as it carries well across the Plain. Depending on a range of criteria referenced above, but potentially disturbance to bats and birds, and trampling and compaction of soils. Any event space agreed would need a tightly managed set of procedures in place to ensure any event operates within a set of environmental limits.
(15) Wild SwimmingWe believe that wild swimming is better located in the main Fairlop Waters lake, rather than at 15. For here it is unlikely to be viable as it is currently a silt settling lagoon for gravel extraction with steep sides, the silt acts like quicksand and will remain an extreme safety hazard for years. It would be very costly to make safe, and put in the infrastructure and safeguarding resource to make it viable for swimming. This waterbody is already a highly important feature for biodiversity on the Plain and identified for a potential site for beaver introduction. Wild swimming here would likely compromise this possibility, putting aside the safety hazards.
(25) Wetland -part of the nature reserve area and would be preserved and enhanced for wildlife and ecology.There are two minuscule areas labelled in this way on the plan which we wonder what they are for? They are too small to be of any real significance for wildlife, and question whether it is a token gesture for the loss of the larger open areas of Aldborough Hatch Farm and Aldborough Hall Nature reserve? The paths and hedges across it may undermine its potential for supporting key species.
Note the wetland area along Painters Road as exists is not like its depicted but consists of two small wetlands; the one at point 16 has a small island that needs to be gravel not meadow for little ringed plover. If it was desired to create the new wetland area then new excavations required to create this.
(7) Cattle (long horn cattle) -the cattle would be GPS tagged so they could not roam far.Animal grazing/nature conservation especially of Species of Conservation Concern.
Support in principle, but questions remain on the details. Why all these divided up fields? The large field especially on Aldborough Hatch Farm and Aldborough Hall Nature reserve are important for birds of open countryside such as skylark (Red-listed Species of Conservation Concern) and meadow pipit. Small fields encourage greater predatory pressure for these species and more vulnerable to disturbance from people and dogs. Paths proposed through this area should be minimised or removed altogether – that plan appears to ignore the existing bridlepath, and too many paths will cause disturbance. Only the existing path network needs to remain. Grazing need not be confined to longhorn cattle. Key is to establish the area, its purpose and conservation objectives and then the best means to achieve this, which might be grazing utilising a range of livestock.
(22) and site wide Car parksCan we be assured that there is no intention to increase the existing amount of car park spaces on the site, even with a proposed events area? Up until now the east carparks have been under-used. And the only need for overflow parking has been for the wedding marquee. Note there are existing car parks at Area A East and off Painters Road on the nature reserve, and we do not believe there is need for a new one on the opposite side road as indicated. If the Aldborough Hatch Farm buildings were brought into the mix there is parking space there.
(24) Water bodies connection existing lagoon / ditches this new water area will provide habitat for different kinds of wildlife including insects and birds.New water bodies connecting existing lagoon and ditches.
Whilst in principle we’d support this, we bear in mind this is in the domestic landfill area of the site and could require significant costs to remediate this prior to creation. We would recommend that all new water bodies are only considered on the extension lands of Aldborough Hatch Farm and Aldborough Hall Nature Reserve in line with our proposals previously tabled.
MEDIUM CONCERN London Wildlife Trust’s comments PDF report available here
(1) New purpose-built visitor centre –at the Barkingside entrance. Toilet, changing places,  kiosk/café  food & drinkWe would note that this is within 10 minutes’ walk of the Boat House centre and suggest it requires a defined and complementary purpose to this centre. Acting as a conveniently sites entrance feature by the station makes sense, but further details are required. There is also the potential for repurposing the buildings at Aldborough Hatch Farm as a field studies centre, which would better serve the extension land to the south of the FW Country Park. However, more facilities require more resources to manage effectively, and whatever new buildings are built, must be determined by the purpose and design of the land. At the moment there’s a lot being designed into this, at risk of losing its ecological value.
(4) Rewilding enhancing the nature and ecology across a large area of Fairlop with new bird watching screens, bug hotels and other habitats for nature.Whilst we support this in principle, care needs to be taken over the term ‘rewilded/ing.’ It is increasingly being used to describe anything that is better for wildlife, from wildflower window-boxes to beavers and lynx in the wider landscape. True rewilding requires allowing natural processes to dominate and developing into a fully functioning habitat and species community. There is not enough space on Fairlop Plain to really achieve this, let alone on the space indicated.
On a site such as this without any management interventions, it will eventually develop into scrub and secondary woodland in years to come not the mosaic of habitat.
The key is determining the ‘end objective’ for nature on this site, which may be a little more scrubbier, wetter, and messier, but without losing its value for some key species living here today. Therefore some management interventions might be required, such as conservation grazing (see comments above under 7.)
(10) New purpose-built Fairlop Outdoor Activity Centre – a new build facility to replace the existing building. This would improve the range of activities that could be offered to children and young people as well as the potential for being a base for other activities. The centre could also have a kiosk or small café.Our assumption is this is a rebuild of the Outdoor Activity Centre (aka the Sailing Centre); will this be more than a sailing centre with true outdoor activities on the curriculum? This where an Outdoor Classroom could be centred (although activities can take place around the site).
(20) Water Park similar to the aqua bounce on the lake.A key here is for all water activity proposals to ensure there are enhancements to the islands (e.g. some removal of bramble, and constructing reedbed borders (such as at Walthamstow Wetlands) and fence off to protect from access/disturbance for a key bird refuge.
The Water Park must not take up any more room than Aqua Bounce and also limited to summer daytime activities.
This site will require careful monitoring of species and water quality as there is a danger of overuse, disturbing muds and silts, leading to eutrophication, as well as disturbance of waterfowl.
(14) BBQ & Picnic Area encourage family time and picnics as well as exploring the potential of having some BBQ pits that could be used by the community.There is an area already being used by many people at point 6 (which is not an orchard). At present BBQs in parks are contrary to Redbridge Council’s current bylaws. Secondly is this the right location to control/police the activity. To us the fire risk to the park outweighs providing a facility unless it can be properly managed. We are not against BBQ per se (it seems to work well in some other parks), but requires careful consideration in its design and how it will be managed (such areas unsurprisingly accumulate a lot of litter, as well as gulls and crows)
SUPPORTLondon Wildlife Trust’s comments PDF report available here
(3) Allotments existing allotments to go back to the historic allotment area. This would create around 150 new allotments for the community.Support this and the indicated wetland to the north of the site. Extending this site would lend itself to having community food growing with nature e.g. concepts such as a Forest Garden etc.
(6) Outdoor Classroom use by local forest school groups or primary schools.We recommend that facilities should be near to buildings so that adequate site management and surveillance can take place.
(8) Sculpture trail interactive walk with sculptures.Support this subject to materials being suitable to integrate environmentally into the landscape and work with the nature of the site.
(12) Boulders no changes proposed.Subject to some ecological survey of surrounding scrub.
(13) River crossing opening Seven Kings River will increase the biodiversity and provide a focal point for activity along the edge of Fairlop. Play could be supported by bridges or crossing points.We are in full support and have proposed this in the past such that there is a reedbed by the lake to take the initial flow to help clean up the high nutrient and blue/green algae that builds up in the hot summer months. But Seven Kings Water should be fully naturalised along the whole length down to the A12, and its restoration should be a key element of this whole site plan. It would help the Council meet its obligations in respect of flood management, climate resilience and nature’s recovery
(25) New water body and wetland meadow -this area at the top of the historic allotment is waterlogged and would be a great spot for a small pond. There is an idea to explore a collaboration with Frog Life to maximise the habitat potential and provide a great learning and education opportunity. This area around it would be a mini wetland meadowSupport, but bear in mind there is a systemic Crassula (New Zealand pygmy weed) problem in the area. Addressing site-wide invasive macrophyte species should be prioritised before new waterbodies are created.
(4, 13, 24) Bird Watching screens.Support, but worth scoping a mix of screens and possibly hides (admittedly these are more costly to repair if vandalised) throughout the site, such as east of Nature Reserve and it becomes a site for beaver introduction.
Questions, Suggestions,
London Wildlife Trust’s comments PDF report available here
(17) New purpose build visitor centre (Boathouse) – this would be the focal point for activity on the lake and would replace the existing buildings. It would house a restaurant, the Owls and a space for indoor events. There would also be a changing places facility. The dock out onto the water would provide a great opportunity to be close to the lake. The other buildings in this area would be taken down.We support the rebuild and incorporation of facilities. But what is the future for the derelict High Ropes facility, and the boatyard/store?
(2) Natural play/ adventure trail –  interactive and low impact trail  around Fairlop. Different low-key playable spaces along it. logs to climb or other landscapes to play.We now have 6 points designated for these activities on the plan without detail. Given the likelihood that these will be low-key physically sympathetic interventions we remain concerned that at least two of them are potentially in conflict with the existing nature interest of Fairlop (e.g Aldborough Hatch Farmland, Aldborough Hatch Nature Reserve & Area A East). Further clarity is required.
(11) Angling lake no changes proposed.This currently exists, so what is proposed for it? It would benefit from a bird watching screen at the southern end and some ecological improvements eg a kingfisher nesting bank and/or sand martin bank.
(18) Fairlop Waters Commemorative Sculpture – this is the existing remembrance sculpture and it would be left exactly as it is.Maybe Improve landscaping around it?
(19) Active Leisure Appears to be 3 large areas that are allocated to currently undefined activities. These may be fine, or they might undermine the nature/biodiversity/ecology of the park without knowing their proposed purpose. More detail required, and how they best align to the environmental quality of the site.
(21) Play Area – the existing play area is not proposed to be changedWe support the proposal to locate much of the children’s active play to the north of the lake. However, this area is subject to pooling in winter, so they will require landscape improvements to make them viable all year.
(22) Reinforced grass for overspill carparkWe are concerned for the increased need of parking on this part of the site which is in part generated by the wedding venue. We have already noted about no increase in Car Parking above.
This appears to be where the ornate trees (hornbeam?) are planted;is it intended to remove them? Parking under them will not be good for tree roots even if reinforcing is put in.
Entrances throughoutAldborough Hatch beside St Peters Church there is the existing bridleway entrance which appears to have been ignored instead a new entrance opposite the nature reserve entrance is proposed. Staggered crossings to the road are far safer for pedestrians and horses, so why is the existing setup being changed?
A new entrance appears to have been created off the A12 adjacent to Bawdsey Avenue but with no symbol. We are not sure what is being indicated at the Equestrian Centre corner; is it the entrance via the Centre, or an entrance into the nature reserve or both – and for what reason? It also looks like there is a new entrance via the allotment area.
A gated system that excludes all motor bikes is needed to non- bridleway entrances as scramble bikes are an on-going issue.
Areas for potential inclusion within site boundary in futureThe only area outlined with this key appears to be an area of field on edge of Aldborough Hatch Farm. not the tree nursery adjoining that we have previously requested to incorporate. We have requested other areas to incorporate, the wet meadow by the railway, the farm buildings and pond, and the abandoned allotment on Aldborough Road North. Have these been considered?
Paths / Bridleways throughoutWe believe that the existing system should be paramount and should not be abandoned, unless there is a clear rationale for doing so. The concrete track that runs from the back of the facilities at the core of the county park to the lagoon is of some significance dating back to the airfield days but this has disappeared off the plan. Paths that run across significant ecological areas should be removed, and creative barriers (ditches, small bunds and hedges) should be placed to protect these areas.
ManagementProvision should be made for a detailed conservation management plan that takes biodiversity and site users fully into account as a critical part of Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, part of which is designed as an active recreational site. This would be an expected obligation under the NERC Act 2006 and strengthened biodiversity duties under the Environment Act 2021.

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