I wrote the following letter to Brent councillors who sit on the Welsh Harp Joint Consultative Committee ahead of the meeting on November 11th. I wrote in my capacity as the organiser of Brent School Without Walls which runs environmental education sessions for primary school pupils in Fryent Country Park. I also forwarded the letter to Natural England and the London Wildlife Trust who sit on the JCC.
Dear Brent Councillors,
I am writing to you ahead of this evening's JCC meeting to request that you do all you can to persuade the JCC to adopt a position of opposition to the proposed development of housing on the Greenhouse site. I know that the JCC does not make the final decision but I believe a strong stand on the issue, conveyed to the Planning Committee before their December 16th meeting, could be very influential.
Since the proposal was announced there has been a strong groundswell of local opinion against the plans. Two petitions opposing the development are currently circulating in the area and the 'Comments Book' at the exhibition at the Greenhouse itself contains many heart-felt, passionate pleas for the Welsh Harp to be defended. As local councillors I hope you will rise to that challenge.
As you know the proposed site is adjacent to the SSSI and MSINC and close to the Environmental Education Centre. The environmental report for the developer argues that a buffer zone of trees will be enough to mitigate the impact on the open space. I would strongly claim that this is not the case. The SSSI and MSINC need a much larger buffer zone to protect them. At present the limited opening hours of the garden centre and its large outside selling area, replete with plants, trees and shrubs, provide a buffer. This transition zone between housing and the open space will disappear and noise, traffic and light pollution; and loss of habitat, will have a direct impact on the wild life of the area. In addition the extension of Birchen Grove, across the open space, to provide access to the new estate will be a further loss of green field space. All these developments could have a detrimental impact on the diversity of the grounds of the Environmental Education Centre. Once housing has been developed on the Greenhouse site there will be inevitable pressure on the area between the development and Runbury Circle. This contains the Birchen Grove allotments, where I am an allotment holder, and the Environmental Centre whose work I strongly support.
Brent already has less green space than many other London boroughs and we must defend every inch of it. My mother played around the Welsh Harp as a child in the 1930s, and my brothers and sisters and I did the same in the 1950s when we visited our grandmother in Church Drive. I believe my life long interest in the environment stemmed from that experience and a similar one on Barn Hill. These are two gems of semi-wild areas that we have left in Brent and it is vital that we protect them and they are available to the next generation. London Heritage last year lamented the fact that Brent, unlike other London boroughs, had no official 'heritage champion' and suggested this explained the deterioration in Brent's conservation areas. In the absence of such a champion, councillors and residents should join together to be community heritage champions for the borough.