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Future nature reserve status for Warren Farm

Much of Warren Farm is set to receive Local Nature Reserve (LNR) status, alongside vital new community sports facilities. 

Proposals to apply to Natural England for nature reserve status for the majority of the site at Windmill Lane, Southall were approved by Ealing Council at yesterday’s cabinet meeting (25 January 2023).

The nature reserve is set to be created as part of an expanded site which the council has successfully negotiated on a 99-year management lease with Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which both own land adjoining Warren Farm. Future management of the reserve will be confirmed in upcoming announcements.

Leader of the council, Peter Mason said: “At the election last year, we pledged to deliver a compromise for Warren Farm – a vision which would see the overwhelming majority of the land rewilded while also delivering much-needed sports provision for the community.

“We know just how important the site has become for wildlife and we are proud to have a rare and valuable acid grassland habitat right here in the heart of the borough – supporting wildflowers, butterflies, bees and lots of different bird species. We want to protect this, and we also believe that our young people deserve to have sports facilities nearby again.

“Our vision for Warren Farm is a win-win for the whole community. We have successfully negotiated with Imperial College, who own the field adjoining the site and they have agreed that the council can take over the lease of their land without payment.

“Imperial share our ambition for a local nature reserve and this agreement means that we’ve secured additional green space that allows us to rewild 62% of the expanded site. In repurposing and revamping the remainder of the site, we can also make decent sports facilities available for local people after more than 10 years.

“This decision is an important step in delivering our vision for Warren Farm, but it’s just the start. We will be making further announcements on our vision in the coming months and are continuing to work with local groups and community stakeholders as we work to make this a reality.”

Ealing’s Sports Facility Strategy, adopted in July 2022, clearly demonstrated a need for additional cricket and football pitches in the area and, alongside its ambitious plans for the rewilding of the majority of the site, the council is committed to ensuring that new sports facilities are delivered for the benefit of local people.

Councillor Deirdre Costigan, cabinet member for climate action said “Since day one, we have been working on a win-win for Warren Farm that will unlock its huge potential as an urban nature reserve and make new sports facilities available to local people.

“The site was our largest open air sports ground for many years and generations of children have previously enjoyed cricket and football on its playing fields.

“We are very aware that nearby Southall has the highest rates of ill health and disability in our borough,. It is also very densely populated, with an acute shortage of space for playing fields. Southall residents are missing out on vital facilities that could help challenge the serious health inequalities they face.

“We have a duty to residents to address this, while also balancing this with our commitment to rewilding the majority of the site.

“We need more football and cricket pitches in the borough – particularly for women and girls. We were so proud to see Chloe Kelly, who grew up in Ealing, score the winning goal in last year’s European Championship final and we want to help future generations reach these heights. We can only do this by securing new facilities to help people of all ages play, train and enjoy sport long into the future.”

“We also have ambitious climate action and biodiversity priorities and want to ensure that our vision for Warren Farm works for the borough’s nature. We want future plans for the site to be low impact for wildlife and our partnership with Imperial College has allowed us to expand the scope of the rewilding project even further – under these proposals, 62% of the site will be secured as a nature reserve.”

The council will launch a study for the provision of sports pitches on the remainder of the site not included in the boundaries of the proposed nature reserve.

Last year, the council gave local people the chance to have a say in any future plans for Warren Farm.

The views and feedback from residents and those using the space were used to help shape the next stage of plans for the site.

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