If someone mentions the term ‘Priority Habitat’ in relation to London, what immediately springs to mind? Woodland, streams and rivers, heathland, the lower reaches of the Thames –anywhere where wildlife flourishes.

But ‘Wasteland’? Whatever is ‘Wasteland’? It’s land, previously developed and then disused. The longer nature has to reclaim it, the greater the biodiversity. The London Biodiversity Partnership (LBP) values Wasteland’s importance as highly as the better-known examples above, saying it hosts a ‘remarkable diversity of species’.

Pinkham Way is Wasteland.

Industrial use there (sewage) ended over 50 years ago, followed, until 1980, by assorted dumping. Nature, left to itself, has transformed Pinkham Way into a haven for endangered birds, reptiles and invertebrates(especially spiders and beetles), with over 100 species of wildflowers, grasses, shrubs and some 1500 trees. Immense stands of blue-flowered comfrey (too immense actually!) hum with bees, and on summer mornings the birdsong is astounding. The vegetation is largely impenetrable in summer, muffling the A406’s racket and helping absorb pollution (among London’s highest). Quite extraordinarily peaceful.

The Pinkham Way Alliance (PWA) has conducted ecological and invertebrate surveys, which have confirmed the site’s status as a Grade 1 Site for Nature Conservation of Borough importance.

 Haringey’s advisors commented: ‘ ... undisturbed ... a rare resource for Haringey of high ecological value’.

The owners, North London Waste Authority and Barnet, have forbidden access; thus local residents, who could derive so much enjoyment and interest from being there, or, as many have formally volunteered to do, from helping to manage it, are denied all this. The owners have no present plans for it, and won’t act to enhance it, as public authorities are supposed to do, putting the site in danger of deterioration.

This is already affecting especially a small area of grassland which is the most important on the site, and is a UK Priority Habitat. It’s ideal habitat for ground-dwelling spiders and beetles, and for invertebrates in general. It’s called Open Mosaic, and it’s where we did our survey.

While Pinkham Way’s Borough ecological importance remains a central pillar of PWA argument, its value extends far beyond the borough. As a London Priority Habitat, it has, by definition, a wider significance. PWA has submitted a 5-year management plan to Haringey.

Yet Wasteland sites don’t receive anywhere near the necessary protection. Too often, nature becomes a tiresome invader between periods of use, and habitats which Haringey itself describes as offering 'stunning diversity' disappear under concrete.

For further images of this site, please click here.

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It would be a great addition to our Haringey Open Spaces.

The Inspector of LBH's Local Plan recommended, in his report of Dec 2012, that Haringey carry out a thorough review of Pinkham Way, including its value as Open Space. The Council has gone against the recommendation by failing to assess the site as Open Space, in spite of having comprehensively assessed over 90 other sites in the Borough.

Whether this has anything to do with the fact that a site which is Protected Open Space is automatically excluded from consideration for the North London Waste Plan, I of course cannot say.

I would add, though, that SItes for Nature Conservation are not automatically excluded from the Waste Plan, however rich; as far as they are concerned, one sees the appearance of the weasel word 'mitigation'.

More on this fairly soon, no doubt.

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