Don’t just take our word for it, the sign above was Surrey Quays Shopping Centre’s own description of the wildlife that the threatened trees and plants support: “Bees, butterflies, caterpillars, grasshoppers, hoverflies, ladybirds, moths, blackbirds, martins, starlings, swallows, swifts and thrushes.”
Local residents can add other birds to that list, such as dunnocks, blue tits, wrens, robins and wood pigeons. Bats have also been spotted. The insect life is particularly diverse.
The sign used to be situated next to the trees that the Canada Water West Residents Action Group is trying to protect; many shoppers will remember having seen it as they walked along the footpath that goes down from the shopping centre car park to Hothfield Place and then Lower Road.
However, the sign disappeared without notice in January 2015, just after it was revealed for the first time that the site was earmarked to be cleared, and after local residents began to voice concerns.
How convenient! Luckily, the sign was photographed shortly before it was removed, on a hunch that the wildlife area designation was about to be airbrushed from history to make it easier for British Land, the owner of the shopping centre, to cut down the trees.
The sign may have gone but the wildlife is still there – what will happen to it if the trees go?
And how can British Land and Southwark Council reconcile the destruction of this habitat to the “ecological led approach” that this masterplan for the broader Canada Water redevelopment promised?
Here is a bit more of the green rhetoric in that document:
• An ecological led approach is a fundamental part of the whole masterplan, learning lessons from, and adding to, existing local assets.
• There is opportunity to improve the ecological diversity of the masterplan site and the local area by providing a range of habitats to increase the number and type of species present. Particularly targeting existing local species and those identified in the London and Southwark Biodiversity Action Plans as a priority to encourage and protect through the redevelopment process.
• It will also provide a ‘mosaic’ of green spaces throughout the site. These will seek to use native trees and plants or suitable non –natives with a proven biodiversity benefit. Providing a food source and shelter for invertebrates, birds and bat species, as well as a pleasant environment for people to enjoy this wildlife.
Well, there is a source of food and shelter for insects, birds and bats already there in the wildlife area. Planting saplings here and there elsewhere on the site won’t compensate for the destruction of a mini-ecosystem that has been allowed to develop for years already.