Surbiton filter beds may harm ecology

Planned developments on the Thames in Surbiton would destroy the habitats of a range of wildlife, a local ecology expert has warned.

The development – which would include the construction of 64 floating homes, a restaurant, and a car-park on the formerly Thames Water-owned Filter Beds site in Surbiton – was proposed by Hydro Properties, but has been met with mixed opinions from members of the public and local groups.

Local ecological expert Alison Fure said: “This plan is horrendous. We’ll lose everything – the chalk grassland, the open water, the shyer bird species, as well as the bats. We’ll be left with a silly bit of land that will be used as the new residents’ back-garden.”

Ms Fure said that the developers were ignoring the ecology of the animals that live on the site, which included a protected species of beetle, as well as a breed of bats that have only been sighted in four areas of London in recent years.

She said that the levels of light from the developments would be “above the tolerance of the colony of the Daubenton’s bats”, meaning that they’d be left without a home.

Hydro Developments told the Surrey Comet in November that they disputed Mrs Fure’s claims, and that the development would enhance the biodiversity on the river, however were unavailable for comment on this occasion.

Their proposals – which have been on-going for a number of months, and were publicly discussed during a four-week consultation period held by Kingston Council throughout October and November – include the creation of protected habitats for bats, an arboretum of mixed tree species to be used for educational purposes, and a grassland, shrub and pond area.

Ms Fure added that only 12 per cent of Kingston was open space for the public and wildlife, compared to 45 per cent of Hackney and 55 per cent of Richmond. She warned that Kingston could end up with one of the lowest proportions of open space in the whole of London if developments like this continued.

The plans are also opposed by local groups such as the Friends of Seething Wells, and the recently-formed River Thames Sports Alliance, however Kingston Council has received letters in support of the plans too.

The River Thames Support Alliance have written that, if allowed to proceed, the proposals would “compromise the use of a significant stretch of the River Thames for river sports activities” and “would threaten the future” of a range of river-based sports.

The Friends of Seething Wells, which notes that the area of land proposed to be developed on is classified as protected on a number of counts, are holding a group action meeting at Surbiton’s YMCA on Victoria Road, December 12.

Independent advisors are expected to give their conclusions on the site later this month, and the application will go to Kingston Council’s Development Control meeting on January 25.

The proposals then go to the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who will make the final decision.

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