In April, a petition was launched by a local Green Councillor to save Seething Wells Filter Beds. It was with the best of intentions, but it did not call for the right actions to actually do that. These are the actions it listed and why they are not the right answer to the problem.
It called on Kingston Council to:
1. Issue an Article 4 direction on the filter beds site to prevent further permitted development
An Article 4 direction can only remove specified permitted development rights. None of the works / operations which have been undertaken at the site fall under permitted development, so an Article 4 direction would not prevent any damage which was caused by what they are currently doing. Additionally, the petition gives no indication a) what permitted development rights exist on the site, and b) which rights would be removed. Furthermore, an Article 4 direction does not prevent development taking place it merely requires the submission of a planning application.
2. Use its powers under section 39 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to come to a management agreement with the site’s owners.
Section 39 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act ‘allows’ for management agreements between a relevant authority and anyone with an interest in the land, however it is not compulsory on the owner to enter into such an agreement. The current owners have not agreed to a management agreement, so the council is unable to act, under current legislation.
3. To arrange access for independent ecological, biodiversity and heritage experts to provide an up-to-date report on the state of the site.
Access to private land can only be granted by the land owners and despite requests to access the land for surveying, the current owners have not given permission and the Council has no powers to force access, under current legislation.
It called on the GLA and Mayor of London to:
4. Commit to continue to designate the site as Metropolitan Open Land.
Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) is defined by Kingston Council not the Mayor of London as part of its local plan. Seething Wells Filter Beds was defined as MOL in the council’s Unitary Development Plan in 2005 and reconfirmed in the council’s Core Strategy in 2012. The current iteration of the local plan will be produced over the next couple of years and it is planned to keep the MOL status of the site.
It called on MPs and the Government:
5. To support community calls for the site to be classified as a Local Nature Reserve and/or Scheduled Monument.
Neither a local nature reserve or scheduled monument would change the current situation with regard to works that the owners are undertaking.
We have considered what will actually protect the Seething Wells Filter Beds site and moreover would contribute to its ecological revival, and it needs legislative change - so we have launched a new petition to give councils the power to protect nature reserves.