I first visited Beddington Farmlands when two residents got in touch to give me a tour. I was aware of the Farmlands as a local Councillor, but even though I lived five minutes away I had never visited myself. I was amazed that such a beautiful resource was sitting, largely empty on our doorsteps in Hackbridge.
It wasn’t all peaceful serenity though. My tour guides were eager to point out how much litter there was on the path, and how badly Viridor were fulfilling their obligations to keep it clean. I saw their point.
Fast forward two years and I am the Vice Chair of the Conservation and Access Management Committee, a small committee which oversees the restoration of Beddington Farmlands. I’m also the Vice Chair of the Environment and Neighbourhoods Committee, which has a role in monitoring the Farmlands’ progress. I’ve seen a lot in that time, and wanted to share some of my reflections.
What is Beddington Farmlands? And where is it?
Back to basics. Beddington Farmlands is a 400 acre site between Beddington Park and Mitcham Common. The area is being developed into a nature reserve as part of a restoration process managed by Viridor.
Here is a (rough) outline of Beddington Farmlands circled on a map:
It looks much nicer in reality:
Most of the Farmlands aren’t open to the public, but there is a permissive path which you can access via Mile Road by the main roundabout in Hackbridge:
Or via this entrance in Beddington Park (when you enter the park by the closest entrance to Hackbridge station, this opening is immediately on your left).
Once the restoration is complete, more of the Farmlands will be accessible, but large parts of it will still be closed to the public, as part of the purpose is to protect wildlife and biodiversity from the likes of us!
What is the restoration?
The site was being used as landfill for many years by Viridor. But now that the ERF has eliminated our need to use landfill, Viridor are obliged to complete a restoration of Beddington Farmlands by the end of 2023. There are many things which they have to achieve by then, including the creation of a variety of valuable habitats, and improving public access to the site with a cycleway and several walking paths.
There have been some positive developments, such as the provision of bird hides which have been popular with walkers. But I can’t pretend that I don’t have some concerns. The permissive path is often strewn with litter, which it is Viridor’s job to clear up. A few concerned residents have sent me several emails about this, and I feel embarrassed when Viridor just don’t get it sorted. How hard can it be?
More pressingly, there have been a number of delays to the process, and some of the habitats are behind schedule.
I raised my concerns about the restoration and the issue was discussed with senior Councillors, Council officers and the Chief Executive. I have since seen some evidence of better progress being made from Viridor. But I still have concerns.
Two residents presented a petition about the restoration of the Farmlands to the Housing Economy and Business Committee, on behalf of the Beddington Farmlands group and the Wandle Valley Forum. They called on the Council to take enforcement action on Viridor to deliver the restoration, as per planning conditions. Enforcement action can only be taken if the restoration is not completed as promised in 2023, but the Committee resolved to invite Viridor back in six months for a review of progress. Some residents voiced concerns that delays to the restoration have already caused ecological harm, and that more delays will make this worse. They welcomed the Committee’s decision to hold Viridor accountable for their progress every six months.
The restoration of Beddington Farmlands is a really great thing for our area, and Viridor could play a major role in developing a spectacular resource for our community. I will do everything we can to help them provide this, and am eager to find solutions to the problems which are still outstanding.