The mighty sparrow to live on

Tree Sparrow-1I had a productive site meeting in Beddington this afternoon with four representatives from Thames Water concerning the humble Tree Sparrow and whether this endangered species will be affected by plans to build a new sewage processing plant.

I previously blogged about this issue after a meeting of the Development Control Committee on 3rd October 2012. I and other members unanimously approved an application to build two ‘Dutch Barns’ to process sludge and drain the open sewage beds.

While I was in favour of the development in terms of modernising sewage treatment and ensuring that local residents no longer suffered unpleasant smells, I expressed serious concern over the threat to the Tree Sparrow’s habitat as a nationally-recognised endangered species.

At the site meeting it became clear that the threat to the rare bird was not as I imagined it, and that Thames Water were clearly alive to the significance of having such a rare species at this site and wanted to do everything they could to protect it.

I think the issue of the Tree Sparrow was not presented as well as it could have been at the Development Control Committee and where important matters of biodiversity are concerned it is important that planning officers are fully appraised of the facts.

The actual site of the Dutch Barns does not appear to be frequented by the Tree Sparrows, but they do use the areas around the lagoons, some of which will be drained over five years and converted into non-wetland wildlife habitat as part of an expanded Wandle Valley Regional Park.

I was reassured that the change of habitat should not adversely affect the Tree Sparrow provided that the change is done sensitively with the bird in mind. Thames Water do appear to be looking after the species and provide many nestboxes which are well used.

Given that this site has the highest concentrations of Tree Sparrows in Britain it is vital that we keep the bird in mind, especially as it has been in sharp decline for many years to the extent that it is now on the ‘Red List’ of species threatened with extinction in the UK.

The Tree Sparrow is very similar in appearance to the more common House Sparrow but has different markings as is clearly much rarer. They appear to like the area around Beddington sewage works and preserving this ‘community’ of Tree Sparrows is of national ornithological importance.

I have appraised by Environment and Neighbourhood Committee colleagues of today’s developments and will continue to monitor the success of this rare species on the site. Many thanks to Council officer Hendryk Jurk for organising the visit today!

By Lester Holloway @brolezholloway