The River Crane Sanctuary is a group of friends, neighbours and nature lovers who live next to the River Crane in Twickenham and work to care for the natural space along a section of its banks.
The site lies south of the River and adjacent to Campbell Close/Churchview Garages, near Trafalgar School/The Meadway. Another section sits behind part of Belmont Road and Manor Road Flats. It's all important for habitat and connectivity but is in private ownership, making it vulnerable to inappropriate use. It link up with the London Wildlife Trust reserve
The site is designated Metropolitan Open Land [MOL] and is a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation [SMINC]. "We didn’t know this before we started," says group member Sammi. "But now know these designations given by local authorities offer it different levels of protection."
We did not know the rules and neither did others we petitioned to try to stop building and abuses on the land over decades, including bonfires raging into the night - burning leaves and vegetation which could be composted. This took years to stop although on the other public bank of the river this would not be allowed.
We had to go through the Council Environmental Health and Enforcement departments to record issues which took time and effort, and the bureaucracy was a nightmare. However, it was nothing compared with the Planning Process. It’s taken five years to stop building proposals on the land itself and an adjacent plot. So, it was an absolute relief and surprise to win both our objection to the Churchview Garages site and to get a Tree Preservation Order [TPO] confirmed on the MOL itself just before the coronavirus lockdown.
Here is what we learned to help raise awareness of the environment locally and to get real results:
- We needed community help to succeed in this endeavour as it takes a lot of energy and time. We contacted our local councillor, neighbours, petitioned along the river walk and local shops/pubs, local environmental groups, national groups and read masses of data!
- Learn the vocabulary of Planning Terms to object clearly or find someone who knows it already in your group.
- Be prepared to pay an expert for an Ecology Report to reinforce your concerns and contact public utilities like Thames Water if there are issues with flooding/drainage.
- We found that setting-up a website and writing in a local paper made a huge difference as other Councillors became interested and especially as the climate literally changed physically and altered peoples’ perception of what is important locally and worldwide.
- If you have interests like photography, art, poetry and music which reaches others emotionally, do share by going into schools or even posting on YouTube. Our song “On the River Crane Sanctuary” really helped build support for our campaign and proves you don’t have to be professional …..just sincere!
- We have a Flickr Album and upload photos regularly to Springwatch to record the flora and fauna we see here including red listed species.
- Local environmental groups need to know what you see for their records to fight at a higher level and Greenspace information for Greater London [GiGL] is London’s national records base to send your data.
Take a look on our website for more information, and good luck in engaging with your local green spaces and protecting them for future generations.