This is a story about a local authority that pursues its own ambitions, against its own policy for protecting the local environment.
The Limehouse Triangle is a small patch of land that The London Borough of Tower Hamlets decided should be improved for nature. They gave funds for this endeavour and it made the local residents happy to know that nature was to be promoted on their doorstep.
The trouble began in September 2016 when Mayor Biggs, the leader in Tower Hamlets, wrote to a local resident saying that The Limehouse Triangle could no longer be considered as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (a formal conservation designation) owing to the fact that all the biodiversity had been cleared. This decision was made without an accompanying ecology report.
Eventually, two years after the letter to the local resident an ecology report was raised stating that there was a possibility of bat roosts in the tree canopy, but this could not be determined owing to the leaf cover. However, planning consent was still given, after which the trees were felled.
Residents saw bat roosts on the ground and no effort was taken by the Council to validate their occupation. Originally the bat roosts were placed just outside The Limehouse Triangle but later re-sited within the estate. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets state that bat roosts were never within the nature area.
On hearing that bats were prevalent in the vicinity, The East London Garden Society investigated the situation and raised a formal complaint. Under the law it is illegal to clear a nature area without an ecology report.
On 15 December 2020, a reply was finally received from the Council stating that only a few re-seeded trees were felled. The East London Garden Society progressed this to stage 2 of the complaint’s procedure.
The reply received on 25 February 2021, acknowledges the status of The Nature Reserve but that housing was a higher priority. An email was also received from The London Borough of Tower Hamlets stating there was never any possibility of bat roosts being within The Limehouse Triangle. The London Wildlife Trust was then informed of the situation.
A member of Parliament then became involved and requested information on the position of The Limehouse Triangle. The reply given by Tower Hamlets was that The Limehouse Triangle was never a nature reserve and bats were not known in the area of the Triangle.
Where we are now in a position that work has commenced on the provision of accommodation in The Limehouse Triangle, despite no effort being made to determine whether bats were in existence within the triangle area, and eighteen mature trees being felled.
A group of residents have now gone to The Local Government Ombudsman to raise this issue and point out that bats are one of the most protected species in the UK. A report has also been sent to The Metropolitan Police stating that after trees were felled, bat roosts were seen on the ground.
It is not unreasonable to assume that bat roosts were in the trees of The Limehouse Triangle. The reason why Tower Hamlets is attempting to deny this is that their Planning Consent may be suspect since they did not follow the rules on protected species.
We now wait to see what happens!