Biodiversity in Lewisham
Lewisham Council declared a Climate Emergency in 2019 with the ambition for the Borough to become carbon neutral by 2030. The approved Climate Emergency Strategic Action Plan highlights the importance of green and blue spaces in tackling the simultaneous climate and biodiversity crises. Objectives and actions within the Lewisham Biodiversity Action Plan align well and complement the Climate Emergency Strategic Action Plan and will contribute to its implementation.
The Lewisham Biodiversity Partnership
The Lewisham Biodiversity Partnership was established in 1999 as a result of Rio Earth Summit in 1992 to develop an action plan for the Borough’s wildlife and natural environment. This followed national and regional guidance and the objectives identified through the work of the London Biodiversity Partnership and the London Biodiversity Action Plan (2000).
Presently, the Partnership consists of Lewisham Council, Glendale Grounds Management, Lewisham Homes, Quaggy Waterways Action Group (QWAG), Horniman Museum and Gardens, London Wildlife Trust, Thames 21, The Creekside Education Trust, Sydenham Garden Organisation, Butterfly Conservation and, most importantly, many local Friends groups and individuals. Current list of Lewisham Biodiversity Partnership member organisations can be found in the Lewisham Biodiversity Action Plan.
What is a Biodiversity Action Plan and why do we need one?
Borough Biodiversity Action Plans are prepared to highlight the need and actions to conserve locally important plants and animals and the landscapes in which they live. They help partners to focus on the priorities, and what, when and where action should take place. For those who may not have direct wildlife knowledge but who want easily accessible guidance on actions they can carry out that will help these locally important species, habitats and areas. They set out the actions that will help to improve the quality, resilience and abundance of Lewisham’s biodiversity – its variety of life – especially those species and habitats of value in the borough.
Biodiversity Action Plans particularly focus on species and habitats that reflect national and regional conservation priorities as well as those that are culturally valued or serve as flagships for wider ecological gains. However, all wildlife is important and the Biodiversity Action Plan is not ignorant of other species and habitats which may not be explicitly mentioned in the Plan. With new developments or changes in site management it is crucial to assess all the wildlife which may be using a site and not just the Action Plan species and habitats.
A Natural Renaissance for Lewisham sets out the Partnership’s aspirations for the immediate future until 2026. It identifies the opportunities and objectives which Lewisham’s Biodiversity Partnership is committed to achieving and demonstrates the links that the conservation of Lewisham’s biodiversity can make to the Council’s continuing programmes within various directorates.
The latest update of ‘A Natural Renaissance for Lewisham’ was ratified by Mayor and Cabinet in November 2021. The partnerships past achievements can be viewed on Lewisham’s nature conservation blog.
Lewisham’s priority species and habitats (in alphabetical order)
1. All bat species (Chiroptera)
2. Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros)
3. Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
4. Common Toad (Bufo bufo)
5. European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)
6. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
7. Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)
8. Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus)
9. Swift (Apus apus)
1. Living Roofs
3. Railway ‘Linesides’
4. Standing Water & Ponds
5. Woodlands and trees
How can I help?
Major changes in the countryside over the past 50 years have led to the destruction of a number of wildlife habitats. Hedgerows, ancient woodlands and woodlands are declining, threatening the wildlife that depends on them. Gardeners can make a valuable contribution in providing alternative habitats for wildlife and linking urban green spaces with nature reserves and the wider countryside.
Housing land, both private and public, constitutes the largest amount of open space within the Borough. However, much of the housing space including gardens and estate grounds lie outside the domain of the Council and requires the interest of home-owners and registered social landlords for their biodiversity improvements.
Your back and front gardens are host to an amazing variety of wildlife and that should be celebrated and encouraged. Consider these simple things that you can do to encourage and support wildlife:
- Do not pave over your existing garden and start or continue wildlife gardening including in front gardens. Use native and/or wildlife friendly plants, those with simple flowers and night scented varieties are especially useful. Use the following resources to find out more.
- Build a small pond to benefit amphibians, invertebrates and other wildlife. Advice available from The Wildlife Trusts.
- Create a log pile to benefit Stag Beetles, toads, hedgehogs and other wildlife using suitable untreated broadleaf dead wood. Place in shade or dappled shade buried, or in contact with the soil. Advice available from The Wildlife Trusts.
- Build a bee/bug hotel to benefit insects and other invertebrates. Advice available from The Woodland Trust.
- Buy or build a bird nest box for your garden. Advice available from British Trust for Ornithology. (BTO)
- Provide food for Sparrows and other birds all year round but especially in the spring during breeding season. Advice available from the BTO.
- Don’t be too tidy – create wild areas to support hedgehogs and mini-beasts like caterpillars, spiders and beetles.
- Compost food and garden waste. Advice available from the Lewisham Council web pages.
- Avoid using pesticides, slug pellets and herbicides and try to work with nature or use alternative natural systems instead (e.g. planting annuals such as Californian poppies and marigolds in your garden will attract a wealth of beneficial insects, like ladybirds and hoverflies, that will eat aphids). Advice available from The Wildlife Trusts.
- Report ill or dead animals via the Garden Wildlife Health project
- Participate in conservation volunteering activities (e.g. Nature’s Gym), Citizen Science projects (e.g. Riverfly Monitoring, Butterfly count, Big Garden Birdwatch and other citizen surveys) and tell GiGL what you see.
Out and about
Join a Friends Group
Friends groups (add link) are made up of volunteers who wish to have a say in how their local parks and nature reserves are maintained, developed and used. The groups are constituted and organise entertainment, education and conservation activities as well as apply for funding to make improvements. They work in partnership with the local authority and Glendale. You can find out more information about Friends Groups near you and how to get on our parks pages.
Volunteers also play a hugely important role in helping us manage our parks and open spaces. There are a number of nature volunteering opportunities in Lewisham and so if you are keen on the more practical side of volunteering please visit the Nature Conservation Lewisham blog for information on how to get involved.
Biodiversity for planners and developers
Planning and Development play a key role in conserving biodiversity especially in urban environments where green spaces are limited and pressures are high to develop land for housing and other uses. Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) have statutory obligations to ‘have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity’ and this duty is strengthened and clarified by the Environment Act.
This biodiversity duty also provides opportunities to tackle wider issues via the many benefits that biodiversity provides (e.g. improving health and wellbeing, climate change mitigation, ecosystem services). Lewisham’s Core Strategy (7.3.3) advocates the ‘protection, promotion and management of biodiversity’ while the emerging Local Plan also requires a Biodiversity Net Gain for most developments.
Developers and planners should follow Lewisham’s Biodiversity and Planning Guidance and the Greater London Authority’s Design Guide on Urban greening for biodiversity to achieve net gain for biodiversity on all new development through the development control process.
Report your sightings to Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL)
GiGL is the capital’s environmental records centre – it mobilises, curates and shares data that underpin our knowledge of London’s natural environment. The GiGL species dataset is an extensive database of species records and although most taxa are represented, gaps do exist, both species and geographical in nature. To help fill the gaps please consider sharing your records with GiGL. Records can be shared using the spreadsheet template found on their website or the online recording form.
Please note: You must have permission to share any records that are not your own. For more information on the work they do please visit their website.