Tuesday 5 January 2010

Sheepwash Pond and the Tory Deputy Chairman

Sheepwash pond on the Ridgeway is one of the Mill Hill's outstanding landmarks. Generations of children have come to admire the ducks and geese that nest in the island in the middle of the pond. There is a rich flora and fauna with a massive variety of fish, birds, bats and amphibians making their homes around the pond. Anyone familiar with wildlife and conservation will know that many of these species like a quiet environment.

Although the front edge of Sheepwash pond borders the busy Ridgeway thoroughfare, the back edge has trees and farmland (see attached picture from Google Earth). This sort of habitat is vital for the protection of native flora and fauna. Sites like these preserve the fragile ecosystem and form vital Oasis's in the frenetic and busy modern world. The vast majority of residents of Mill Hill recognise the importance of such sites. This is the reason that the Mill Hill Preservation Society in association with the Scouts and the Former owners of the Belmont Riding Stables renovated and cleaned the pond in 1990/1. Schools such as the neighbouring St Pauls use the pond to educate children about the environment. It gives children an opportunity to see native species in their natural habitat.

I've been appalled to see what Hendon Conservative Deputy Chairman and current owner of the Belmont riding stables has done to the pond.  I took some pictures on a visit on Sunday and was deeply upset to see how he's actually fenced off some of the pond to use as a watering hole for his recently installed zoo. This pond is an amenity (I thought for all generations in Mill Hill). What does it say about the Conservatives in Barnet when they treat a natural beauty spot in such a way? Do they not understand the impact that such invasive actions has on the fragile ecosystem and the native species. I am amazed that Barnet Council permits such actions, especially in the Conservation  area. What conclusions can we draw from this. Have a  look at these pictures.

This picture shows how a new fence has been installed IN the pond.In the background you can see non native animals from the "Zoo" drinking. Who knows what effect such a fence will have on the traditional inhabitants of the pond, such as the geese and ducks. I am also worried about the possible effect of the fencing posts on the clay base of the pond. Sadly we won't know until drier weather in the summer if this has been compromised.

This next picture shows the view of the fence from the Ridgeway. Where previously there was an unresticted view of the Totteridge Valley, now we have ugly fences. Can anyone who knows the area possibly think that this is anything other than an act of gross vandalism? One has to conclude that the only people who don't are Conservative Councillor for Mill Hill, John Hart and the rest of the Hendon  Conservatives. As Andrew Reid who owns the Belmont stables and installed these fences is the Deputy Chairman of the Hendon Conservative Association, responsible for membership and fundraising (according to their website), they clearly think that this is marvellous.

Now just in case you think I'm over egging the case for this, lets just remind ourselves that this is in the Conservation area. This means that anything which materially alters the view has to undergo a stringent planning regime. Only in cases of urgent public need, are such alterations normally allowed. Whilst Barnet Council seem happy to let these fences go up, they were taking enforcement action against another fence just down the road (strangely the owner of this fence wasn't a deputy chairman of a local party). This fence is in the middle of a field. Tell me which you think has the greater impact on the look of the Conservation area?
This fence was replacing an existing barbed wire fence. Barnet Council served enforcement action on the owner. All of the rules on protecting the conservation area are there for a good reason. Once it's been destroyed, it's gone forever. Maybe the wealthy landowners of Mill Hill don't care about future generations. Maybe they don't care about conservation of wildlife. Maybe the local Conservative Party don't care what happens to the green belt and the conservation area.

I can assure you of one thing though. The people of Mill Hill care passionately about all of this.

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