Policies Currently Applied to the Site
The M122 Forest Hill to New Cross Gate Railway Cutting has the following policy designations / protections.
The entire M112 SINC corridor is designated a Green Corridor. These linear green spaces form important green infrastructure links in the city. Together they form vital ecological networks that allow the movement of wildlife.
Archaeological Priority Area: A section traversing the site at Eddystone Road foot-bridge is covered by the Archaeological Priority designation. Archaeological Priority Areas (APAs) are areas where there is significant known archaeological interest or potential for new discoveries.
It forms area 16 on the Lewisham map of areas of archaeological priority, described as:
“APA4 London-Lewes Road. The London-Lewes Road was part of the Roman arterial system, connected London with the South Coast and is possibly preserved in surviving public rights of way and street alignments. Otherwise this road is absent from the modern topography of Lewisham, despite its significant role as the boundary between the modern boroughs of Croydon and Bromley and the historic counties of Kent and Surrey.”
It is protected by DM Policy 37 – Non-designated heritage assets of archaeological interest, Schedule 3 Policy URB 21 Archaeology.
Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation
The entire M112 SINC corridor is designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, not only brough specific but of Metropolitan importance. This demonstrates its significance at a regional scale, containing the best examples of London’s habitats, with particularly rare species, rare assemblages of species or important populations of species, or sites which are of particular significance within the otherwise heavily built-up areas of London. They are of the highest priority for protection.
Urban Green Space
Parts of the cutting are also designated Urban Green Space, a designation equal to the ‘Green Belt’ protection meaning that it cannot be built on.
Forms part of the All London Green Grid Area 6 of the London Plan.
The railway cutting is strategically located to form an integral part of a wider network of green spaces. Any disruption or break in this coherency will be detrimental to the ecological integrity of the corridor. The following sections detail how the site is an integral part of this wider ecological network.
Great North Wood Living Landscape
The site is immediately adjacent to the area identified as being part of the ‘Great North Wood’ living landscape. The LWT ‘London Living Landscapes’ initiative seeks to protect, conserve and enhance the capital’s wildlife and connect fragmented natural green and blue spaces to form vibrant landscapes. The Great North Woods once stretched across the high ridge of land between Deptford, Selhurst and Streatham, surviving as a mixture of oak-hornbeam woodland, wood-pasture commons, and arable land until the early 19th century. Over 20 woodlands are now found within the area, together with a wide range of other sites of wildlife value.
The site is located within one of 11 Area Frameworks of the All London Green Grid (Area 6 – South East London Green Chain Plus) The All London Green Grid (ALGG) is a London Plan policy framework to promote the design and delivery of green infrastructure across London, incorporating green infrastructure/urban greening, biodiversity, trees, woodland and river corridors.
The railway cutting is adjacent to the section of the Green Chain Walk that goes through Camberwell New Cemetery on the other side of the railway tracks. There is immense potential to extend the walk to incorporate the M112 green corridor. It incorporates a Green Chain of 300 open spaces connected by a network of footpaths that stretch 50 miles (80km).
Lewisham Borough Wide Green Spaces
Site M112 is described in Lewisham Council’s Green Space study. It is an integral part of Lewisham’s Green Infrastructure whose value must be further highlighted. The site in question forms the western green infrastructure spine, connecting to the middle spine along the Catford Loop railway corridor.
Brockley Three Peaks Green Walk
Recognising the green spaces within the neighbourhood as local natural assets, residents mapped out a local green corridor known as the Brockley Three Peaks Green Walk. This demonstrates the huge potential for the SE London Green Chain to be expanded. While currently the site in question is adjacent to the walk and is inaccessible, it still forms the visual amenity and a possible future accessible amenity to nature.
Ecologist Account from 1990 Inspectorate Evidence
An ecology survey undertaking by Mr Nick Bertrand submitted as evidence to the Public Inquiry November 1990 highlights the ecological value of the site. The account states:
"The value of the site is one of mature woodland and glades. The oldest parts of this have some fine sweet chestnut trees of considerable age... These and a field maple suggest the woodland has been present on site for a considerable time. Burton’s Flora of the London Area shows these species [field maple and sweet chestnut] to be absent from inner London and this site is one of the very few places where it can be found at the edge of this void.
Thomas Milne’s 1800 land use map shows arable and meadow fields here, and the northernmost edge of the North Wood, some 200 metres to the south...Other woodland species lend variety to the structure and food sources for animals. These include oak, elm, sycamore, gean, elder, hawthorn, while on the steep slopes down to the railway there are also downy birch, ash and beech.
Birds recorded from the site include great spotted woodpecker, blackbird, wren, long- tailed tit, woodpigeon, jay, great tit, blue tit, song thrush, blackbird, dunnock, blackcap, collared dove, tawny owl, carrion crow and magpie, the majority of which including the woodpecker, doubtless breed there...Long list of fungi for its position within London.
The site is thus an integral part of, and a major component of a larger site which is one of the very best in the Borough. The appeal site itself has mature trees of species which are rarely found this near to central London and it is the best available in a wide area of the surrounding suburbs."
A survey is believed to have been undertaken in May 1999, updated from information gathered during the London Wildlife Habitat Survey of 1984-85 (conducted by LWT on behalf of the Greater London Council), and published in 1986. This identified the corridor as a Site of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation. The survey results were later collated into Nature Conservation in Lewisham, by the London Ecology Unit in 2000, the corridor designation was upgraded to a site of Metropolitan Importance. The publication highlights in considerable detail the significance of the site. In summary, it describes the site as:
"An extensive railway cutting between New Cross Gate and Forest Hill stations, in a strongly urban area of south London. The most representative site in London for habitats developing on active railsides, it also demonstrates well their important role in allowing natural vegetation to develop in the heart of the inner city...Otherwise views of the cutting are restricted to bridges."
2006 Ecology Survey
The 2006 survey described the 'Forest Hill to New Cross Gate Railway Cutting as:
“Probably the finest selection of railside habitats in London, this wide cutting combines three nature reserves, containing woodland, scrub, grassland and reed beds..An extensive railway cutting between New Cross Gate and Forest Hill stations, in a strongly urban area of south London. The most representative site in London for habitats developing on active railsides, it also demonstrates well their important role in allowing natural vegetation to develop in the heart of the inner city...The breeding avifauna includes tawny owl, lesser spotted woodpecker (now largely absent as a breeding bird in London, LWT pers. Coms) and bullfinch. A surprisingly diverse invertebrate fauna includes several nationally scarce species, amongst which is the white-letter hairstreak butterfly."
In the summer of 2015 a Lewisham wide survey was undertaken by Ecology Consultancy. The site was not surveyed in detail, but their broad survey concluded that there should be no change to the site’s designation.
2017 Ecology Survey and Management Plan
The community led ecology survey was undertaken in the summer of 2017, which further augmented the significance of the site as a strategic site of nature conservation importance. The reports gave the following recommendations:
"There is a move to designate the site as a statutory Local Nature Reserve (LNR) (HopCroft Neighbourhood Forum / Fourth Reserve Community Organisation, 2017).
The requirements to be met for LNR status are set out on government (LNR criteria: gov.uk) and other (e.g. Naturenet) websites. In the surveyor’s opinion the site surpasses the ecological requirements for LNR status, in terms of both its habitat quality and the conservation statuses of recorded species...The local community should be encouraged on the basis of the ecological evidence to pursue their efforts to secure LNR status for the site."