Category Archives: Environment

What is happening to Wanstead Park’s lakes?

Lack of rainfall and a broken pump have been cited by City of London Corporation as the main reason for the shocking levels of the ponds through the park.

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The Ornamental Water by the Grotto is virtually dry. Images courtesy of Ralph Potter

The plight of the water courses has been well documented of late; a press release from the Corporation explains the catalogue of issues hampering efforts to address the problem. Closer scrutiny of these reasons, however, suggest that too much is being blamed on the weather.

A study of local rainfall back to 1981 suggests that though the ground water replenishing season (October 1st – April 24th) has been dry it is by no means out of the ordinary.

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As you can see from the graph the rainfall here has gone up and down like a yo-yo and 2016-17 is only the fourth driest period: 1991-92, 1995-96, 1996-97 and 2011-12 were drier.

The Corporation’s press release states: “2015-16 was a helpfully wet period for us…”

Wrong. 2015-16 was average. And if you consider annual rainfall 2015 saw 92 per cent of average rainfall recorded; 2016 was 93 per cent – placing 58th and 66th in driest years since 1797. Nothing out of the ordinary.

“2016-17 has, however, been an especially dry period with below average rainfall since Spring 2016.”

Wrong. See above detail. There have been three drier periods since 1981. And since March 2016, only half of the months have been notably dry, a period that included the third wettest June since 1797.

“January to March 2017 has seen roughly 50% less rainfall than average”

Wrong. January to March rainfall was 94% of the 1981-2010 average

April has been dry, and could be among the top 5 driest back to 1797, but it seems the Corporation are trying to blame nature instead of years of neglect on their part.

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The past months have seen much of Heronry Pond dry out. Image by Ralph Potter

 

The situation is in stark contrast to CoL’s other open space, Hampstead Heath, which has recently seen the completion of a £23m project to make safe the ponds there. CoL has deep pockets yet they have dithered for years over spending £25,000 to renovate the Coronation Bridge – and offer the people of Ilford a route into the park.
Figures released by CoL show it has only invested £1.23m in Wanstead Park over the last five years, compared with £50m spent in Hampstead Heath.

We are constantly told that problems in the park are ‘in hand’ yet progress on anything is painfully slow – and action to repair the pump has sadly come too late for much of the wildlife on Heronry Pond.

People from far and wide use Wanstead Park – they really deserve better!

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You can view City of London Corporation’s press release here

 

London’s choked by leaving the EU

This month marks the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, a piece of government legislation prompted in part by the Great Smog of December 1952 that caused between 4,000 and 12,000 premature deaths.boris

Air quality in the capital has vastly improved since those days of ‘pea souper’ fogs. A study of sunshine in Greenwich and other sites around east London reveals that winter months are, on average, around 18 per cent sunnier today than they were in the same period before the act was implemented in 1956. Though the cause of this is possibly partly because of a decline in winter anticyclones – weather systems that can give weeks of dull, murky conditions – further environmental legislation has helped.

Though the sky is clearer conditions at street level have grown steadily worse in recent years. During the first week of 2016 it was revealed that parts of the capital had already breached annual EU hourly limits for nitrogen dioxide – a pollutant that causes thousands of premature deaths through respiratory problems each year. A study last year showed that nearly 9,500 people die early each year in London because of long-term exposure to air pollution, more than twice as many as previously thought, according to the research.

Although action is being taken to reduce pollution from diesel buses, taxis and lorries the figures reveal that we are once again getting to the level of deaths caused by the Great Smog. The new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, seems to be taking pollution a lot more seriously than his predecessor with a number of initiatives announced – making London compliant with EU legal limits well before the government’s target of 2025.

However, the mayor has also sent out conflicting messages by saying he backs the expansion of City Airport – you can’t have it both ways. And, if we do leave the EU, what will replace these EU legal limits?

With the current political situation lurching from one disaster to another I fear that the environment will get pushed well down the agenda. The current list of candidates vying to take over from David Cameron as prime minister include ‘dark horse’ Andrea Leadsom, the energy and climate change minister, who has been an ardent supporter of fracking. And on coal she recently sparked controversy in February  where she assured the industry the pledged 2025 coal phase-out was just a consultation and encouraged it to suggest what ‘unabated coal’ means.

The many benefits of EU membership got lost in the debate over the last few weeks – improvement in the environment being one of them. It is why, without the beady eye of Brussels keeping watch over us, that we must ensure that the next government stick to their promise of continual improvement to the capital’s air quality.

East london winter sunshine totals
Winter sunshine totals were falling before we joined the EU. Since 1973 a general upswing is observed. On average there is 18% more sunshine during winter months since we joined the EU compared with the same period before joining the Common Market