Crossness Nature Reserve is under threat with a decarbonisation plant planned for the site. Wild Things columnist Eric Brown says for the sake of wildlife and visitors, the scheme must not succeed.

Crossness Nature Reserve faces a fight for survival in its present form. The 20-hectare reserve on the Abbey Wood/Belvedere border was established in 1996. It is home to a host of scarce birds plus rare water voles, insects and plants. I wrote here recently of its inestimable value to both animals and humans. Now this wildlife oasis sprinkled with ditches, grassland, pools and reeds is under threat.

Cory Energy have already built a waste incinerator on the Thames Water-run reserve's border. They are currently constructing a second on its northern boundary. Now Cory plan to expand even further by building ON the Local Nature Reserve itself.

Cory's latest scheme is for a decarbonisation plant designed to allow them to reach Net Zero - at severe cost to this highly valued reserve.

Cory plan to capture carbon emissions from their two waste incinerators, liquify the carbon in plant built on wildlife habitat, and then transport to a new jetty on the River Thames, where it will be shipped to a storage facility on the seabed of the North Sea.

Even if Thames Water oppose this scheme they may be overruled by the Secretary of State allowing a compulsory purchase order to go ahead. If planning permission is granted this Carbon Capture Scheme will result in the loss of six acres of Crossness grazing marsh as well as ditches supporting water vole and aquatic insects.

To offset this loss, Cory and their landscape architects, LDA Design, propose to make habitat enhancements to Norman Road Field – an area to the south-east of Crossness Nature Reserve, but not part of it. This Peabody-owned area already has ecological value including breeding barn owls and a wader scrape where little egrets, snipe and other waders are frequently seen.

Critics question claims that this will create a larger Nature Reserve with Cory proposing to concrete over six acres of it and then tweak existing habitat on somebody else’s land.

Cory will submit their planning application in March 2024, with a public consultation starting on October 18. There is likely to be fierce opposition.

For the sake of all the mammals, insects and birds plus the local visitors who treasure trips to Crossness, common sense must prevail and this destructive scheme unceremoniously binned. Especially as the government is watering down several ambitious Net Zero targets.