BURY FARM is a 180-hectare (450-acre) area of Green Belt farmland crossed by public footpaths, rough tracks and bridleways. It is situated on the northern fringe of Edgware, in the London Borough of Barnet. The site has some rare breeding birds and regularly turns up interesting autumn passage migrants. It is currently (2013) under threat from the proposed development of much of the farmland into a golf course (see below).
Address: Bury Farm, Edgwarebury Lane, Edgware HA8 8QS (Map:; OS grid reference TQ190941)
The ancient Celts cultivated fields here before the Romans arrived in Britain. But the area remained mostly forest until the 13th century, when woodland was cleared and the first farm was built. In 1442 Bury Farm was given by King Henry VI to All Souls College, Oxford. Subsequently, there was the occasional colourful episode in the farm’s history, most notably in February 1735 when members of the infamous Gregory Gang, which included the notorious Dick Turpin, assaulted the 70-year-old farmer, raped one of his maids and robbed the farm. All Souls College still owns the farm, which is currently used for crops by a local farmer and for grazing and hacking by a riding stable.
All Souls College wants to lease a major part of the site to a commercial group that intends to develop an 18-hole private golf course. It is claimed that the scheme would not disturb public footpaths — an assertion that is hard to accept. But whether or not public footpaths are affected, the farmer who has grown millet and other crops here for many years faces the threat of having to forfeit half of his 80 hectares (200 acres). The proposal would also leave about 70 horses at Bury Farm homeless. And, despite claims by All Souls College, it seems that the development would severely restrict traditional access to the land by local residents and wildlife enthusiasts.
If approved, the proposed golf course would, unbelievably, be the 22nd golf course within a five-mile radius of Edgwarebury Lane. And it would be unlikely to be successful because the existing 21 courses are struggling to attract enough golfers to support them. It is noteworthy that a few years ago a nine-hole golf course directly across the A41 from the Bury Farm site had to close through lack of business. It seems that the real reason for the golf course proposal is that the land will initially be used profitably as a 25 hectare (62 acre) site for landfill, with the unwanted golf course then built on top.
Please join the NW London RSPB group in its protest against the proposed golf course on this bird-rich farmland site. To see the proposal and comment on it, go to the applications section of the London Borough of Barnet website and key in the reference number H/04377/13. The RSPB Group's own letter of objection is set out in an Appendix below.
The golf course proposal has also met fierce opposition from local residents, who want the land to be preserved as farmland, with footpaths, tracks and bridleways open to all. It has also attracted opposition from all sides of the political spectrum: among the opponents are Matthew Offord, the Conservative MP for Hendon and Edgware, and Andrew Dismore, his Labour predecessor as MP and now the London Assembly’s member for Barnet and Camden.
On 20th January 2014, Barnet's planning officers announced that the golf course application had been withdrawn. However, this does not preclude further plannign applications being submitted for the site.
The Bury Farm site consist principally of fields dotted sparsely with trees (mainly mature oaks) and enclosed by ancient hedgerows that contain more established trees. Some of the site is used for crops and some for grazing by horses from the livery farm and riding school at Bury Farm. The tracks and bridleways are used for hacking. Significant portions of the land are used as winter grazing for horses, and so are rested from May to November, providing an undisturbed haven for nesting wildlife.
The rural nature of the site is aided by the fact that it is bordered by other areas of open land. South of the farm (to the west of Edgwarebury Lane) is Edgwarebury Park, a 12-hectare (30-acre) recreation ground described by the London Borough of Barnet as one of its premier parks. To the south-west is an area of rough grassland known locally as the Edgware Roughs, which has been designated as Metropolitan Open Space. And east of Edgwarebury Lane is a quiet cemetery in which there is little disturbance for wildlife.
BIRDS Common Buzzard are frequently seen over the site and other raptors regularly recorded include Sparrowhawk, Red Kite, Peregrine, Kestrel, Hobby, Little Owl and Tawny Owl. Hobby have bred on the threatened part of the site for about 20 years. Lapwing, Skylark, Yellow Wagtail and Common Whitethroat breed on the arable fields. Linnet, Yellowhammer, Pheasant and Red-legged Partridge nest in the hedgerows and feed among the crops. Bury Farm also regularly attracts seasonal migrants such as Wheatear, Whinchat, Stonechat, Spotted Flycatcher and Ring Ouzel. In fact, the site is so good for migrants that the NW London RSPB Group has regularly organised autumn bird walks here.
OTHER VERTEBRATES Mammals found on the site include badger, rabbit and several species of bat (common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle and noctule have been reported, and other species are almost certainly present). Reptiles include grass snake and slow worm, and amphibians include the rare great crested newt.
INVERTEBRATES Information needed, please
DIRECTIONS By car, the site is most easily reached by turning north off the A41 Edgware Way (Watford By-Pass) into Edgwarebury Lane. Alternatively, turn up Broadfields Avenue, park at the top and follow Clay Lane into the site. By London Underground, the nearest station is Edgware (Northern Line), from which bus route 288 will take you into the Broadfields Estate. Alight at Meadfields and follow Clay Lane north into the site. Alternatively, bus routes 107, 113 and 186 will take you to the junction of Edgwarebury Lane and Edgware Way (A41), which is only a short walk from the site.
ACCESS The site is accessible at all times.
FACILITIES A couple of small supermarkets and a fish bar can be found on the Broadfields Estate in Glengall Road (but ignore online reviews of a pub with an avian name, The Sparrowhawk, which has now closed). A few shops and take-aways can also be found on Mowbray Parade at the bottom of Broadfields Avenue, while the centre of Edgware has a good range of restaurants, bars and supermarkets.
Can anyone offer a comprehensive list of Bury Farm sightings?
Can anybody offer ANY list of Bury Farm sightings? How will you back up your claim of breeding Yellowhammers ? Are there any records published anywhere ? The claim of breeding Yellowhammer is based on paragraph 14 of the RSPB's submission set out below.
Appendix: RSPB letter of objection
The text of the NW London RSPB Group’s letter of objection to the proposed golf course (see Current Threat, above) is set out below (with slight modification):
1. Bury Farm: Members of the NW LONDON RSPB GROUP have been monitoring the Wildlife, especially the Birds, at Bury Farm, Edgwarebury, for a considerable number of years, because of its exceptional range of species more usually associated with traditionally managed less developed countryside.
2. Ornithological Importance: Bury Farm is the last remaining refuge of what used to be regarded as Common Countryside Birds e.g. Lapwing, Skylark, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Swallow, etc. Approximately 100 species have been recorded of which almost half regularly breed. In winter the hedgerows are thronged with Scandinavian Redwings and Fieldfares, while seasonal migrants such as Wheatear, Whinchat, Stonechat Ring Ouzel and Spotted Flycatcher stop off to reinvigorate. Rarer visitors have included Red-backed Shrike, Woodlark, and Twite. Raptors (Red Kite, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Hobby) are a common feature testifying to the richness of the habitat and abundance of prey. The Ecologist even recorded Peregrine but failed to discover the secretive nesting Hobby Falcons until shown the nest site by the NW London RSPB Group.
3. Community Resource: Consequently, Bury Farm is an important Community Resource enabling local residents and visitors alike to reconnect with nature and enjoy the atmosphere of the countryside. NW London RSPB Group facilitates this by arranging regular Birdwalks in the area. Scientific studies show getting in touch with nature reduces stress and lowers the risk of developing chronic illnesses. A private Golf Course cannot have the same effect.
4. Ecology Report: Although the Ecology Report tries to play down Bury Farm’s ecological importance it is clear that, even from this snapshot appraisal, the site is species rich and supports a wide range of threatened (nationally declining) farmland species.
5. Important Swallow & House Sparrow Colonies: Furthermore, Bury Farm hosts substantial Swallow and House Sparrow colonies (both declining species nationally) and the assemblage of Birds of Prey includes regularly breeding Hobby Falcons – a specially protected Species under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).
6. Hobby Falcons: In the summer months, Bury Farm supports at least one (sometimes two) pairs of secretive Hobby Falcons. These rare breeding birds are unique to the area and have been the focus of special protection by the local RSPB Group over many years.
7. Loss of Undisturbed Natural Habitat: In previous applications planners have erroneously accepted Developer’s arguments that threatened species can go “elsewhere”. Now the “elsewhere“ is under threat! Incidentally, Hobby Falcons have failed to breed on the Edgwarebury Cemetery Extension site since planning permission was granted.
8. Nature Conservation Importance (SINC): Adjacent parts of the Farm have already been designated as of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation (Edgware Way Rough -TQ 185 932 and Edgwarebury Brook - TQ 185 935) and the completion of the Flood Relief Scheme has enhanced the area’s habitats & bio-diversity. Indeed conservationists have long advocated that the entire area should have been designated as an area of Nature Conservation Importance, thus safeguarding the inter-related habitats on a landscape scale.
9. Protected Green Belt: This rural setting in the Protected Green Belt attracts many visitors to the area especially those seeking to enjoy nature in unspoilt countryside.
10. Countryside Experience: In both a local and regional context Bury Farm provides one of the few opportunities to experience the suite of farmland habitats and species now sadly missing from the wider countryside due to more intensively managed modern agricultural practices.
11. Change in Nature & Character: The Rural Agricultural / Pastoral character will be lost and drastically transformed into an intensively used private Golf Course with associated Clubhouse and Maintenance Buildings.
12. Loss of Public Amenity: Edgwarebury Lane and Farm Track currently provides unrestricted (pedestrian) access affording panoramic views across the entire site. Although the fields are in private ownership there is little to preclude casual access. This enjoyment of the countryside will be lost if a private Golf Course is permitted.
13. Restricted Public Access & Views: Although the plans include a proposed perimeter permissive path this is mainly restricted to the site boundary along the M1 & A41. These roads carry constant heavy traffic producing noise and pollution. Views across the site will be restricted by the proposed woodland and copse plantings, unless carefully designed this will detract from the Green Belt’s characteristic “openness”.
14. Loss of Arable Fields: Apart from the loss of arable fields for food production to feed an ever-increasing population these fields support nationally declining threatened farmland species. At Bury Farm these include Skylarks, Yellow Wagtails, Common Whitethroats and Lapwings all of which breed in the arable crop fields. Linnets, Yellowhammers, Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges nest in the hedgerows and also feed amongst the crops. Provision therefore needs to be made to retain or replicate this habitat and valuable wildlife food resource.
15. Equestrian Enterprise: The stables, barns, horse grazing fields and hay meadows form an important crucial part of the multifaceted inter-related ecosystems. We are not convinced that the Equestrian Enterprise will be given sufficient support to thrive alongside the modern golf course complex.
16. Field Exchange: Similarly, the ecosystems associated with the long established grass hay meadows will not be readily replicated by merely reseeding arable fields. Additionally, concerns have been expressed for the safety of horses if kept in the fields closer to the housing estate, where vandalism and anti-social behaviour can be a problem e.g. inappropriate feeding of livestock, grass fires, tree damage, littering, motor bike riding, etc.
17. Biodiversity: As the Ecology Report reveals the ecosystems at Bury Farm support a wide array of nationally threatened farmland species. Consequently, retaining the mosaic of habitats and ensuring environmentally friendly farming / equestrian practices are crucial to maintaining the area’s rich biodiversity.
18. Professional Consultation: In consultation with the RSPB Regional Conservation Officers, Herts & Middx Wildlife Trust & London Wildlife Trust it is considered that this drastic landscape change demands the implementation of strict Planning Conditions to protect the valuable ecosystems and the plants and animals they support.
19. PLANNING CONDITIONS: In order to ensure the retention of the area’s rich biodiversity any planning consideration must include strict Planning Conditions to mitigate the harmful affect of development, namely:
(i) Ecology Management Plan: A Landscape & Nature Conservation Management Plan must be instituted in conjunction with the local Wildlife Trust & RSPB.
(ii) Construction Works: All building construction and site re-profiling works to be undertaken outside the bird breeding season March – August (and for Hobby Falcons late April – early October). Tree Root Protection Zones to be delineated and enforced.
(iii) Habitat Protection: The variety of habitats must be protected and sympathetically managed (and enhanced) to retain biodiversity and ecological interest. Pesticide & Herbicide use should be prohibited.
(iv) Landscape & Hedgerow Trees: All the existing amenity and landscape trees (mainly mature Oaks) must be retained for visual aesthetic affect and to continue to provide nesting and roosting sites, especially for Bats, Woodpeckers, Little Owls, Tawny Owls, Birds of Prey, and especially Hobby Falcons.
(v) New Plantings: New plantings must be native, mainly English Pendunculate Oak and obtained from local, bio-secure suppliers. Long term plans need to consider succession of mature trees particularly as current management practice has precluded sufficient regeneration to allow for replacement of the hedgerow and landscape trees. Common Alder (for Siskins and Redpolls) would be appropriate in the damper waterside areas.
(vi) Hedgerows: The pruning regime should be on a 3 yearly rotational cycle with only a portion of the hedgerow trimmed after the winter thrushes have consumed the berries. New plantings should be from local, bio-secure sources. Hawthorn is preferred to Blackthorn.
(vii) Badgers: [This subparagraph contains confidential information about a threatened Badger sett].
(viii) Bats: Potential Bat roosting/maternity sites in mature (even dead) trees must be protected. Practice range netting and flood lighting should be prohibited to avoid harming or disturbing foraging Bats. Connectivity of flight lines must be maintained and enhanced.
(ix) Bat / Swift Bricks / House Martin Nests: Provision should be made for the inclusion of a series of Bat (& Swift) Bricks to be incorporated in any building structures. House Martin nesting cups would also be beneficial as the nearby House Martin colony is in decline.
(x) Reptiles: Provision needs to be made for the protection of the Slow Worm habitats especially where reconfiguration of the M1 bank and woodland planting is concerned. Compost Heaps should be established in warm south facing banks to promote Grass Snakes.
(xi) Amphibians: Provision needs to be made for some of the water bodies to be “amphibian friendly” (exclude fish & allow to seasonally dry) to encourage a thriving population of Newts, Toads and Frogs.
(xii) Skylarks: (UK Priority BAP Species) Extensive areas of undisturbed rough grassland with “Skylark Patches” will help provide feeding and nesting opportunities. Golf buggies should be excluded from these areas. The management programme should be based upon on a 3 yearly sectional cutting regime.
(xiii) Lapwings: Subject to seasonal conditions, several pairs of Lapwings breed on the Site. Provision needs to be made in the proposed Golf Course Plan to provide quiet nesting / feeding opportunities. The proposed water bodies, especially the larger ones (e.g. SE corner adjacent to Fairway 12), should include a safe island (&/ or Tern Rafts) refuges for nesting waders and other water birds. To reduce disturbance a bird hide and natural screen would be useful for monitoring purposes.
(xiv) Kingfisher / Sand Martin Banks: In view of the number of proposed water bodies provision could be made for both Kingfisher and Sand Martin Banks. Sand Martin is a Biodiversity Action Plan species.
(xv) Hobby Falcons: Require large expanses of undisturbed open country with stands of mature trees. Records show that the highest recorded number of nest failures is due to unintentional disturbance by farmers or others working outside vehicles. Although it may be possible to quote instances of Hobby Falcons breeding near Golf Courses we believe the intensive use of the proposed new Golf Course will deter Hobby Falcons from taking up residence and future breeding. Parts of the Golf Course may need to be cordoned off when a nest site has been identified. Consequently, we would recommend the applicant incorporates an additional Fairway & Green should it become necessary to create an exclusion zone around the chosen nest site.
(xvi) Mitigation Measures for Hobby Falcons: Quiet areas need to be set aside for Hobby Falcons to nest undisturbed. This might entail cordoning off part of the Golf Course when the nest site has been identified. Consequently we would recommend the applicant should include an additional Fairway & Green should it become necessary to create an exclusion zone around the chosen nest site.
(xvii) Initially the main risk to breeding hobbies would appear to be disturbance during the construction period. Hobby Falcons are listed on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). This means that in addition to the legal protection from damage, destruction and taking that all wild birds, their nests and eggs are afforded by this Act, Schedule 1 birds and their young are also protected from disturbance during the breeding season.
(xviii) The Forestry Commission and the RSPB have produced joint guidance regarding safe working distances from Schedule 1 birds*, which states that work must be avoided in the nesting season if closer than the safe working distance. This guidance indicates that a safe working distance from breeding hobby is 180-450m, with the distance being towards the upper end of this range early in the breeding season. It states that there may be scope to reduce the distance towards the lower end of the range later in the breeding season, but that expert advice must be sought on this matter.
(xv) Given the size of the application site, the appropriate safe working distance from hobby could effectively require all construction works to be shut down were they to commence during the breeding season. This would also apply even if hobbies nested outside of the proposed golf course, where the buffer provided by the safe working distance still covered part of the application site. i
(xx) The hobby breeding season runs from April until late September (In 2013 a dependent juvenile was still present into the second week of October). In addition, we would recommend that prior to the commencement of any construction works, a check is made (in conjunction with the Local RSPB) by an appropriately licensed ecologist to ensure that the hobbies have finished nesting and the young are no longer dependent (dependent young of Schedule 1 birds are protected by law even if not in the nest). This should be incorporated into the appropriate planning condition.
Guidance regarding safe working distances from Schedule 1 birds:
http://www.forestry.gov.uk/website/pdf.nsf/pdf/Guidancenote32Birddisturbance.pdf/$FILE/Guidancenote32Birddisturbance.pdf FCS Guidance Note 32: Forest Operations and Birds in Scottish Forests. Prepared jointly by Forestry Commission Scotland and the RSPB, with help from Scottish Natural Heritage (2006) Appendix: Nesting seasons, disturbance distances and legal status for birds found in forests (pages 12-14)
http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/forestsbirds_tcm9-132888.pdf Forests and Birds – A Guide to Managing Forests for Rare Birds. RSPB and Forestry Authority (1997). Figure 3: Provisional Safe Working Distances from Rare Bird Nests in Forests (page 9)