The Cory Riverside Energy Park (incinerator) is next to the Crossness Nature Reserve, part of the Erith Marshes Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation. This is the last remaining area of grazing marsh land within Greater London. The 25.5 hectare site has been owned and managed by Thames Water since 1996 and, together with an additional 30 hectares on the Crossness Southern Marsh, is home to at least 253 plant species including rare Knotted Hedge-parsley and Borrer’s Saltmarsh-Grass. 24 butterfly species have been recorded, 17 dragonfly and damselfly and at least 155 moth species. The 20 species of mammal present include water vole (which is the UK’s fastest declining mammal despite being fully protected in England) plus there are 3 reptile species (slow worm, common lizard and grass snake) and the UK’s rarest bee – the Shrill Carder bee.
208 bird species have now been recorded at Crossness (of which 71 are waders and wildfowl). These include breeding Skylark (a red-listed, section 41 and UK Biodiversity Action Plan species), Ringed Plover (red-listed), Barn Owl (Schedule 1) and Kestrel and Snipe (both amber-listed). This year two pairs of Lapwing (a red-list ground-nesting bird) have bred on the West Paddock and one pair have bred on Sea Wall Field – both areas are closest to the proposed Riverside Energy Park and there is concern that they will be lost as a breeding species due to the disturbance during construction. Unfortunately Cory’s surveys for nesting birds were conducted outside of the nesting season. The barn Owls also breed close to the proposed construction compounds and there is concern about disturbance and lighting impacts.
Improvements such as an artificial sand martin wall and bat cave have been created and the site has received several awards. Some very rare species that dropped into Crossness during 2019 and caused a big stir in the birding community included Penduline Tit, Red-backed Shrike and Great Reed Warbler. Further details can be found on the Thames Water website and the Friends of Erith Marshes / Crossness Nature Reserve website. Also, you can read the submissions by Friends of Crossness Nature Reserve and Bexley Natural Environment Forum on our Support page.
Experts are also concerned that water runoff from the additional hardstanding areas will affect salinity levels of ditches in the nature reserve. Cory said at the Issue Specific Hearing 1 on Environmental Matters (6th June 2019) that they will be mitigating any impact on the nature reserve by employing the Environment Bank to find alternative locations to help nature and increase biodiversity. We think they will be hard pushed to find a location within the borough where the same habitat can be created.
New research by Thames21 and Middlesex University also shows a key source of river pollution is road run-off. Increased vehicle movements to and from the Cory site will add to these pollutants. Read the Executive Summary here.