Biodiversity conference report


Local wildlife and biodiversity issues were explored at a free conference, ‘Biodiversity: From Balcony to Building Site and Beyond’, organised by Tower Hamlets Council on 27 June 2012. The conference attracted an audience of nearly 100 people, including representatives of many Council departments, social housing providers, consultants, local and London-wide community and environmental groups, and local residents.

The event highlighted the role that communities can play in looking after local natural environment and promoting biodiversity. It also marked the half-way point in the delivery of the Local Biodiversity Action Plan, which was adopted by Cabinet in September 2009. In these two and a half years, there’s been lots of fantastic work by a range of partners to make the boroughs parks, housing estates, schools, waterways and built environment better places for wildlife, and for people to experience and enjoy nature on their doorsteps. Residents have also been able to take advantage of biodiversity initiatives including a wildflower seed giveaway, run by the council to encourage new habitats for insects including bees.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman is committed to protecting the borough’s green environment and open spaces. He said: “Events like this are really important in raising awareness of the habitats that exist right under our noses, and in highlighting some of the amazing open spaces we have in the borough.”

Speakers at the event included Professor David Goode, who has been at the forefront of urban nature conservation for over 30 years. David talked about the history of nature conservation in the borough, and put the borough’s wildlife in a wider London context. See the photo at the top of the page by Ismail Saray (2012©

Katie Roberts from Trees for Cities talked about the fantastic work they’ve been doing to transform schools and housing estates in the borough to make them better for wildlife and more exciting for people. Theo Thomas from Thames21 talked about the Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 and the Love the Lea project, which are improving our waterways with the help of volunteers. Gary Grant, an ecological consultant who has worked all over the world on projects involving sustainable urban design, talked about how design of buildings and the spaces around them can benefit biodiversity and reduce water use at the same time – a key theme if climate predictions are correct and this wet summer proves to be an exception. Parks Manager Michael Rowan talked about his vision for Mile End and Victoria Parks.

Edward Milner, guided walk Mile End ParkKatherine O’Brien, Environment Manager in Parks, presented the annual report for the Biodiversity Action Plan.  The event was closed with a tour of Mile End Park (see photo left), which, as one of the borough’s best and most popular natural spaces, gave delegates the chance to see local wildlife in action.

A number of local and Londonwide community and environmental groups brought stalls and displays to the conference. These included Cable Street Community Gardens, Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, Greenspace Information for Greater London, London Invasive Species Initiative, London Wildlife Trust, RSPB Cockney Sparrow Count, Stepney City Farm and Tower Hamlets Co-operative Forum.

Cllr Shahed Ali, Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “We all have a responsibility to consider how our lifestyles impact on the local environment, so we protect it not only for ourselves, but also for future generations.”

For another view of the conference, written by one of the delegates, see the Eco Thames Co-op website. There’s also a fantastic selection of photographs from the event on their gallery.


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