Places in Tower Hamlets which are valuable for wildlife and provide local people with access to nature are identified as Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs). There are four grades of SINC – Metropolitan, Borough Grade 1, Borough Gradee 2 and Local importance. These receive protection from development under policies in the Council’s Local Plan, and are shown on the Adopted Policies Map. You can download the list and map of SINCs, and the citations that explain why each is important, from our Sites of Importance for nNature Conservation page.
Guidance on identifying SINCs has been published by the Mayor of London. This is consistent with Government guidance on local wildlife sites. This guidance suggests that SINCs should be reviewed every 5-10 years.
SINCs in Tower Hamlets were most recently reviewed in 2011. With a revised Local Plan due for consultation in autumn 2016, it was agreed that SINCs would be reviewed this year too. The review was undertaken by the Biodiversity Officer, with help from the Tower Habitats steering group.
One new SINC
The review has identified one new Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, Elf Green (see photo above), where EastendHomes has created a community garden with meadow, annual wildflower area, hedge and bee-friendly ornamental planting. You can read more about Elf Green here.
In addition, the Poplar Dock Marina SINC has been recommended to be enlarged to include ruderal habitat to the east, which supports the protected Jersey Cudweed and other rare plants, and a small patch of woodland to the north. This, along with Millwall Park, Hermitage Basin and Saffron Avenue Pond, have been recommended for upgrade from Local to Borough Grade 2 importance. Spitalfields City Farm is recommended for upgrade from Borough Grade 2 to Borough Grade 1 due to its population of Great Crested Newts.
A few losses
Protection for SINCs appears to largely be working, but there have been a few losses of parts of SINCs. These are almost entirely infilling of parts of the West India Docks for developments such as Wood Wharf, Heron Quays West and the Crossrail station. Wood Wharf has also removed brownfield land on the edge of Blackwall Basin. This loss, and the increase in moored boats, has led to the recommendation to downgrade Blackwall Basin from Borough Grade 1 to Borough Grade 2. The full report of the review can be downloaded here.
Local Plan consultation
The SINC review report forms part of the evidence base for the consultation on the revised Local Plan, which is currently taking place. The Council is seeking the views of residents, businesses, developers and others on the revised Plan, which will be used to determine future planning applications in Tower Hamlets.
If you want to see strong protection for wildlife and open spaces in the borough, please respond to the consultation to say so, as there will be comments from developers and others with different views and agendas. You can find the consultation on the Council’s website, and the deadline for comments is 2 January 2017.