Regional Park proposals – Don’t build on the Brent flood plain!

Ealing Council has launched a consultation on its proposal for a Regional Park. While the Brent River & Canal Society is broadly in favour of the idea and fully supports the extension of the Brent River Park, we are concerned that some of the suggestions contained in the consultation could increase the risk of flooding of homes and businesses in the borough. 

The Brent River & Canal Society (BRCS) endorses much of the Council’s report and notes that its proposal to create a Regional Park adopts some of the suggestions that the Society submitted in its response to the Draft Local Plan earlier this year. We are pleased the Council understands that large areas of connected habitats encourage wildlife and provide ecological resilience and that meadows and grasslands are among the best ways to capture carbon. However, we are concerned that some of the ideas appearing in the consultation will increase the likelihood and frequency of properties being flooded in Perivale, Pitshanger, Greenford and Hanwell by reducing the Park’s flood storage capacity.

The Brent River Park is a critical component of Ealing’s flood defences. The parkland between Hanger Lane and the Wharncliffe Viaduct regularly floods after heavy rain. That is what it is supposed to do. Like a giant natural sponge, it absorbs and retains the surge of water that would otherwise swell the river and cause problems for homes and businesses. For this reason, BRCS will resist any reduction in flood plain volume or new hard-standing in the park. 

Brent Valley Golf Course in October 2020

The Brent River Park doing its job soaking up flood water. (Brent Valley Golf Course in October 2020 – Photo by Phil Alford.)

As BRCS Chair Phil Belman commented:

“The Council stated long ago that we already have a Regional Park in Ealing, the Brent River Park.  The extension of the Brent River Park into a wider area, as we proposed earlier this year, is most welcome.

“With the greater volume and frequency of heavy rainfall we now see from global warming, it would be reckless to reduce the flood water storage capacity or to increase the rate of rainwater run-off within the catchment of the River Brent. We know that climate change is already producing more sudden storms. Ealing Council must now look to reduce the amount of hard-standing in the park, not increase it. 

“Some of the suggestions in the report, such as new cafés, sports buildings and even an amphitheatre, must not impinge on the flood plain. This consultation raises expectations for new facilities that are likely to prove unsustainable.”

Coston’s Lane, August 1977, before the flood protections were put in place. (Photo via Ealing Council.)

Mr Belman also took issue with the statement made in the consultation that the Council needed to close Perivale Park Golf Course to create the Regional Park:

“Perivale Park Golf Course is an important part of the Brent River Park with its network of footpaths and access along the riverside. Whether or not it is viable as a golf course is irrelevant to this consultation on a Regional Park. If the golf course is closed, the existing Brent River Park Management Plan should still be followed with the fairways and open areas being returned to meadowland and the existing woodlands and hedges retained with full public access. Perivale Park Golf Course is right next to the Brent, so whatever the Council proposes to do with it must not involve putting any more hard-standing there than already exists.”

“Ealing Council should be working towards the Government’s ’30 by 30’ target of protecting 30 percent of its land for nature by 2030. It needs to be looking for ways to add to its green space, not building on it.” 

BRCS has 50 years experience of protecting the Brent River Park, and its expertise could offer Ealing Council valuable insights into the importance of carbon capture and flood management. Yet this Regional Park initiative has been drawn up by the Council entirely behind closed doors. 

50 years ago campaigners fought hard to create the Brent River Park and they are still fighting to protect the Regional Park today. It is not possible simply to rebadge it, to build on it and then hope that climate change and more frequent and severe flooding will go away.

We urge out supporters to complete the consultation and to emphasise the following points:

  • The Brent River Park is essential to the Borough’s flood management – soaking up and holding back excess water that would otherwise flood residential areas.
  • Any proposals must not increase hard-standing or reduce flood storage within the Park.
  • We need to increase the amount of green space in the borough, to improve flood resilience, restore natural habitats, increase biodiversity and provide more room for nature to re-establish itself. 
  • Maximum benefits will arise from joined up and well maintained parks and waterways. This principle applies to flood protection, plants and wildlife; routes for activities, supporting wellbeing and amenities. 
  • The Brent River Park name must stay – it has a long and distinguished history.

Follow this link for the consultation.

The closing date is 19 December 2023.