When Ealing Labour were elected in May, we had a clear vision for Warren Farm Sports Ground. We pledged to deliver a compromise – a vision that will see the overwhelming majority of the land rewilded whilst also bringing back much-needed sports provision for the community. We pledged that we would consult with and work with local people to deliver these plans, so that the community had a loud voice when shaping negotiations.
I’m delighted to say that this week, after a wide-reaching consultation process with residents and community stakeholders and a detailed study of community sports need across the borough, we have been able to move ahead with our vision for Warren Farm.
Our plans outline our vision to secure Warren’s Farm’s status as the largest nature reserve in the borough by achieving Local Nature Reserve status for most of the expanded site. We know just how important the site has become for wildlife and we are proud to have a rare and valuable acid grassland habitat right here in the heart of the borough – supporting wildflowers, butterflies, bees and lots of different bird species. We want to protect this, and we can now move ahead with what will be the largest rewilding project attempted in London in decades, enhancing the site’s rich and valuable nature and biodiversity long into the future.
As outlined in our manifesto, Ealing Labour are ambitious about climate and biodiversity action. The last few years have reminded us of the importance of green spaces, which is why we have bold plans to rewild 800,000sqm of the borough for the benefit of wildlife and local people. Our plans for Warren Farm are an important step towards this goal. Beyond this, we have also laid out our commitment to enhancing our green spaces and nature across the borough. We are determined to create 10 new parks and open spaces across our seven towns, pioneer 10 new community growing spaces in our housing estates and new developments and plant 50,000 trees so we can help bring our glorious green canopy to 25%. We’re also dedicated to reaching net zero for carbon emissions and tackling harmful air pollution by 2030 and have recently launched our Active Travel Charter, which sets out how we will deliver active travel, alongside our 17 school streets, new segregated cycle lanes, and 50 new bike hangars to be installed in the coming months.
Our plans for rewilding the majority of Warren Farm are certainly ambitious, and we believe that within our ambition there is room for compromise that also delivers community sports facilities for local people. As those who visit Warren Farm will know, much of the land is dedicated to hard-standing and dilapidated concrete buildings. We believe that this land can be repurposed to bring back sports provision for local people, as we know we have an under-provision of cricket, football and other sports provision in the borough – particularly in Southall where more people suffer from ill health and early death compared to other areas of the borough.
Before falling into disrepair, Warren Farm Sports Ground was home to 16 adult football pitches, 6 cricket pitches, 8 netball courts alongside softball, cricket nets and athletic provision. Generations of children and young people played sport at the site, which was very popular with grassroots football and cricket teams. Warren Farm has been home to sports for generations. It was originally sold to the Greater London Council in 1925 by the Countess of Jersey for the provision of sports and playing pitches, and the current dilapidated buildings were constructed in 1960 and inherited by the London Borough of Ealing in 1990.
The changing rooms and the remains of other facilities are still in situ on the site, having been vandalised and overgrown for years. A previous attempt to bring a small proportion of community sports facilities back to Warren Farm through a deal with QPR was abandoned by the previous administration after over a decade of the Sports Ground being unused. Unlike that proposal, the new plan would enable not only Warren Farm, but also the adjoining Imperial College land to be fully accessible to the public, with no restrictions or enclosures. Whilst the provision of sporting facilities will be much less than what was provided in the past, we believe the balance of rewilding and sport is a win-win.
We believe that our young people deserve to have sports facilities nearby again. Our Sports Facility Strategy, adopted in July 2022, clearly demonstrated a need for additional cricket and football pitches in the area and we’re committed to making this a reality for those in communities who need it most.
Our vision for Warren Farm is a win-win for the whole community. We have successfully negotiated with Imperial College and they have agreed that the council can take over the lease of their land without payment. Imperial shares our ambition for a local nature reserve and this agreement means that we’ve secured additional green space that allows us to rewild 62% of the expanded site. This will safeguard Warren’s Farm’s status as an urban nature reserve and will protect the site’s biodiversity long into the future. But by also repurposing and revamping the remaining 38% of the site, we can make decent sports facilities available for local young people again.
In fact our ambitions for Warren Farm go even further and we continue to negotiate with the Earl of Jersey, who owns the field on the other side of the site, to see if he will join our re-wilding efforts. If we are successful this could maximise our planned nature reserve even further.
This week’s decision is an important step in delivering our vision for Warren Farm, but it’s just the start. We’ll be making further announcements on our vision in the coming months and are continuing to work with local groups and community stakeholders as we strive to make this a reality. We particularly want to involve local groups in putting together the management plan for the Local Nature Reserve and in ensuring there is minimal impact from re-providing community sports facilities. In May, we promised that we’d listen to residents and make decisions with local people – and we’re delighted to be making this a reality as we secure a bright future for Warren Farm.