What's Next for the Scrubs?

Nature-lovers anxious over plans for major new development

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Local conservationists say they are extremely concerned about the Council’s plans to build a substantial new development in the Wormwood Scrubs area.

Plans are being drawn up by Hammersmith and Fulham Council and Network Rail to create a mixed-use, 60-acre “mega development” on the site to the north of the Wormwood Scrubs nature reserve, to include thousands of new homes, as well as shops, businesses and possibly even a Crossrail station.

At present, the site is mainly railway sidings, owned by the Department for Transport and Network Rail.

“I find this whole situation very depressing and I won’t be happy until I know more,” said wildlife expert, broadcaster and Friend of the Scrubs, David Lindo. “The area has been under threat for years as it is a prime piece of land but more buildings would be an eyesore and would be off-putting for wildlife,” he said.

Lindo suggested there ought to be a buffer zone to separate the nature reserve from the proposed development: “I go to the Scrubs almost every day and have been very active in publicising the wildlife there,” he said. “The Council often do listen to me but I am not happy that they haven’t had the respect to come and talk to us about this.”

Chair of the Friends of the Scrubs, Jane Charteris, said although the development plans were still at an early stage, her members would be watching closely and would campaign fiercely to protect the Scrubs: “Any developments around Wormwood Scrubs are of concern to us,” she said.


“The Scrubs is a unique habitat, which supports an astonishing variety of wildlife. It is Hammersmith and Fulham’s largest and most important green space, and the Council should be capitalising on that,” she said.

The Council, which says the plans are at an “embryonic stage”, says it sees tremendous regeneration potential in much of the 100 acres of railway land to the north of the Scrubs.

“Regeneration to the north of Wormwood Scrubs would help us meet our target of building 6,500 new homes in the next 10 years as well as allowing more people to enjoy this wonderful area of wildlife habitat,” said Council Leader Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh. 

The Council says it is also lobbying for a Crossrail station to be built there.  

“A Crossrail station here could release the untapped potential of this part of the borough and make it a very attractive site for new homes, shops and businesses,” Cllr Greenhalgh said.  

The railway land includes the North Pole depot and Old Oak Common sidings – part of which is earmarked for a Crossrail depot. The North Pole Depot has been lying idle since Eurostar train servicing operations were moved to east London last year.  

The depot itself was built on the site of what was previously known as Scrubs Wood, despite a vigorous 1980s campaign to save it, led by the then-schoolboy Lester Holloway.    

We tracked down Holloway, who no longer lives in the area. He told us: “It is not the first time a station has been mooted for this area, as well as football stadiums etc. all of which never got off the ground. I can’t remember any getting to planning committee.”


However, he said the 1980s campaign to save Scrubs Wood had ultimately not received enough support: “There isn't a body of people ready to leap to the area's defence. The surrounding homes are quite poor. Even when my campaign was underway, we never had much support from the estate,” he said.


We asked Network Rail to clarify their future plans for the area but received no reply.  

Yasmine Estaphanos 

24 August 2008