Tag Archives: events

Bat walk illuminates habitat wipe-out

27 people, of all ages, came out last Friday night to explore the presence of bats on Millfields, armed with bat audio detectors courtesy of our expert guide Alison Fure.
Learning about bats and bat detectors
photo courtesy David White

What we discovered was that our efforts to improve habitat in the park are being nullified by dazzlingly bright lights on the towpath at Hackney Council waste transfer station, and likewise on British Waterways land near Paradise Dock and the Princess of Wales.

Bats are found near water because the moisture keeps their wings in trim. They’ll fly along rivers and canals looking for the best food spots. Big trees full of insects are ideal hunting ground for them, and woodland edge meadows with wildflowers and long grass (which we have more of on Millfields than a few years ago) also raise the insect count. But few, if any, will hunt where there is bright light. And they live for decades, so they remember the good places and steer clear of the bad.
We expected to find bats easily by the community orchard, with its canalside woodland and meadow, but there was hardly a squeak. That’s not so surprising when you realise that just to the south, the towpath to Cow Bridge is as bright as a sports stadium thanks to the massive floodlights from the waste station.
The waste station lights are so devastating that we couldn’t even detect bats on the opposite side of the canal, showing that the lights have driven bats out of the trees on the edge of the Essex Filter Beds wildlife reserve. It was only when we walked on the less lit section of the filter beds towpath, opposite the orchard, that our detectors picked up bats in the trees which overhang the filter beds wall. You couldn’t have had a more vivid demonstration of how the lights have devastated the habitat of a protected group of species.
Too bright for bats to linger near the pub
photo courtesy David White

By Paradise Dock and the Princess of Wales, Alison said that the Daubenton’s bats she found feeding here 5 years ago are no longer pausing to hunt — they may just whiz through on their way to somewhere more congenial.

Security may be the pretext for this lighting level, but ironically it makes us less safe at night. Too much light destroys your night vision, so that when you move into a less lit area you are at a disadvantage. Moderate lighting would be more secure; and more comfortable for Paradise Dock residents trying to get a good night’s sleep.
Biodiversity Officer Kate Mitchell, who helped MUG set up the walk, has immediately taken the waste depot lighting up for us with her council colleagues. Kate and MUG will also be trying to get something done about the lighting under British Waterways control.After hearing Alison’s introductory talk on bats, we could understand more fully what a loss these fascinating creatures are to the park. We were all geared up to spot this year’s young bats flying with their mothers, trying to cadge a feed.
But on the bright (?) side, there are still some bats to be found on Millfields, and it’s worth looking. Local resident Maggie Murray tipped us off to look on the north-east corner of the cricket field, and demonstrated how she lures them towards her by making a kind of chirruping noise. Maggie is now the Millfields Bat Whisperer — can anyone else do this?
So please let us know if and where you spot bats. Apart from the sheer interest, any scrap of information may be useful in future battles to protect the park.All about urban bats: The London Bat Group

Parks Events Policy proposals: what MUG submitted

Here is what MUG submitted. Members emailed a number of comments which I will post here after I’ve asked the senders’ permission. There was also a question about the short timescale, and I’ll post an answer here as soon as I can (I need to do some housework now and cook supper). Thanks to everyone who commented.

Page 1
1. What do you think about the proposals in the draft policy document about the ‘park usage recommendations’?
Maximum of 2 corporate / brand events per year
Maximum of 5 private/family celebration* events per year
There is strong opposition to corporate / brand events. There is opposition to religious/evangelical events and in general to any events not open (and appearing open) to all the community. It may be worth revisiting the ‘family celebration’ question which members may see as different from other kinds of private event.
1 fenced (ticketed) event per year 10,000 maximum capacity (South Millfields):
There is strong concern at this proposal because of the size of event set against the area of space actually suitable for it on Millfields. Although Millfields’ total area is large (25.9 Hectares or 259,000 Square meters), it is broken up into smaller areas with a large amount of edge, and smaller distances to dwellings than the total area would suggest. In south Millfields, the areas with young planted trees (i.e. everything north and east of the substation) would be unsuitable because of the root damage & ground compaction that crowds would cause.
This leaves the rectangle between the substation and Chatsworth Road. The area of this part of south Millfields is, by my rough calculation measured from a map, around 4 Ha.  It is bordered closely on 3 sides by dwellings in Chatsworth Road, Millfields Road and the Millfields estate. 10,000  people is TWICE the 5,000 maximum event size proposed for London Fields (12.65 Ha), where the distance from the event area to the nearest residences is greater than at Millfields.
I interpret user opinion as being strongly opposed to this size of fenced event.
Opinion is divided about fenced+ticketed events in themselves, so it seems advisable to set a size appropriate to the realities of the space and take these on a case-by-case basis. Some people feel that Millfields has suffered too much ‘enclosure’ in recent years; others are happy with fenced events of a suitable kind. (A play was suggested.)
Community events of a suitable size are welcomed and the hugely successful family fun day looks set to become an institution.
2. What do you think about the proposals in the draft policy document to reinvest a percentage of the income generated by events back into parks (issue 4, p16 of policy draft document)?
There is strong opposition to this because it is felt that the council’s claims are misleading and it seems likely to return little or nothing to the parks.
The current year would yield £3,300 divided between all the parks. A particular park might see nothing of this if its share was used ‘to run free community events in other parks’.
Moreover we note that the council has adjusted the target upwards when it seemed likely to be exceeded in the succeeding year. We assume this will be done every year so that only when the council underestimates the target will there be any surplus for parks.
If the council wishes to claim that events income is returning to individual parks, the formula should be either
– an annual target for the park or parks, then the rest to LBH, or
– a percentage to the park applying to every event, and the rest to the council
Particularly misleading under the proposed formula is this:
“A condition of hire for commercial events would be that marketing and promotional material for the event must state that a percentage of the hire fee from the event is being re-invested into free events for the community or reinvested into park improvements.”
It will be impossible to claim this truthfully unless the annual target has already been exceeded.
3. What do you think about the proposal for all commercial event organisers to make a minimum amount of tickets available free of charge to Hackney residents (p15 of draft policy document)?
no comment
page 2
1. What do you think about the proposals in the draft policy document about the ‘recommended approval processes’?
We would be happy with these if they did not say:
“Consultation with all stakeholders takes place (nature and scale of event dictates who receives information) this can include park user groups, parks staff, ward councillors, safer neighbourhoods, safer communities, police and lead member for community services”

Users feel very strongly that this must be amended to: ‘will always include the relevant park user group(s)’,  Will include, not can include.

Otherwise the proposals seem to be a sensible set of reforms.

2. What do you think about the proposed event application timescales:
no objections
page 3
1. What do you think about the proposals in the policy draft document for:
Mabley Green
Hoxton Square
no comment
2. Please tell us anything else you would like to say about the proposed policy here.
There is strong opposition to charging user groups an administration fee for events over 250 people. Any user group strong enough to organise such an event will be creating massive added value for the park, on the basis of no funding at all from the council. The value comprises among other things voluntary labour and expertise, community cohesion around the park, and in some cases the bringing in of grant funding.
We feel that while parks such as Clissold and Springfield are talked up (‘much loved’, ‘historic’), Millfields’ qualities are ignored. Among other things, it has
–     an extent of  river bank surpassed only by the Marshes
–     some of Hackney’s finest old avenues of plane, lime and wych elm
          extensive tree plantings cared for by local volunteers
          LBH parks’ largest community orchard
          biodiversity habitat of SINC status
          the historic Black Path and Middlesex/Essex boundary
          users deeply fed up with the way the park has been treated over the years
          a very active user group

Tim Evans
Secretary, Millfields User Group