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the GiGLer

The newsletter of Greenspace Information of Greater London CIC

Where are our wastelands?

Mandy Rudd, GiGL Director

‘Imagine you are walking through a field in summer. You might think you were in the heart of the country, but you could equally be in the middle of London where urban wastelands … previously developed land that has been abandoned by people and reclaimed by nature … bring people closer to nature.’ ‘Brownfield? Greenfield?’ London Wildlife Trust and the London Brownfields Forum, 2002.

One of the many challenges of collating and managing environmental data is in keeping the datasets up to date, and ensuring their accuracy. This is particularly true of wasteland data. The data collected by the Greater London Authority’s open space and habitat survey, collected once every ten years, helps to identify wasteland sites. But these data can only provide a snapshot of one moment in time. Wastelands are by their very nature often temporary, and the data that identifies them can be out of date within a very short period of time.

It is in recognition of wastelands’ transitory nature that the London Biodiversity Partnership’s targets for wasteland differ from those for other priority habitats. The targets for most habitats are couched in terms of ‘enhancing’ and ‘maintaining’ sites where they currently exist, or of expanding their coverage. The Partnership’s target for wasteland sites, recently recommended for incorporation into the London Plan, is to maintain a ‘minimum hectarage’, not necessarily on the same constant sites. So, as one wasteland is lost, another should be gained.

If this recommendation is adopted into the London Plan, the London Biodiversity Partnership and the London boroughs will need to know the location of existing and potential wasteland sites in London in order to meet these targets; and to report back on regional progress toward targets outlined in the new UK BAP, catchily titled ‘open mosaic habitats on previously developed land’.

Identifying these dynamic sites is further complicated by the fact that there is no single, universally-accepted definition of a wasteland. While those concerned with biodiversity conservation naturally include the biodiversity value of a site in their classification, the primary concern of those involved in land development is a site’s current use, and they easily overlook the value of a site to wildlife. When searching for information on wasteland sites, GiGL partners and customers can specify the criteria they wish to search on, but it is up to them to define those criteria.

The overlap between biodiversity and open space data could prove invaluable in helping to define and identify these sites. The GLA’s habitat survey does not have a specific wasteland habitat site designation, but open space typologies such as ‘vacant land’ and ‘land reclamation’ are included. While not fool proof, these typologies, coupled with biodiversity information, could contribute to identifying London’s wastelands.

The ‘Brownfield? Greenfield?” publication is available on London Biodiversity Partnership and London Wildlife Trust websites.,

All of a buzz across London

With the value of wasteland sites for red data book and nationally scarce invertebrates in mind, Buglife have extended their recent ‘All of a Buzz in the Thames Gateway’ project, identifying and surveying wasteland sites in the area, across the rest of the London boroughs. They are in the process of identifying sites for field assessment with the assistance of existing GiGL datasets. But neither these data, nor those sites identified by Buglife, provide a comprehensive picture of wasteland in London. Buglife are keen to hear from the London boroughs about existing wasteland sites so that they can target their surveys. The resulting data will be made available to the boroughs and other organisations via Buglife and GiGL.

For more information on the Buglife projects, please see

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