Habitat of rare bumblebees under threat from plan to build 120,000 new homes

A A A

Britain's threatened bumblebees have some of their biggest strongholds on the derelict brownfield sites of the Thames estuary east of London - but these may vanish when the area is redeveloped, a new book says.

It's not just wildflower meadows or gardens that matter for bumblebee conservation. The old quarries, disused railway lines, gravel pits, former wharves, ex-industrial land and patches of waste ground of the Thames Gateway are home to an "astonishing assemblage" of insect species, many of them rare, according to the study, by one of Britain's leading bumblebee experts, Professor Ted Benton.

The reason: the grassland and scrub in these places has never been sprayed with pesticides or fertilisers, or been subjected to the intensive farming which has caused bumblebees to disappear from much of the countryside.

Three of the 25 bumblebee species traditionally found in Britain have gone extinct and several more are in danger - so The Independent is backing the new pressure group set up to protect and save them, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

The forthcoming redevelopment of Thames Gateway, seen as environmentally friendly because building will be on brownfield rather than greenfield sites, is another shadow over the future of Britain's favourite insects after butterflies.

Under the Sustainable Communities Plan promoted by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, it is one of four priority target regions for housing growth in the South over the next 15 to 30 years.

Many of its brownfield sites are likely to disappear as 120,000 new homes are built on both banks of the river. Areas such as Stratford, Barking and Thurrock in Essex, and Greenwich, Woolwich and North Kent Thameside, between Dartford and Gravesend, on the Kentish bank, are already marked down for major residential and retail redevelopment. Unless safeguards can be put in place this is likely to do away with some of the best habitat for bumblebees and other insects, Professor Benton warns.

Canvey Island, the industrialised settlement on the Essex side of the river, is home to colonies of two of our rarest bumblebees, the shrill carder bee (Bombus sylvarum) and the large carder bee (Bombus humilis) on land next to an old oil refinery. The former is only known from four sites in all of Britain.

Through the intervention of English Nature, the Government's conservation agency, the Canvey Island bee sites have been saved from supermarket redevelopment, but many others are at risk, Professor Benton warns. "We need to value and protect urban nature, especially because so much of our countryside has been rendered sterile by industrialised agriculture," he says.

Professor Benton sounds the alarm about vanishing brownfield bee havens at the end of his monumental study, entitled Bumblebees, which has just been published as part of a long-running (and much-collected) series of weighty wildlife books, the Collins New Naturalists.

'Independent' book offer

Independent readers can obtain a 15 per cent discount on the cover price of Collins New Naturalist Bumblebees by Ted Benton - which is regarded as the most authoritative work on British bumblebees ever published - while directly helping the new Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT). The £45 hardback is available for £38.25, while the £25 paperback is available for £21.25, both with free postage and packing on all UK orders. For every copy sold through The Independent, the BBCT will also receive 15 per cent of the cover price. To take advantage of this offer, please call Independent Books Direct on 08700 798897 or visit our online bookshop at www.independentbooks direct.co.uk

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments