Wildlife lovers bid for butterfly sanctuary in Hampstead

James Leigh, of Camden Butterfly Conservation Society, at Hampstead Green. Picture: Nigel Sutton

James Leigh, of Camden Butterfly Conservation Society, at Hampstead Green. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Nature lovers are calling on Camden Council to transform a patch of open space in Hampstead into a butterfly sanctuary.

They say Hampstead Green has been neglected for too long and with a little sprucing up, could become a haven for the capital’s ever-dwindling butterfly population.

Camden Butterfly Conservation Society (CBCS) is preparing to submit plans for a wildflower meadow on grass next to St Stephen’s in Pond Street to attract butterflies and provide a safe place where they can lay eggs.

Almost 60 people have put their names to a petition which will be sent to Camden Council.

James Leigh, of the CBCS, known as the Butterfly Man, said: “For many years people have been complaining about the way Camden manages this prominent site. For over three years now the CBCS has been trying to persuade Camden to accept our proposals for Hampstead Green.”

The green, next to the Royal Free Hospital, is an open space designated by the council for nature conservation, but has become overgrown.

In 2010, Mr Leigh lodged plans with Camden Town Hall to overhaul the green, which he claimed had become a wasteland. The proposals fell on deaf ears.

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Andrea Taylor, who lives next to the site, wrote on the online petition: “It makes me weep when I remember the beautiful green of my childhood and look at the state of it now. We are next door to it and would like to use it and help look after it.”

Conservationist and broadcaster Steve Andrews, also known as the “Bard of Ely”, has thrown his weight behind the campaign.

The former BBC presenter said: “Butterflies, moths and wildflowers are all disappearing fast, as are many other forms of wildlife. And so we all need to do whatever we can to help stop this and to bring them back.”

Cllr Tulip Siddiq, Camden’s cabinet member for communities and culture, said: “The council has supported a wide variety of new meadow sites across the borough in recent years. We are currently working with the Camden Butterfly Conservation Society on its proposals to create a butterfly meadow on Hampstead Green.

“We have also been in discussions with the Friends of Hampstead Green.

“The current plans are not appropriate for this site, or the right environment for the butterflies.

“We are working with CBCS on an alternative site, including one at St Pancras Cemetery.”

n For more information visit www.bringbackthebutterflies.org.uk