Lodge Hill

#SaveLodgeHill Banner#SaveLodgeHill

LODGE HILL LATEST: The fight to #SaveLodgeHill continues, with a new application on the horizon and another consultation on Medway Council's Local Plan coming in Spring 2018. We will be asking you once again to help us and RSPB to #SaveLodgeHill.

Medway Council's Local Plan Latest

Between January and May 2017 we asked you to respond to Medway Council's Local Plan consultation to ask them not to allocate Lodge Hill for development and THANK YOU to those of you that did! Medway Council's report on the consultation stated that they received 11,681 responses specifically regarding Lodge Hill, and many of the 331 responses that they received about a range of issues also made reference to Lodge Hill.

Medway Council received the message loud and clear that there is a huge amount of opposition to destroying this nationally important area, both from within Medway and around the country. Despite this, we know options for developing Lodge Hill will still be included in the next consultation on Medway Council's Local Plan, due in Spring 2018. We will be asking you once again to help us and RSPB to Save Lodge Hill.

Planning Application Latest

Despite Lodge Hill being a Site of Scientific Interest, ownership has tranfered from the Ministry of Defence to Homes England (the new name for the Homes and Communities Agency, responsible for building houses on 'surplus' public land).

The previous planning application was withdrawn (see this news item), but we know a new planning application is on the horizon. We don't yet know when it will be submitted, nor what form it will take, but we expect it to make a mockery of the Government's 25 Year Plan for the Environment. Only published in January, it has a target to restore "75% of our one million hectares of terrestrial and freshwater protected sites to favourable condition, securing their wildlife value for the long term". We are preparing for another battle to protect Kent's environment.

Deangate Ridge Golf Course

Early in 2018 we received reports that a lot of clearance work had taken place at Deangate Ridge Golf Course - adjacent to Lodge Hill and owned by Medway Council (part of the SSSI extends into the course), and we also learned shortly afterward that the Council were promoting the site for development. Shortly after, the Council voted to close the golf course for financial reasons.

There is no suggestion that the Council did anything illegal in undertaking the clearance work - there is no evidence that any protected species were killed or injured, and winter is generally the best time to undertake such activities for that reason. While it is not our place to comment on whether or not the golf course should stay open, we will be expecting any changes to the land use to take full account of the potential impacts on the SSSI.

What is Lodge Hill?

Chattenden Woods and Lodge Hill Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is a nationally important area of ancient woodland and rare grassland that supports one of the largest populations of nightingales in the UK. It is also the location where the landowner (Homes England) and Medway Council want to put new development.

The site is a rich mosaic of many habitats, and is home to several badger families, several species of bat and many bat roosts, an exceptional population of reptiles – including lizards, slow worms, grass snakes and adders – great crested newts, toads, rare insects, flowers and invertebrates. There are many bird species there too – including three species of owl. There are too many species to list them all here, and we may not know the full extent until a new planning application is submitted with more up-to-date survey work.

What’s happening?

The #SaveLodgeHill campaign is a partnership including Kent Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, Friends of the North Kent Marshes, Medway Countryside Forum and the Woodland Trust. We are working together to try and save Lodge Hill for future generations.

Don’t people need homes?

The choice faced is not whether to protect Lodge Hill or build houses, but how and where to meet the predicted growth in Medway’s housing need. Medway Council has not demonstrated that the destruction of this nationally important wildlife site is necessary to meet the area’s needs.

Why we believe Lodge Hill should not be developed

  • Lodge Hill is a nationally important wildlife site, and designated as such. It is a fantastic asset in the nation’s natural heritage, and should be protected and looked after for future generations.
  • Medway Council have got a long way to go before they can demonstrate that the destruction of Lodge Hill is necessary to meet their development needs and that there are no alternatives, despite not providing an option that excludes Lodge Hill.
  • Development of Lodge Hill could set a dangerous precedent for SSSIs across the country if planning policy regarding their protection is seen to be weak, opening the door for development applications nationwide.
  • The mitigation and compensation that would be necessary is untested, and extremely high risk. What is more, it is likely that this would be attempted on different sites, so the uniqueness of Lodge Hill would be lost forever.

What you can do

In Spring 2018 we will be asking you once again to help us and RSPB and other conservation partners to #SaveLodgeHill, by responding to the next consultation and sharing the message. For the latest, follow us on social media.