DEADLINE EXTENDED! Medway Council are releasing more documents as part of their consultation, and the deadline for responses has been extended until 18th April. Keep reading to find out how you can help to #SaveLodgeHill...
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 (the Ministry of Defence) and Medway Council want to build a new town.
Anything else there?
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 worm and grass snakes – great crested newts, toads, rare insects, flowers and invertebrates. There are many bird species there too – including three species of owl. The list goes on – there are too many species to list them all here. Surveys are still being undertaken, and with each one we find the site is more important for wildlife than we previously knew.
In September 2014 Medway Council approved a planning application from the Ministry of Defence to build a new town on the SSSI. This application has been ‘called in’ by the Secretary of State and will be examined by a planning inspector at a Public Inquiry, scheduled to be held in March 2018.
In the meantime, Medway Council is developing a new Local Plan – the document that sets out development policies and patterns for the next 25 years. The current consultation document states that “A high level of protection from damaging impacts of development will be given to Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Ancient Woodland.” However, elsewhere in the document the development of Chattenden Woods and Lodge Hill SSSI is supported. Of the four development pattern options the Council presents in the consultation document, none excludes the development of Lodge Hill. The development of Lodge Hill is an issue of national concern, with implications for SSSIs across the country.
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
Medway Council's public consultation into their Local Plan Development Options runs until the 18th April 2017. Medway’s full development options consultation can be viewed on Medway's website HERE. These are the ways you can have your say:
- Our campaign partners the RSPB have created on online form that you can fill in. It can be found HERE.
by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
by writing to: Planning Policy team, the Planning Service, Medway Council, Gun Wharf, Dock Road, Chatham, Kent, ME4 4TR
by filling in the online form on Medway's website HERE