Wildlife charities are calling for the withdrawal of the London Resort theme park planning application that would destroy a nationally important wildlife site in north Kent, after the site was awarded special conservation protection on Wednesday, November 10.
Swanscombe Marshes, which sits on the bank of the River Thames, has now received confirmation of official designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by Natural England – the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England – after a consultation period.
SSSI status recognises that the marshes are of high conservation value and particular interest to science, due to the unique and biodiverse wildlife and plant species found there.
CPRE Kent, the RSPB, Buglife, Kent Wildlife Trust and Save Swanscombe Peninsula are working together to fight the building of the London Resort Theme Park on the marshes.
The marshes being confirmed as an SSSI is another stepping-stone in the fight against this proposed colossal entertainment development, which would concrete over vital wildlife habitat, meaning much of this haven would be lost forever.
The decision to award SSSI protection status is particularly timely during COP26 as, more than ever, the importance of protecting the environment and natural spaces like Swanscombe Marshes is key when the world is facing a nature and climate emergency.
The wildlife charities say the site, which consists of a remarkable mosaic of grasslands, coastal habitats, scrub and wetlands, is home to a staggering amount of wildlife. This includes more than 2,000 species of invertebrate, including the critically endangered distinguished jumping spider, found at only one other site in the UK, as well as the sea aster mining bee, brown-banded carder bee and saltmarsh shortspur beetle.
Swanscombe supports an outstanding number of breeding birds, comparable with the best sites in England, including marsh harrier, cuckoo, nightingale, black redstart and grasshopper warbler.
Hilary Newport, Director of CPRE Kent, said:
“We are hugely relieved that the SSSI designation has been confirmed. The wildlife on Swanscombe Marshes is extraordinarily rich and varied, while the site provides an invaluable green lung for local people in an otherwise heavily over-developed part of the world. We believe London Resort should drop its plans to destroy this wonderful place.”
Jamie Robins, Projects Manager at Buglife, added:
“We welcome the great news that Natural England has taken the crucial step of confirming Swanscombe Marshes as a SSSI. This should dispel any notion that it should be anything but a haven for nature and the local community. We urge the London Resort to look elsewhere to build their theme park, as in a biodiversity and climate crisis, it cannot be justified to concrete over one of our finest wildlife sites.”
Nick Bruce White, Operations Director at the RSPB, shared the excitement:
“We know the value and importance of Swanscombe Marshes for wildlife and the natural world and are incredibly pleased that the government’s own adviser on the environment, Natural England, has also recognised how truly important this site is, too. We now call upon the London Resort Company to withdraw its application to build on this nationally important wildlife site.”
Julia Hunt, Head of Advocacy at Kent Wildlife Trust, said:
“Not only is this site important in its own right; it also forms a critical part of the nature recovery network that we sorely need to prevent irreversible loss of wildlife and damage to our climate.
“We are thrilled that Natural England has recognised the site’s value. It is now imperative that London Resort cease their plans to destroy this wildlife haven.”
Finally, Donna Zimmer, of the Save Swanscombe Peninsula group, has said:
”Natural England have completed a thorough and professional assessment which formally recognises Swanscombe Peninsula as one of the best wildlife sites in England. As a local campaign group, we are absolutely thrilled that our irreplaceable green space with such wonderful wildlife receives this much needed protection. We expect London Resort to recognise this and so withdraw their theme park proposal.”