This is Brownfield

Bakersfield, the brownfield site at the end of my road which was home to hedgehogs, little owls, nightingales, lizards, snakes and turtle doves have been destroyed. I tried to stop it, I couldn’t, but the fact that I tried, helps. Please watch this video and write to McCulloch Homes and Bioscan to condemn their actions.

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Loyalty is not always a good thing.

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nightingale copyright Petra Karstedt https://www.flickr.com/photos/insecta62/

Last night on BBC’s Springwatch I learnt why loyalty is not always such a good thing. A nightingale, it turns out, flies from Africa in the spring back to exactly the same bush in England it left from the previous year. No wonder nightingales in our country are doing so badly.

The nightingale currently breeding in the scrub at Bakersfield at the end of my road will be one of the losers next spring. He will fly back to his favourite spot to find that it has been turned into a building site. So, I fear, will many others.

In the current rush to throw up as many houses as possible, in the current rush to sweep away planning restrictions, in the current rush to destroy all brownfield sites many of our countries nightingales will lose their territories.

In this country we have tree preservation orders, protection for trees which are special. Why can’t we have the same thing for the places that are so important for one of our most iconic birds? Why can’t we have nightingale territory preservation orders? Extra protection for the trees which are important to them.

It will never happen of course because we fail to see beyond our anthropocentric world view. Tree preservation orders protect trees which are important to us because they are beautiful to our eye or important for our history. Our first national parks protected landscapes considered to be attractive by the people choosing them.

But what’s good for wildlife is not always what is good for our eye. Scrub is often not beautiful, wet grassland is not beautiful, brownfield is not beautiful. If only we could shift our thinking to protect not just the pretty but the pretty damn important then our countries wildlife and in turn our own lives, would be richer for it.

This is how it is.

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Scrub removed at Bakersfield – May 2016

Yesterday was a dark day for me. I tried. Anyone who’s ever known me will know that I tried to stop the destruction of the wildlife rich site at the top of my road.

As McCulloch Homes and Bioscan continued to celebrate spring by ripping up scrub from Bakersfield a site filled with breeding birds. I contacted the RSPB and Wildlife Crime Officer. I prowled the site taking photos and video of the destruction and confronted black hearted people claiming to be ecologists.

Mark Thomas, Head of Investigations at the RSPB thought we had a good case. Nightingales and cuckoos, both red listed birds suffering severe declines in this country, were breeding on site, scrub was being pulled up and because birds go to great lengths to hide their nests it was impossible for any ecologists to find them all prior to the digger ripping into them, especially ones from a firm that had concluded that hearing nightingales singing on site in May was not evidence that they were breeding there.

However, we hadn’t factored in the attitude of the police. I was phoned by a wildlife crime officer from Kent police who informed me that Bioscan were a thoroughly respectable firm full of very decent chaps and maybe I should talk to the man overseeing this work and attempt to understand it from his point of view . That, unless I could actually find a nest  of massacred blue tits, he was not prepared to act.

In my mind there are two types of ecologists. Those in the light and those in the dark. Bioscan and their ilk are in the dark. They learn their ecology, they go on their training courses to get their licences and then they sell their souls for developers money. I do not converse with the dark side.

And so no one will be prosecuted for destroying Bakersfield. I cannot produce that nest of decapitated baby birds. I cannot prove their actions were illegal but even if these firms can persuade others that their actions are legal that doesn’t make it moral, that doesn’t make it right.

A nightingale sang and then was destroyed.

Last night I sat in my garden with a friend. We built a fire, watched a shooting star fall overhead and listened to a nightingale sing. It made me unbelievably sad. These moments are what makes life precious and we are destroying them.

The scrub that the nightingale sang in is being ripped up to make way for a inappropriate and unnecessary housing development. Houses sit empty all over this country and we are destroying the places that bring beauty and joy into our lives to make way for developments which only enrich the lives of the, already rich men who champion them.

I will no longer step out of my door in the morning and hear cuckoos. I will no longer sit in my garden at 1am and hear a nightingale sing and this destruction erodes the very things that make life worth living.

I am supposed to follow the party line that the wants of humans have far more value than the needs of the other creatures that live on the planet. I just can’t subscribe to this point of view. Humans are two a penny, nightingales are rare and getting ever rarer as they make way for profit and I care passionately about this and cannot rouse myself to care if people don’t have a mortgage.

This morning I tidy the remains of the fire away and take some comfort in the fact that the blue tits eggs have successfully hatched in my nest box. I can do this. I can make homes for blue tits but all I can do for the nightingale is rage, rage against its destruction.

Listen to a nightingale sing here.

 

Nightingale site destroyed.

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As I sit here nightingales and cuckoos are singing at the end of my road in a little patch of scrubby and chalky delight known as Bakersfield. At the same time a digger is ripping the scrub up overseen by an ecologist from a firm called Bioscan.

The ecologist should know better. He does know better. He knows this is wrong.

“Why do you do it?” I ask him when I stop to challenge them over why work has begun on a site when I have a letter from Medway Council’s housing department telling me their will be another public appeal.

“I can’t afford to work for the RSPB,” he says. “They don’t pay enough and, besides my boss has done a nightingale survey.”

Even the digger driver is saddened to see the site go. “This was my playground when I was a lad. Before long all this countryside will go to housing and Rainham will be attached to Sittingbourne. And what about the traffic? It’s going to be gridlock when this development starts.”

“But can we do?” they both say.

What can we do? What can we do while the blind pursuit of profit for a few is put ahead of the desires of local residents or the wildlife that inhabit this precious site?

What can I do? I wish someone would let me know.

Always another fight.

Always another fight.

how many meds

Burntwick Island, a great place to land a sea plane……Not!

I feel these days there is a never ending stream of battles to fight. No sooner do you breathe a small sigh of relief at the squashing of one scheme poised to damage the places you love then another comes along. It wears you down, but I guess that’s the point.

On Thursday by accident I hear of a proposal to begin a sea plane business in the Medway Estuary. The guy shows me the map of where the planes are planning to land, between the breeding tern colony on Burntwick Island and the RSPB reserve of Normarsh. This area is a RAMSAR site rightly protected as one of the most important places for breeding and overwintering waders and wildfowl in the country.  Peel Ports are running a consultation I am told but I am amazed that the proposals have even reached this stage.

I call my friends, Medway Swale Estuary Partnership, the RSPB, Countryside professionals in Medway Council. None of them have heard of these plans. So just who is being consulted?

Having raised the alarm things swing into action. The conservation bodies who protect this area begin to add their voices to the consultation.

“Well done you, for making people aware of this,” my friend says before going on to tell me that a development company have just won their appeal to build on the site at the end of my road.

Bakersfield is a scrubby brownfield site chocha block with songbirds, including nightingales, orchids and reptiles. McCulloch Homes’ original planning application had been thrown out by Medway Council as the site is just too valuable for wildlife but now the developers have won on appeal because the council isn’t meeting the government’s demands for housing at a quick enough pace.

I had protested against these plans, breathed a sigh of relief when they were dropped and now I have to swing into action to protest again. I do so, writing to Buglife, to the council, to my MP but it is exhausting, it is time consuming, it is never ending. It is designed to grind you down and make you stop saying ‘No.’ But saying No is still our right, it is the most important thing we can do. While I still live in some semblance of a democracy I will keep going. Raise awareness, protest, say no. giving in is not an option.

To contribute to the consultation for sea planes landing in the Medway Estuary contact james.goodfellow@peelports.com

To protest against the planned development at Bakersfield contact planning.representation@medway.gov.uk