Here we go again. Back on the merry-go-round that is the current planning system as another development company propose to destroy a wildlife rich site home to endangered species.
Gleeson Strategic Land are proposing to build 121 houses and the normal associated roads and car parks over a site which is currently home to the UK’s fastest declining bird, the turtle dove. This bird, already threatened with global extinction, will come one step closer to it once the site in Berengrave Road in Rainham, Kent is stripped of the scrubland the birds need to breed.
The site is currently a tapestry of native woodland, grassland and scrub and home to slow worms, common lizards, bats and badgers but, as always, this means nothing to the men who wish to tear it up for a quick profit.
The site is in the perfect location to provide a natural corridor for our native wildlife, adjacent to a community woodland and close to SSSI’s. It could provide a much needed green lung for our every expanding towns. It could be managed as part of the community woodland and provide a resource for local schools. Or it could, as is happening at a every increasing rate, be ripped apart to create yet another ugly housing estate with a minimum of affordable houses for local people.
Medway Council must take a tougher stance and say no to these developments if we are to have any green space left. It must put housing in town centres. It must make development 100% affordable for local people. It must make developers pay long term for local amenity and countryside management instead of being allowed to throw up badly designed houses, inconvenience everyone with roadworks and clog up roads with traffic.
It must give more protection to our fast declining wildlife not just turtle doves but sparrows, hedgehogs, bullfinches and bumblebees, all of which will suffer from this development. If the council does not begin to reject these developments and all the subsequent appeals then more of our wildlife will slip off the face of the local map.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep but I have miles to go before I can sleep easy over this one.
Great news yesterday that the planning application which proposed 5000 houses on one of the best nightingale sites in the countryside has been withdrawn.
Lodge Hill, a SSSI woodland and former MOD site is a fabulous local resource for wildlife and people. Purple emperor butterflies have recently been discovered breeding there and early purple orchids grow along the damp shady paths.
Despite all of this the site was earmarked for development. A position championed by Medway Council. 12,000 people protested, spearheaded by the RSPB’s Save Lodge Hill campaign and now the developer, if not the council, has listened to local people and withdrawn its plans.
This is great news but we all know the way these things go. Tomorrow I fear will come another application and then another and another. One ‘No’ is never enough. Developers attempt to wear people down. Planners have no fight left in them even when they know developments are wrong and the government does nothing of any real worth to protect our countryside and resolve the housing issues by capping prices in London and making sure all new developments are 100% affordable.
Shame on Simon Jones Medway Council’s leader for condemning the developer for pulling out. For once common sense has prevailed and today at least Lodge Hill is safe.
Many people want a job in wildlife conservation but not all will work to protect what they love.
Like many people when I am angry about something which I care passionately about my views can become polarised. My opinions can be black and white about ‘them’ and ‘us.’ So when I see the continuous destruction of our countryside in the current rush of development there are only two types of Environmental Consultant, those on the light side and those on the dark. Those whose love and knowledge of wildlife is used to protect species and enhance the natural world and those who use their knowledge to aid companies who wish to cover our planet in concrete. I have often spoken of people who work for consultancies whose main work involves aiding development companies to remove wildlife and destroy habitat as soulless.
This spring, however, I have a man volunteering with me who works for one of the consultancy firms I see as being on the dark side. This man has a love of wildlife, he is a better birdwatcher than me and spends much of his free time surveying wildlife for free, should I really condemn him because he wants to work full time with wildlife and there aren’t enough jobs on the light side to go round? Like so many issues it is harder to shoot down the ‘enemy’ when you meet them and talk to them.
The problem is too many people are coming out of countryside management courses and off apprentice schemes and find that the only job available is ‘dark side’ consultancy work. Maybe some of these people begin thinking that what they are doing is ok. I myself have translocated species but only when the project will have an overall benefit for wildlife. Much of the work done by consultancies has no benefit for wildlife and is ill thought out and not followed through.
If development companies were forced to provide adequate compensatory habitat for that destroyed and pay for it’s long term management then maybe I would be more in favour of translocation. Maybe if developers were made to do this then they would be more willing to renovate some of our existing empty buildings and former industrial sites instead of building new ones on wildlife rich habitat. Instead companies move species to inappropriate locations already packed to the rafters with other translocated creatures and do no follow up monitoring to understand whether their work has been a success.
But could I personally do more to help people like my volunteer by taking on staff of my own? I potentially could if there didn’t seem to be so many barriers in the way of doing so. If the Government didn’t penalise small business’s wishing to offer people paid experience by making the whole business of taking someone on such a nightmare of legal constraints, tax issues and insurances. Giving people the sort of work a small business can manage seems to be frankly illegal and way, way too complicated to bother with.
My volunteer wishes to move on from doing work for developers. He wants to work for one of the good guys and I could give him the experience he needs to do so but, while the laws regarding small business’s are so top heavy and restrictive, he will have to continue to do so in his spare time for free and, like many others, will be tempted to stay in the dark.