Is another supermarket really in the national interest?

 

is-another-supermarket-really-in-the-national-interest

Turns out you really need another Aldi’s in your life.

I am told time and time again that the rampant destruction of the countryside for housing must happen.  People must have homes, I am told, big homes, homes with spare bedrooms and office space and just extra rooms for who knows what, not to mention second homes and holiday homes and homes that sit empty for all but a few weeks in the summer. All land must go to housing, I am told  whether it is of value to wildlife or not. It is in the ‘National Interest.’

However, if this is true, why are we still granting planning permission to unnecessary developments, such as the massive Aldi supermarket currently under construction on the Isle of Sheppey? The massive Aldi supermarket which will sit next to the massive Morrison’s supermarket and the massive Macdonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Why, if land for housing is so desperately needed, are we saying yes to such waste of land? Is another supermarket and Macdonald’s really in the national interest?

But increasingly in our country it feels that there is no planning when it comes to planning permission. Developers can build what they like with no thought to how it fits in with the needs of existing communities. Ugly housing is thrown up around villages, housing estates developed on roads completely unsuited to increased traffic. Developers make quick money and have no need to build schools or hospitals and pay for the staff to run them or subsidise public transport for the communities they have flung up in locations which have none.

It seems that the needs of business to make money take precedence over the needs of people to live in attractive working communities and that is why the currently rash of development seems so piecemeal , so full of chancers, so unplanned, because the government is under the cosh of big business and big business doesn’t give a monkeys about our interests.

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Now you see it, Now you don’t.

 

scrubland-destroyed

In two days this area of scrubland and meadow was destroyed.

Are you feeling as overwhelmed as I am by the rate of destruction of wildlife rich sites around your town? Every day I seem to drive along a road and see a place which last year was full of song birds and slow worms and this year has been ripped apart by would be developers.

 

Last year these sites would have already been given planning permission and be ringed with reptile exclusion fencing this year things have changed. With the government brow beating local councils into providing land for housing then cowboy developers everywhere are seeing the main chance.

Suddenly it seems there is a flood of people ripping out scrub, tearing up meadows, turning over reptile sites with no planning permission, no surveys, no mitigation. In the last few weeks two sites near to my home have gone the way of the bulldozers with not a reptile exclusion fence in sight.

Presumably the landowners feel that in the present climate they can get away with it. After all, isn’t this what the Government wants? Not all this old scrub, bristling with bird song but land laid bare ready for bricks and mortar?

The terrible thing is that these developers are probably right. Natural England has already been stripped to their bones and wildlife officers in local councils have gone the way of the dinosaurs. And I? I can be angry at them all. I can rally and weep and rage against every destruction of meadow and scrubland, every reduction in my quality of life, every step my home makes away from the countryside and into suburbia but I cannot fight them all. The epidemic of destruction is simply too big.

 

Nightingale site destroyed.

250px-Nachtigall_(Luscinia_megarhynchos)-2

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 what 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.

Lodge Hill – If we don’t stop development here then where does it end?

The road to the woods

The road to the woods

There it was again in my inbox, another request to protest about the plans to build a housing development over one of the most important nightingale sites in the country.

Lodge Hill an area of scrubland next to Chattenden Woods has one of the largest nightingale colonies in the South East. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The woods are lovely; paths lined with the drooping heads of pendulous sedge lead to coppice clearings which ring with woodpeckers drumming in the spring, early purple orchids and silver washed fritillary butterflies can be found along the shady rides but none of this makes it safe.

A Military Of Defence company with the scary Americanised title of ‘Land Securities.’ are proposing the development of 5000 homes on the site as part of the drive to achieve the government’s endless cry for more house building. The development would see most of the SSSI destroyed. Medway Council claim the land is ‘brownfield’ because of its former use as the barracks for The Royal School for Military Engineering but aerial photographs showed a green oasis of scrub, wild flowers and meadows, just the sort of land nightingales love.

Of course the development company claim that all will be well. They can compensate for the loss of the nightingales breeding sites by creating new habitat elsewhere.  Anyone who knows anything about either nightingales or mitigation knows that this sort of easily thrown around green wash just doesn’t work. You cannot plant foot high hawthorn in tree tubes and hope the nightingales will find it to their liking.

I protested about this development when I first heard about it many years ago. In the last few years I have protested against it again and again as each new minute change in the planning application appears to mean that all previous protests are thrown out and I need to start afresh. Excuse me for being cynical but do they hope that people will just get tired and go away? How often does one need to say no before they understand that, they can tweak the development all they like, I’m still not going to agree?

Thankfully in the last few weeks there has been a glimmer of hope. The government has decided to ‘call in’ the application, affectively meaning a public inquiry will have to take place before the development can go ahead. Only 1% of planning applications get called in and this one only has because of the huge number of people, like me, who have written and e-mailed again and again to say that all important, no.

Lodge Hill, is not only about Kent it is about all the sites we love and care for. If development were to go ahead here it would be one of the largest losses of a SSSI ever. Please add your voice to the protests over Lodge Hill  because if this goes ahead where does it end?

My ex boss, Alan Johnson, RSPB area manager for Kent said it best.

“If development at Lodge Hill goes ahead then we are quite prepared to chain ourselves to the gates to stop it. Because if protection for a place like that goes then it will all fall off a cliff.”

Find out more here

http://www.rspb.org.uk/whatwedo/campaigningfornature/casework/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-317476