Yvette Austin reports for BBC South East news on opposition to the development of Conyer brickworks, a haven for nightingale and turtle dove

Conyer Brickworks, a former industrial site, has become a haven for some of our fastest declining wildlife, including nightingale and turtle dove. It has also provided a sanctuary for local people during the recent coronavirus lockdown. Now it is threatened with destruction to build just 24 luxury homes for the wealthy few.

Yvette Austin reports for BBC South East news on how this is allowed to happen and I make a case for the value of Brownfield sites.

You can comment on the application by searching for application no. 18/506460 at https://pa.midkent.gov.uk/online-applications

Comments will be registered right up to the date of the planning committee.

please help us to stop this development!

Conyer Brickworks on the BBC



Heading out to film a piece for BBC South East with Yvette Austin about the destruction of Conyer Brickworks, one of the best places to hear nightingale and turtle dove in Kent, to make way for 24 luxury homes.

24 luxury homes set to destroy wildlife sanctuary.


Turtle doves are among the birds who find sanctuary at Conyer Brickworks.

If, like me, you have found nature to be a huge solace in recent months, then please help to stop the destruction of one of Kent’s best wildlife sites.

Conyer Brickworks is one of the top places to hear nightingale and a sanctuary for our fastest declining birds, the turtle dove. It is under threat of being destroyed for the sake of 24 luxury homes.

Personally I find the timing of this planning application to be offensive and shows a complete disregard for the way that close contact with the natural world has helped many people keep going in the last few months.

If we didn’t know before how important it is to have natural sites on our doorstep then we do now.

Destroying the natural world to satisfy the greed of a few people is not a fitting memorial to the people that have been lost.

Comment by contact Swale Borough Council http://www.midkent.gov.uk  and quoting planning application 18/506460

Fake, plastic, trees

lollipop treeDevelopers are destroying any chance for children to engage with the natural world by their insistence on ripping up our native, wild trees and planting fake lollipop trees in their place.

Beaulieu Park, in Rainham, Kent is the latest in a long line of ugly housing developments by McCulloch homes. Once this land was alive with goldfinches and nightingales nesting in the hedgerows now it is a sea of mud with some tired, twisted trees at the entrance.

Nature has been squashed, nature is not wanted in such places. Nature is only acceptable when controlled.

George Monbiot, in his book Feral, laments the Nature Deficit Disorder inflicting our children. “Children confined to their homes become estranged from each other and nature. Obesity, rickets, asthma, myopia, the decline in heart and lung function all appear to be associated with sedentary indoor life.”

He goes on to hope that “Every new housing development include some self-willed land in which children can play.”

Fat chance, when developers, such as McCulloch, are intent on destroying every inch of the natural world on the land they purchase.

If McCulloch homes had left just a little of the botanical richness that this site once contained they could have provided a window into the natural world for the children that came to live there.

A fringe of hawthorn trees, a small meadow of the orchids which once bloomed here, a patch of teasel for the goldfinches to feed on. Instead they chose to rip every living thing out of this site and replace it with their vision of nature. Pathetic, hot housed, subject to the will of man.

Like so many developments blotting our country, these buildings say nothing about their locality, give no nod to a sense of place. They impose their will over nature and trap our children in their homes unable to even imagine the wild that once bloomed here.


Kent’s Nightingales threatened by greedy developers once again.



As nightingales and turtle doves prepare to begin their epic migrations from Africa there are fears that they will have no where to return to. Every day more of their habitat is destroyed for unnecessary development.

Now, Conyer Brickworks, one of Kent’s top nightingale sites, is under threat as greedy developers try to persuade the planning authority they need 3 hectares of a top wildlife habitat to build just 24 luxury homes.

Three hectares is the equivalent of 3 Twickenham Rugby stadiums. This space can hold 240,000 people but presumably 24 rich people need the space to house oversized cars in double garages and driveways.

It is an obscene waste of a precious habitat which is one of the best places in the country to hear beleaguered nightingale and turtle doves whose numbers have fallen by over 90% in recent years, partly through habitat loss.

This proposal signifies all that is bad about our current planning system as luxury homes for the few are built at low densities on habitat necessary for the survival of our rarest species.

Of course Palm Developers have teemed up with the usual suspects Bioscan to greenwash their plans. I personally cannot think of a fate bad enough for ecologists who look at a wildlife rich site, know it’s importance, but still are prepared to find a way for the developers to destroy it.

I have no idea how these people sleep at night.

In this instance they wish to persuade the planning authority that destroying nightingale habitat is acceptable if they manage the remainder. The management plan that they propose amounts to little more than a bit of annual scrub cutting and reed pulling, something which could easily be achieved by volunteers. It in no way compensates for the loss of important habitat and protected species.

In this case the developers are adding insult to injury by proposing to build a giant viewing tower in the centre of the site, no doubt so we can all see how much space the 24 homes are taking up. This is a ludicrous idea and will no doubt become an excellent vantage point for crows and magpies to spy out the nests of the remaining turtle doves or swoop down on lapwing chicks on the adjacent marshes.

Do not let the developers and their entourage have their way. Do not allow them to greenwash greed. Do not allow our nightingales and turtle doves to fly all this way and face so many dangers on route only to find their home has been destroyed to make way for the privileged few.

The planning reference for this development is 18/506460/FULL

Please take the time today to comment on the plans. The closing date is the 24th February


This Land is Our Land


Bakersfield August 2016

I learnt to love nature in a place like this. How about you? 

In this month’s edition of The Land magazine, George Monbiot draws parallels between the struggles of indigenous people stripped of their tribal land by unscrupulous corporations and the road protesters at Twyford Down in the nineties who fought to protect chalk downland and Iron Age remains against an unscrupulous government intent on handing out road building contracts to their development buddies.

As Berengrave Nursery, an area of scrubland on the edge of my town, home to some of our rarest and most endangered wildlife, is granted planning permission for 120 houses. It strikes me that we are in a new era of land grabbing.

As a child growing up in an East London suburb my love of nature was created by exploring the former airfield and quarry at the end of my road. A world of wetland, scrubland and hedgerow now designated a SSSI. Yet everywhere I look these urban nature reserves are being cut down and concreted over to make way for completely unaffordable housing which no one trying to get on the housing ladder can buy.

These housing developments are doing nothing to solve our countries supposed problems which rest in inflated housing prices, lack of affordable rent in London and the 90,000 houses which are owned by foreign investors and sit empty for most of the year.

They provide nothing for local communities other than tailbacks caused by temporary traffic lights and more cars on unsuitable roads yet they take away our precious edgelands full of hedgehogs, badgers, nightingales and turtle doves. They take away the countryside on our doorstep and move it to somewhere else. They take away spaces which generations have used to walk their dogs, let the kids run wild, pick blackberries for jam.

It strikes me that our edgelands are the new commons, places which exist in our shared culture which are being surrounded by steel fences and destroyed for massive financial gain by wealthy land speculators.

Berengrave will be destroyed as every other scrubland in my area has been destroyed. Rich men will get richer and some environmental consultancy firm will get fat off of helping the developers to remove the wildlife and dump it elsewhere.

I’m pretty sure this is happening in your area as well as mine and with each piece of scrubland that vanishes we becoming more divorced from our countryside, more urban, more cut off from wildlife.

This land is our land and we are loosing it faster than every before.


CPRE win victory in battle with developers

Dover-Farthingloe-from-Mount-Road-Vic-030Fabulous news today as the Campaign to Protect Rural England won a landmark victory at the Supreme Court to prevent a development in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The developers, who wanted to build over 500 homes and a retirement village in the beautiful countryside around Farthingloe near Dover in Kent, were supported by Dover District Council and local MP Charlie Elphicke, who was recently suspended from duty after allegations of sexual misconduct.

Despite Charlie Elphicke’s outburst in which he claimed the Supreme Court had put the views of an out of touch campaign group over the needs of local people, the supreme court felt that Dover District Council had not give adequate reasons for granting planning to the developers in the first place.

Well done CPRE for seeing this through and taking action against inappropriate developments and councils who appear too often in the pockets of the money men behind these hideous housing estates.

It is Charlie Elphicke that is out of touch with what is really happening in his constituency if he believes that any of the jobless youth of Dover, an area where unemployment has soared, could ever afford one of the houses that the developers would have built in this beautiful area of countryside.

Community Woodland under threat from developers

Bloors Lane Community Woodland

Not content with destroying our wildlife rich brownfield sites and scrublands, developers are now after our community woodlands. A company called Gleeson Strategic Land Limited is proposing a development of 121 houses on Bloors Lane Community Woodland an important site for wildlife and local people.

If developments like this are allowed to go ahead then it will green light a raft of proposals to develop local nature reserves and country parks.

The company claim the woodland is under used. Under used by who? It is a valuable resource for hedgehogs, field voles and woodland birds struggling to survive as our countryside and their routes through it are swallowed up by concrete.

Medway Council should do the right thing and stop this proposal before it even has the chance to get started.

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.

Another one bites the dust

There it goes. Land at Conyer earmarked for development Copyright: N Chadwick

There it goes. Land at Conyer earmarked for development
Copyright: N Chadwick

Last night I travelled to Conyer Creek. There is a spot on the wall of the old brickfields where you can sit and with a view down the river and hear the nightingales sing. Last night one sang it’s full repertoire, whistling and syruping and twizzling amidst the scrub. It is the last spring that a nightingale will sing from this spot. It is the last spring I can sit at the bend of the creek and see the shelduck fly to the marshes. Conyer Creek, along with seemingly every other little scrubby delight in Kent, has been given over to development.

A company called Pod Architects is developing 24 luxury homes on the site. Twenty Four? I very much doubt this will be the affordable housing the government dupes us into thinking it is supplying. Instead it will be twenty four wealthy people owning second homes with a view of the creek, twenty four portfolio holders buying them up and renting them out at stupid prices.

How can this happen? How can permission be given for the destruction of a site that is so valuable for wildlife when it will only build 24 homes? Of course this part of Conyer is a brownfield site. useless, valueless in the eyes of many, except this is nonsense. Many brownfield sites are highly valuable to wildlife, irreplaceable for insects, reptiles and all those little birds flying across from Africa in the spring only to find the places they traditionally breed given over to hideous toy town developments of fake fishing cottages.

Everywhere I look these sites are going. Conyer Creek destroyed, Bakers Field, a scrubby patch of land at the end of my road where little owls hunts and orchids bloom, threatened, Lodge Hill, the best nightingale site we have, not yet safe. At the same time, on the outskirts of our towns, super large retail developments with mega car parks are built. It does not add up. Does any town centre in the entire country really need another supermarket? Wouldn’t this land be better used for housing? Wouldn’t it be bet to tackle the real problems, over population and too many second homes lying idle all week?

But of course, no government has the stomach for that, and certainly not the current bunch with their hands in developers pockets. It makes me want to weep, it makes me want to emigrate, it makes me want to find a time portal and whip back to another age when we valued our countryside more. Instead I plod  on, into a future where ugly ribbon developments spread out from our towns and we sit in gridlocked in traffic at weekends, trying to escape into a countryside which once existed on our doorsteps.