Lodge Hill Planning Application withdrawn

bridge one

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the planning application which proposed 5000 houses on one of the best nightingale sites in the countryside has been withdrawn.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by the RSPB’s Save Lodge Hill campaign and now the developer, if not the council, has listened to local people and withdrawn its plans.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.

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Lodge Hill -Making History

chattenden-wood-4

MLP

Lodge Hill, an area of woodland and scrubland on the edge of Medway is about to become famous. Famous for what depends on whether it is destroyed to make way for 5000 houses or protected because of it’s SSSI status and the fact that it houses the largest colony of nightingales in the South East.

Medway Council, who have just included it as one of the development options in their local plan, wish for the words Lodge Hill to join the likes of Twyford Down and Newbury bypass as a place where protestors gathered to fight to protect our natural places from being destroyed.

This time though the stakes are higher. If destruction of a SSSI goes ahead for development it will green light a whole raft of other proposals and render the laws which protect our countryside invalid. If Lodge Hill goes ahead then no where is safe.

But Lodge Hill could be famous for another reason. For the place where  a local authority refused to bow to the pressure from Westminster to build all over the south east and said, “No. We will drop our support for the development of Lodge Hill and concentrate housing and retail back in town centres.”

If development at Lodge Hill goes ahead it will taint Medway for generations. The area will be associated with protest and dirty politics, the roads will be clogged by cars and we will have destroyed a nightingale colony which should be something of which we are rightly proud and promote as one of the reasons to visit. Is this really the legacy that Medway Council wants?

It is time for us all to stand up and make the name Lodge Hill synonymous with a legacy of which we can be proud.

Voice your protest at the proposed development of Lodge Hill by e-mailing futuremedway@medway.gov.uk

 

 

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