New documents released by Medway Council in Kent are set to test government safeguards that prevent many of our best wildlife havens, natural habitats and beauty spots from being lost to new housing developments.
If approved, the authority’s Local Plan could pave the way for thousands of new houses to be built on Lodge Hill – land that should be protected for Nature.
Lodge Hill in Kent is recognised as one of the last UK strongholds for nightingales, an enigmatic bird that has seen its population in England drop to less than 6,000 singing males from over 60,000 a few decades ago.
The decline of the species is so alarming that nightingales are listed among our most threatened birds and included on the UK Red List for birds.
The area targeted by Medway Council as a prime location to build thousands of houses includes ancient woodland with rare grasslands.These are home to mammals, reptiles, amphibians, rare insects and flowers as well as nightingales.
‘Flying thousands of miles from Africa, nightingales arrive at Lodge Hill every year to spend the summer in Medway where they nest and raise young. As they arrive they blend perfectly into their environment as they serenade the Kent countryside with their distinctive song. So it is deeply concerning that one of the few areas where they are thriving could be lost under bricks and concrete, threatening the UK’s nightingale population as well as the strength of protection Sites of Special Scientific Interest should receive.’
South east conservation manager for the RSPB
Recognised as a SSSI
The importance of Lodge Hill is so great that in 2013 the government declared it a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for nightingales and the habitat.
Home to thousands of species, SSSIs are officially recognised as among the best places for wildlife in the UK, and are legally protected to safeguard us from losing these invaluable natural places. This level of protection should ensure the area is preserved as a home for wildlife today and for future generations.
There are just 4,000 SSSIs in England, and only Lodge Hill has been designated specifically for its nightingale population. The government’s National Planning Policy sets out that land that has been designated a SSSI can only be developed if all other options for potential developments have been exhausted.