Lodge Hill

#SaveLodgeHill SSSI
It was a privilege to take part in this two day expedition inside the Lodge Hill Camp organised by People Need Nature

anima locus

Reimagining lost and forgotten landscapes: vanishing military bases

IMG_9359.jpgOn the 16th & 17th June 2016 I joined a group organised by the charity ‘People Need Nature‘ to visit Lodge Hill, Kent.IMG_9348.jpgOur group was made up of Naturalists, Scientists, ecologists,  writers, poets, visual artists, musicians, and often a mixture of the above. These are all fairly meaningless titles through as what we really were was curious and keen to gain access to this endangered and abandoned ex-military base.IMG_9353.jpgAs Miles King, who arranged the visit explained “Access to Lodge Hill is restricted, partly because of its history as a place where the army trained bomb disposal experts (some of the ordnance is still there) and partly because it is still being used for training (the Police were training there on one day we visited). So we were fortunate to gain access; thanks to the Defense Infrastructure Organization for…

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Help save the nightingales of Lodge Hill SSSI – they need your help now

#SaveLodgeHill

STOP STOP PRESS!! Consultation date extended again… now ends on 18th April

STOP PRESS! Consultation date extended – now ends on 10th April

Our most iconic songbird is under threat at a key site and needs your help now. If we don’t act, the UK’s number one location for nightingales – Lodge Hill on the Hoo Peninsula in Medway, Kent, could disappear under thousands of houses.

Inclusion of Lodge Hill in Medway’s housing plans threatens important wildlife habitats across the country. An alliance of national and local conservation groups, including the RSPB and Kent Wildlife Trust, is campaigning to save the best site for nightingales in the UK ̶ Lodge Hill, Medway ̶ from being allocated for new housing developments.

The draft plans unveiled by Medway Council on 16 January 2017 would help pave the way for at least 3000 new houses to be built on the Site of Special Scientific Interest at Lodge Hill. The plans threaten protected habitat the size of 200 football pitches, and would set a dangerous precedent for England’s other wildlife sites.

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The much-loved nightingale, famed for its rich song, has declined nationally by 90% in the last 50 years; Lodge Hill is one of its last strongholds in the UK. This week’s proposal by Medway Council to allocate land at Lodge Hill within its draft Local Plan for the building of at least 3000 new houses flies in the face of national planning rules for protected wildlife sites. It would help pave the way for one of the largest ever losses of such a site in Britain, with 144 hectares wholly destroyed, about the same as 200 football pitches, plus wider indirect effects. Lodge Hill in Kent is recognised as one of the last strongholds for nightingales in the UK.

The national population has declined by 90% in the last 50 years, with numbers still falling. The decline is so alarming that the nightingale is now listed among our most threatened birds. The site includes ancient woodland with grasslands which are home to mammals, reptiles, amphibians, rare insects and flowers as well as nightingales. The importance of Lodge Hill is so great that in 2013 the Government declared it a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its nightingales, ancient woodland and grasslands. SSSIs are designated precisely because they are the best places for wildlife in the UK, safeguarding them as a home for wildlife for future generations.

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Alan Johnson, South East Conservation Manager for the RSPB, said: “Nightingales fly thousands of miles from Africa every year to spend the summer at Lodge Hill, where they sing their powerful song and raise their young. It is deeply concerning that one of the few places where they are thriving could be lost this way, and equally worrying is what this would mean for other sites that are meant to be protected. We are making sure people are aware that this is their chance to have their say.”

Greg Hitchcock, Conservation Officer for Kent Wildlife Trust added: “Despite stating in the consultation document that such sites will be given a high level of protection from development, none of the four options presented to the people of Medway exclude a new town on Lodge Hill. Medway Council should be standing alongside the many conservation organisations to protect Medway’s environment, not help destroy it.”

Gill Moore of the Friends of the North Kent Marshes said, “Medway Council’s Vision says that they want the area to be noted for its stunning natural assets. Lodge Hill is exactly that – it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, which are the nation’s best places for wildlife.  We were able to fight Cliffe airport and the Thames Estuary Airport because they would destroy protected wildlife sites, and so we need Medway Council to do everything they can to save and celebrate Lodge Hill. If it is built on, it will set a dangerous precedent for protected places everywhere.”

There are only just over 4,000 SSSIs in England, and Lodge Hill is the only one designated primarily for nightingales. It also supports several badger families, several species of bat and many bat roosts, an exceptional population of reptiles, and many other bird species – including three species of owl. Surveys are still being undertaken, and with each one we discover that the value of this site for wildlife is even greater than we previously knew. Theoretically, under National Planning Policy, a SSSI can only be developed if all other options for potential development have first been exhausted, and then if mitigation or comprehensive compensation is put in place. These steps at present have not been followed.

The #SaveLodgeHill campaign has brought together a partnership including the RSPB, Kent Wildlife Trust, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, Friends of the North Kent Marshes, Medway Countryside Forum and The Woodland Trust. Medway Council’s public consultation into their draft Local Plan Development Options lasts from 16 January to 6 March 2017.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

There are a number of ways to help and to let the Council know that destroying the home of the nightingales – and in doing so weakening the protection of wildlife sites everywhere – is not acceptable.

The key action to opposing allocation of Lodge Hill for housing is taking part in Medway Council’s consultation.  It started on 16th January and will end at 5pm on 6th March 2017. This is your chance to have your say, and you can take part either online or by writing to the council. RSPB have created an online action which will send an automatic email to the council on your behalf and will only take a couple of minutes to fill out

For more information, to complete the e-action or write a personal email/letter     please click on the RSPB  campaign link below

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You have until the 6th March to have your say.

 

 

 

Lower Thames Crossing

URGENT HAVE YOUR SAY!

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Government Lower ‪#‎Thames‬ crossing public exhibitions start Feb 3rd
Full details of ‪#‎Kent‬ ‪#‎Essex‬ consultation dates in Feb/March  here

#‎wildlife‬ #‎natura2000‬ ‪#‎heritage‬ ‪#‎Villages‬ ‪#‎CharlesDickens‬ ‪#‎countryside‬ ‪#‎SSSI‬ ‪#‎GreenBelt‬ ‪#‎ancientwoodland‬
Consultation ends 24th March

KENT WILDLIFE TRUST says

”  Highways England have proposed a ‘Lower Thames Crossing’ taking the form of a tunnel east of Gravesend, connecting with Thurrock, Essex. Two link road options have been proposed, with the ‘Eastern Southern Link Road’ the preferred option. Kent Wildlife Trust is opposed to the proposals for a Thames Crossing at this location (‘Option C’). ”

RSPB says

”  Highways England’s recommended route (known as Option C) passes to the east of Gravesend and runs through (or potentially under, in the case of a bored tunnel) the network of mudflats, salt marsh and grazing land that is the Thames Estuary and Marshes SPA/Ramsar, as well as RSPB Shorne Marshes. This whole area provides a rich mosaic of feeding, roosting and breeding habitats for birds. In addition, there are nationally important sites (protected as Site of Special Scientific Interest, or SSSIs) and ancient woodland that may be affected both north and south of the river.  ”

Lower Thames Crossing RSPB Shorne Marshes “the most important site for breeding waders on the Hoo Peninsula” say RSPB https://t.co/zz9gvYuoA7 ‪#‎LowerThamesCrossing‬ ‪#‎birds‬
Click on how you can help to raise your concerns about possible impacts on our Thames Estuary and Marshes Special Protection Area and Ramsar sites ‪#‎specialbirdarea‬ #birds ‪#‎habitats

Higham says NO to Lower Thames Crossing Option C
Charles Dickens historic landscapes under threat
Lots of information on the Higham Parish website including sample consultation responses and dates for your diary ‪#‎LowerThamesCrossing‬

 

Urgent! Email your MEP today to #DefendNature LAWS!

URGENT! Email your MEPs today!

Its their turn to #DefendNature LAWS that defend the nature we love!

Environment Ministers from across the EU have sent a clear signal that the Nature Directives are vital and should be properly implemented, not weakened, and now we need our MEPs to do the same.

In the first week of February the whole European Parliament will vote on a key report on what still needs to be done to halt and reverse the loss of our wildlife by 2020. It’s the same topic that UK Environment Minister Rory Stewart went to discuss with other countries’ Ministers in December.

This is our MEPs’ first opportunity to stand up for the Nature Directives – legislation vital to the protection of vulnerable habitats and species – and a crucial moment to send a crystal clear political message that they will defend the laws that protect our wildlife too.

RSPB have set up a quick and straightforward action to help you e-mail your MEPs.
Email your MEP here

natura 2000 defendnature

Why the Nature Directives are so important to our community & the special places we love #DefendNature

Working with MPs past and present to promote, protect and celebrate the North Kent Marshes
Working with MPs past and present to promote, protect and celebrate the North Kent Marshes

RSPB Conservation Director Martin Harper’s blog

Today I am delighted to welcome Gill Moore from the Friends of North Kent Marshes – a local campaign group – to talk about why the Nature Directives are so important to her local community, and the special places they love. Gill is pictured below (on the right) with former MP Mark Reckless and  another of the driving forces behind FONKM, Joan Darwell.  Together with George Crozer, Gill and Joan have formed a formidable team.

The Greater Thames Estuary is protected under local, national and international law – with the Nature Directives being the strongest laws of all. It is a spectacular wetland of global importance, extremely rich in wildlife. There are tens of thousands of birds that live here, as well as hundreds of thousands of overwintering and migratory birds that travel here annually along the East Atlantic flyway from as far away as the Arctic in the North and Africa in the South. FONKM.jpg-550x0

Set in a landscape that inspired Charles Dickens to write the opening scene of his novel ‘Great Expectations’ is RSPB Cliffe Pools. The reserve contains 10% of the UK’s saline lagoons, a very rare habitat, where you can watch huge flocks of thousands of birds such as dunlin and black-tailed godwits as they wheel in the skies. The grasslands are great places to watch marsh harriers, merlins, peregrines and owls hunting. In spring you can listen to the song of the nightingale and the call of the cuckoo. These protected habitats are vitally important for lots of other wildlife too, such as harbour porpoise, harbour seals, grey seals, bottlenose dolphins, sea horses, rare bumblebees, the scarce emerald damsel fly and the water vole.

We are passionate about the wild places on our doorstep, and determined that they will be protected for future generations. For the North Kent Marshes, and for many other internationally important wildlife sites across Europe, that protection is delivered by the Directives. We are keenly aware of the strength of the EU Nature Directives and why that strength must be upheld, because we have witnessed first-hand their ability to protect the wildlife and habitats we hold dear. These laws were instrumental in stopping an airport at Cliffe in 2003 and, more recently, in September 2014, when the UK Airports Commission ruled out building an airport anywhere in the Greater Thames Estuary or on the Hoo Peninsula.

Indeed, when Sir Howard Davies delivered the Airports Commission Final Report on the 1st July this year he said that a Thames estuary airportwas not a plausible option’ thatthere was a whole series of reasons why an estuary airport simply did not stack up’ and that ‘there were very serious environmental obstacles to constructing an airport in the Thames estuary. There are important breeding sites for birds, you would have to provide an alternative to them. The European Directives say that you can only take away that habitat if it’s the only place you can build an airport and we don’t think we could claim that that was the case’

We were appalled when EU President Juncker said the Nature Directives were old and must be “overhauled and modernised”, because alongside many experts we felt this would simply lead to them being weakened. The fact is that the Nature Directives form the very foundation of modern nature conservation, and politicians should not be trying to weaken them. Instead, they should be celebrating what they have achieved, and focussing on what they can achieve in the future.

Any weakening of these laws could put our most important wildlife sites in the Thames, Medway and Swale estuaries in peril. The Nature Directives are in place to protect our world class natural heritage and we must not sit idly by and allow this protection to be eroded. If it were it would be an ecological catastrophe!

We urge everyone to respond to this important consultation to show massive support for these nature laws. It is imperative that we do this now, because without strong laws to protect it – your nature, our nature, our children’s nature, could all be gone in the blink of an eye.

Gill Moore

You can find us on twitter @fonkm

on facebook Say No Estuary Airport

and North Kent Marshes

To read Martin Harpers blog in full please click here