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.

nightingale-2

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.

nightingale-1

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

lodge-hill 

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

 

 

 

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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

URGENT! We need your help! The Nature Directives are not safe yet!

The Nature Directives are not safe yet!

The strongest laws we have to protect our UK wildlife are still under threat! European leaders are considering rolling back decades of progress by revising the Directives in the mistaken belief that weaker protection for wildlife is good for business. In reality, this would be bad for business, and a disaster for wildlife.

Be aware that when writing this blog our government are NOT one of the nine other European countries who have written to the commission expressing concern over weakening of the birds and habitats directives to make them more business friendly. Remember a few years ago George Osborne called the directives GOLD PLATED saying they stood in the way of development.
Special Protection Areas (SPA’s) are fundamental to the Birds and Habitats Directives.
Our SPA’s are vital to the survival of the North Kent Marshes, the Greater Thames , Medway and Swale Estuaries, our communities and our way of life…

Please #defendnature for me #itsmynature
Please #defendnature laws for me #itsmynature

We urgently need you  to send a personal message to your MP, saying you care and asking them to call on the UK Government – represented on the EU Environment Council by Biodiversity Minister Rory Stewart – to defend the Nature Directives

RSPB Chief Executive Mike Clarke writes…

This week marked an important moment in our Defend Nature campaign.

At a meeting of EU Environment Ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, nine countries including France, Germany and Spain, spoke up clearly in support of the EU Nature Directives in a letter to Karmenu Vella, EU Environment Commissioner.

In the letter, the authors advise that the Nature Directives are ‘an essential component of biodiversity conservation in Europe’ and recommend that the Nature Directives be kept as they are with a focus on putting them into practice and enforcing them in full.

This is a significant intervention in the fight to save the Nature Directives. Such a statement from Germany alone would be influential but, collectively, the signatories are a major barrier to attempts to introduce new legislation to replace the Nature Directives.

It is a moment that has been building for many months and is a direct result of the public support from the 520,000+ citizens across Europe who responded to the public consultation on the Nature Directives through the joint NGO campaign, Nature Alert (Defend Nature in the UK). This overwhelming show of support took key decision-makers by surprise and created the ‘public voice’ for Member State governments like Germany to show leadership on the natural environment.

I know many of you will have been amongst these 520,000 – we know over 65,000 RSPB supporters did take part – and this is an important opportunity for me to thank you and to show you that public support can make a real difference.

Of course, as positive a step as this is, the Nature Directives are not safe yet. Discussions and decisions also include the European Parliament, and will continue this autumn and well into 2016. We still need your help to secure their future. In the UK and across the EU, nature continues to struggle, as seen in the State of Nature assessment in the UK, or the recent mid-term assessment of the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy. The Nature Directives are key to reversing these declines – as the letter itself says, ‘it will not be possible to reach the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 without them’.

But the ministerial interventions this week, and the events I have attended over the last few weeks in Berlin and Brussels, give me much optimism and hope that we will succeed. At an event in Berlin earlier this month, we heard the voices of two young people: Lizzie Frost (17), a member of the RSPB’s Phoenix Forum, and Anais Sloman (21) from NAJU and a member of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN); a combined youth membership of 475,000. They spoke with knowledge and moral force. Their challenging question was how can young people have confidence in the political process, if their concerns about the natural environment are not answered.

But what can you do next?

We’re asking you to send a personal message to your MP, saying you care and asking them to call on the UK Government – represented on the EU Environment Council by Biodiversity Minister Rory Stewart – to defend the Nature Directives.

Also look out for the big conference on the future of the Nature Directives in Brussels on 20 November 2015 where the European Commission will be presenting the preliminary findings of the Fitness Check of the Nature Directives. We will be counting down the week before on social media, and I will be there speaking on behalf of Birdlife International in support of nature.

Thanks again for your support.

Mike Clarke

You can help #defendnature laws by emailing your MP now

Urgent! Defend Nature now! The laws that protect it are under threat!

We need you to speak up to save nature. The EU Nature Directives have provided the highest level of protection to vulnerable habitats and species for the past 30 years – but they’re under threat!

European leaders are considering rolling back decades of progress by revising the Directives in the mistaken belief that weaker protection for wildlife is good for business. In reality, this would be bad for business, and a disaster for wildlife. We urgently need you to add your voice to thousands of others below and defend nature. Without a massive demonstration of public support for the Directives, it will be very hard to prevent them being weakened.

Gill Moore, a spokesperson for the Friends of North Kent Marshes, explained that the marshes would not exist without the Nature Directives.

She said: “Our marshland landscapes inspired Charles Dickens to write Great Expectations, and hold a world-class natural heritage so important that it is protected under local, national and international law. The strongest of these laws are the Nature Directives, which protect our globally important wetlands from inappropriate and damaging development.

“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. Any weakening of these laws could put our most important wildlife sites in peril. We must now join together to fight any and all attempts to water them down.”

TAKE ACTION NOW! http://www.rspb.org.uk/joinandhelp/campaignwithus/defendnature/

#DefendNature #RSPB #Natura2000

Black-winged stilts arrive at RSPB Cliffe Pools

Black-winged stilts arrive at RSPB Cliffe Pools

A mini influx of black-winged stilts has brought a touch of the Mediterranean to southern England, as two pairs of these exotic-looking wading birds are attempting to nest at RSPB sites in West Sussex and Kent.
It is thought that a dry spell in southern Spain has displaced these wetland birds to southern Britain. And it is believed that a changing climate may bring these birds to Britain more regularly in future. The only times black-winged stilts have bred successfully in the UK was in Norfolk in 1987 and Nottinghamshire in 1945.

One pair is nesting on the RSPB’s newest reserve in West Sussex, Medmerry, the other pair at the RSPB reserve at Cliffe Pools on the north Kent marshes.

“This is really exciting news and the first time we have had black-winged stilts breeding on the reserve here at Cliffe Pools,” said Warden Andy Daw. “They have visited before and a pair was seen about seven years ago on the reserve but they did not produce any young.

Yet another great reason to protect this special place for wildlife and say #jeThames  #noestuaryairport

How you can help say No Estuary Airport with the RSPB

Say NO Estuary Airport with the RSPB

With 300,000 birds visiting every year we know the Thames is amazing, but we are concerned that the Airports Commission haven’t yet had the chance to really understand how special it is. With all this focus on the Estuary as an airport location, it would be easy to lose sight of the Greater Thames as a place that’s home to six million people. A place that has been at the heart of our country’s economy for centuries, as a base for commercial shipping, intensive farming, heavy industry, power generation but yet is still one of the most important places for nature in the UK.

And a place that we want future generations to be able to enjoy too.

The Commission is currently examining all the technical evidence for and against an airport in the Estuary and they will be consulting on their conclusions later in the summer. But until then, please help us remind them of what is at stake.

Please go to RSPB Thames Estuary online actions   ‘How you can help’

 

5 Inner Thames Estuary Airport Options Are Still on the Table!

The UK Airports Commission are currently calling for evidence and studying 5 inner estuary airport options on the Hoo Peninsula. These options were studied in the run up to the Airports Commission Interim Report announcement in December 2013 when they were published alongside many other documents which can be found here
The five options are

Foster Partners Thames Hub Airport 46 Foster Sift 2 FINAL

Mayor of London Inner Estuary Airport 51 Mayor of London – Isle of Grain Sift 2 FINAL

IAAG Cliffe Airport 47 IAAG Sift 2 FINAL

Thames Reach airport 48 Metrotidal – Thames Reach Airport Sift 2 FINAL

Airports Commission own airport option based on a combination of the above which has sought to minimise cost, environmental impact and avoid relocation of the existing LNG facility 67 Isle of Grain Sift 3 FINAL

We believe that the idea of a Thames estuary airport is deeply flawed on every level

Here are some useful links to help you respond

RSPB are vehemently opposed to the construction of an airport in the Thames Estuary

Kent Wildlife Trust is vigorously opposed to any proposals to build an airport in or near the Thames Estuary.

Medway Council case against a Thames Estuary airport

CPRE Protect Kent is utterly opposed to any new airport anywhere in the Thames Estuary

FoNKM – Great Expectations and Profound Concerns

Say No Estuary Airport facebook

Please respond to this important consultation – the call for evidence closes on the 23rd May