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.

 

 

 

The Marsh Country

It was a great pleasure for us to spend time with author Julian Hoffman when he came to visit us here on the Hoo Peninsula ~ Ours IS the marsh country down by the river and we will fight with the utmost vigour to protect it ~ No Thames estuary airport ever!

Notes from Near and Far

“Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.”

~ Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, 1861

“Large terminals, operational buildings, offices, roads and car parks will interrupt the broad open scale of the marsh landscape… The network of ditches and creeks running through the marshes will be severely affected or destroyed…Existing open views out over the Estuary will be lost and replaced by terminal buildings, aircraft hangers and extensive areas of paving…The low hills of the Hoo Peninsula rising out of the surrounding marshland will be lost entirely.”

                                                                        ~ Foster + Partners, Thames Hub AirportProposal to the Airports Commission, 2013

The Marsh Country

The Greek…

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Urgent! Email the Airports Commission today and help us say NO Thames estuary airport ever

Urgent! Email the Airports Commission today and help us say NO Thames estuary airport ever

Strawberry Tea – with Pimm’s! – Saturday 22 June 2013 2:30-4:30pm

Strawberry Tea – with Pimm’s! – Saturday 22 June 2013 2:30-4:30pm

The churchyard of St James Church, Cooling was the setting for the opening scene in Charles Dickens world famous novel ‘Great Expectations’ where Pip met the escaped convict Magwitch

My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.

I give Pirrip as my father’s family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister — Mrs Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones. The shape of the letters on my father’s, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair. From the character and turn of the inscription, `Also Georgiana Wife of the Above,’ I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly. To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine — who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle — I am indebted for a belief I religiously entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers- pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of existence.

Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain, that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard; and that Philip Pirrip, late of this parish, and also Georgiana wife of the above, were dead and buried; and that Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias, and Roger, infant children of the aforesaid, were also dead and buried; and that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond, was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing was the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip.

Please help to protect our cultural heritage here on the North Kent Marshes

 

Saving special places Great Expectations and profound concerns

A flavour of what it’s like to face the obliteration of your local landscape – with all its connections and heritage – not to mention internationally important wildlife.  Friends of North Kent Marshes was formed in the heat of battle ten years ago when last the airport planners came calling.

Please click on link below to read

 Saving special places Great Expectations and profound concerns

Our thanks go to RSPB Andre Farrar who started the RSPB Saving special places blog.

Read his bio below:

This blog is where you can read about the places we work to protect and the people on the front line.  The scope of this blog covers planning, the policies and legal framework that exists to protect the best places for wildlife and of, of course, the individual cases that are the daily work of staff across the UK.  We help BirdLife International partners overseas – and you will be able to read contributions from Europe and further afield.

Of course – probably of the best way to save a site is to a acquire it as a nature reserve – this blog will sometimes feature our reserves and the role they play in future of our wildlife, but the full story of the RSPBs network of nature reserves is told elsewhere: http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves

This blog features the contributions of many individuals – I will have the pleasure of holding the ring and acting as the narrator to this compelling story.  So a little about me; I’m Andre Farrar and my first active involvement with the RSPB was in the late 1970s as a volunteer with our Leeds Local Group http://www.rspb.org.uk/groups/leeds.

I was one of many who wrote to their MPs as part of the campaign to get the best outcome for what became the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).  It wasn’t perfect but it was a good start.  Thirty years on, I’m still in the thick of it campaigning for our protected areas and special places for wildlife.  Are we winning?  Read on and find out, and see how you can help.