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.

 

 

 

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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

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

North Kent Marshes self guided Heritage Trails around Cliffe

The Charnel House Project – protecting our heritage

Set in a Hoo Peninsula landscape that inspired Charles Dickens to write ‘Great Expectations’ and overlooking globally important wetlands lies the village of Cliffe and this photograph from Friends of the North Marshes Flickr photostream shows the opening of the restored Charnel House on the 28th June 2008 – one of only three in the whole of Kent – located in the north west corner of St Helens churchyard.

The Charnel House was restored with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Groundwork Kent & Medway and St Helens PCC. Friends of the North Kent Marshes were proud to be a part of this wonderful project.

Many visitors come to this historic village and as part of the project Friends of the North Kent Marshes produced some free self guided trails around Cliffe to promote and celebrate the natural and cultural heritage of this unique area.

Cliffe Heritage Buildings Trail FoNKM

Cliffe Literary Heritage Trail pdf FoNKM

Cliffe Military Heritage Trail FoNKM

Cliffe Industrial Heritage Trail FoNKM pdf

Cliffe Farming Heritage Trail FoNKM

Cliffe Wildlife Heritage Trail

The restoration process can be seen on the interpretation boards outside of the building.

The Charnel House, located in a corner of the graveyard at St Helen's Church in Cliffe, Kent, England.
The Charnel House, located in a corner of the graveyard at St Helen’s Church in Cliffe, Kent, England.

Above photograph by Slaunger (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Wetland Wonderland Inches Closer at RSPB Cliffe Pools

Aerial shot of Radar and Black Barn Pools, Cliffe Pools RSPB Reserve, Medway, Kent, March 2012
Aerial shot of Radar and Black Barn Pools, Cliffe Pools RSPB Reserve, Medway, Kent, March 2012

A vision to create one of the country’s best nature reserves for wetland wildlife has inched closer with planning permissions being secured.
This will allow for clean sand, gravel and clay from construction and tunneling work to be used at Cliffe Pools in North Kent; in addition to the river dredgings we have had to datephoto 2
Working with our commercial partner, Boskalis Westminster, and consultants WYG, we’ll use the excavated material to alter the depth and shape of the man-made lagoons, making them more attractive for wildlife, especially winter migrants and breeding birds such as avocet and common terns.
Development and erosion have reduced the amount of naturally occurring shallow banks and mudflats in the Thames Estuary where birds and other wildlife can feed and breed.
Project Manager Sarah Cooper says: “Cliffe Pools is already a great site for wildlife, but securing these consents allows us over the next few years to create a magnet for waders and wildfowl, which currently struggle to find suitable living space along the Thames. It shows that conservation and business can work together to bring benefits for both wildlife and people.
photo 1 (1)The project perfectly demonstrates the ethos and sense of the European Directives, which encourage such partnerships, and shows why proposals to alter them should be resisted.

Please sign here today to tell politicians not to weaken the European Directives that protect RSPB Cliffe Pools from inappropriate and damaging development such as a Thames Estuary Airport. The consultation closes on the 24th July.

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’