Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Giving it the Bird (aka Nimbys of the Week)

Well, feathers are certainly flying down in Kent about a proposal to use some brownfield land for a mini "new town" of up to 5,000 Houses.   Medway District Council and Land Securities were primed to make a start on this undertaking at Lodge Hill, Chattenden when some twitchers stuck their er beaks in and chirruped "Nightingale habitat" into the appropriate ears and "Nightingales will only live in clearly rectangular wooded areas" [someone might have made that one up] which has today seen the Lodge Hill site of the mooted new development declared by Natural England, the Government’s wildlife watchdog, to be a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) thus allegedly potentially scuppering the entire plan as detailed in this report from the Indie:

Whether accommodating the Nightingales and/or Natural England does or does not signal the end of the project we shall no doubt discover in due course.

The actual former military barracks upon which the proposed development was to be/may yet be centered is shown at "A" on the splendid Google Maps screen grab above. (B indicates the Camps "training area") The former Barracks aren't actually in Lodge Wood itself - which is where the trees where the Nightingales live and breed are - and there would appear from the map to be "scope" to shall we say "shift the plans around a bit to still keep the Wood, save the Nightingales and still provide 5000 new homes" - the only drawback here being that Land Securities might have to "buy" some land to do that, rather than rely on land provided er initially free, gratis and for nothing as against a promise to "pay something for the land" when they've actually built and sold the houses.

Update 15th March :

The case of a major new housing development being threatened by a population of nightingales, reported in The Independent on Thursday, is to become a legal battle.

Medway District Council in Kent is to challenge the decision by Natural England, the Government's wildlife agency, to declare the site for 5,000 proposed new homes a protected area because of nightingales nesting there.

On Wednesday Natural England announced that Lodge Hill near Chattenden in Kent, a disused army site, had been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because its population of more than 80 nightingales makes it the best breeding site in Britain for the declining species.

Medway Councillor Jane Chitty said the brownfield site was "key to our core development plan in providing homes and services for our expanding local population".


Ian Hills said...

What about the old plague pits? ;)

Bob E said...

Is that for the houses, the birds, Natural England or Land Securities?

The "project" started in 2008 and in 2011 Land Securities submitted their "development proposal" which included the following :

Environment - Lodge Hill benefits from an outstanding landscape setting and the development proposals have been shaped by the natural landscape. In total, just over half of the 700 acre Lodge Hill site has been set aside for public open space, parkland, allotments, community gardens and woodland (including the protected Great Chattenden Woods SSSI and ancient woodland). Two new parkland areas will be created, spanning over 100 acres, which will be central to the Lodge Hill experience and reinforce the desire to bring the countryside into the heart of the development.

All existing woodland within the site will be protected, with development set back from sensitive areas by up to 200 metres. Having undertaking a comprehensive range of ecological surveys on the site, a number of measures will be introduced to protect existing wildlife habitats where possible and create new habitats to improve biodiversity."

Perhaps, if they are that keen to go ahead, now would be a good moment for LS to "expand upon" that "All existing woodland within the site will be protected, with development set back from sensitive areas by up to 200 metres" a little, just to reassure Natural England that "they meant it" and defuse the row ?

Mark Wadsworth said...

All right then, if you don't care about the nightingales...
- what about food security, if we allow those 5,000 houses to be built, where will it stop?
- what about pressure on local services?
- if they didn't let so many immigrants in, we wouldn't need all these new houses
- in my day, we just saved up for a house, we didn't go round building them. It's the youth of today, they waste it all on flat screens and iPhones.

Lola said...

Out of curiosity, how many of you have actually heard nightingales? I am very lucky to live in the middle of nowwhere with some unfarmable wetland behind my house. In the spring the nightingales get going and it is an absolute joy.

Anyway don't 'nightingales sing in Berkley Square', so they seem to adapt OK. So what's the problem?

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, I don't know what they sound like. The whole Berkeley Square thing is a myth and you must be imagining things because "scientists discovered that Lodge Hill is probably the best site in the country for the nightingale", they thrive best in small rectangular patches of forest not far from disused Army bases, full stop.

Fierce Rabbit said...

So all that talk that houses should be built on brownfield sites was bullshit then. Gasp.

Unless Homeys have a definition of "brownfield site" something like "somewhere at least 50 miles away, preferably in the middle of a city".

Bayard said...

Mark, I think you are being a bit unfair here. There is no evidence from the report that the study on the nightingales was prompted by the development, nor, even that there are any NIMBYs involved at all. There's no local group called something unimaginative like "Stop the Lodge Hill Development", just some scientists who have upset a cosy little relationship between Medway Council and Land Securities. The fact that the wood becoming an SSSI has put the kibosh on the housing plans shows that Land Securities must have been economical with the truth in their development proposal, as Bob E points out.

Mark Wadsworth said...

FR, yes, it has to be brownfield and at least 50 miles from anywhere (or else there'd be pressure on local services), but not near anything natural like a tree or some grass.

B, no it's not unfair at all to say that "the old barracks" and " the very small wooded area" are two completely separate places. The fact that Land Securities are complete bastards does not detract from that fact.

Bayard said...

Mark, that's a real politician's answer. It was unfair to say that this was a case of NIMBYdom and to trot out all the tired old NIMBY arguments, when there doesn't appear to be any NIMBY activity at all.
I would agree that "the old barracks" and " the very small wooded area" are two completely separate places", which is why it is odd that making the wood an SSSI should have affected the development. Either LS are over-reacting for the press, or they had evil designs on Lodge Hill Wood.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, it wasn't my post! This was BobE's. The fact that I agree with him is a separate topic.