Land home to a rare population of nightingales may be developed for housing, after plans were revived by the local council – angering the RSPB and the Kent Wildlife Trust.
Medway Council in Kent retained Lodge Hill as an option for development in its draft local plan published in March.
Lodge Hill is a former Ministry of Defence site, covering 144 hectares of countryside on the Hoo Peninsula, and disused since 1998.
Lodge Hill is a sprawling site with hawthorn and birch thickets and unimproved grassland, which nightingales love. Picture: RSPB
A Site of Special Scientific Importance (SSSI), the area is an ideal habitat for nightingales, of which dozens visit the area each year to breed. There were 85 singing males in 2012, more than one per cent of the nightingale population of the UK.
Chris Corrigan, the RSPB’s England director, said: “We need the local council to recognise that there is a nationally significant site on their doorstep that must be protected and celebrated.”
Nationally, nightingale numbers have fallen by more than 90% over the last 50 years, and are now classed among some of the most endangered bird species in the UK.
Plans for 5,000 homes at Lodge Hill were submitted in 2011, but eventually withdrawn in September 2017.
The new proposal, one of four options in the draft plan, scales back the number of proposed houses to 2,000. Other options do not envisage development at Lodge Hill, instead building up to its boundary.
In February, it was announced that ownership of the land passed from the Ministry of defence to Homes England, the new government body charged with helping to get housebuilding projects off the ground. A spokesman for Homes England quoted by Kent Online said: “We remain committed to bringing forward new homes at Lodge Hill in line with government policy to use surplus public land to bring forward the delivery of new homes, but in a manner that is sensitive to important environmental considerations.”
The Government wants to build 300,000 homes a year to address the housing shortage in the UK.
…at Kent Online
• Main picture: Getty Images