Archive for ‘Chattenden Woods and Lodge Hill SSSI’

September 8, 2017

Medway Greens welcome Lodge Hill reprieve #SaveLodgeHill

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Kent Wildlife Trust – Lodge Hill in Autumn

Good news was received on Wednesday that the planning application for up to 5000 houses on the Lodge Hill site at Chattenden has been withdrawn.  Here is our response (by Clive Gregory)

It’s great news that the Ministry of Defence has withdrawn its latest proposal to build thousands of homes at Lodge Hill, Chattenden, although Medway Greens remain wary of what the future plans may be for the site instead.

With the predictable howls of outrage from the Tory Leader of Medway Council – and from the Labour group – it is easy to forget the recognised environmental significance of Lodge Hill. The majority of our Councillors appear to have total disregard and lack of understanding of the value of this SSSI designated environment for wildlife and ecosystems, local people, and the heritage of the entire country.

Despite claims, the proposed development would have done little to reduce Medway’s housing waiting list as, like all the others, this was to be a private development where a small two bedroom flat tends to sell at the lofty sum of £250,000 plus.  The Council appears to be chasing a shifting goal post whereby new homes are likely to be filled by those outside Medway who can afford them, increasing the pressure rather than reducing it.

We need to establish how we can really respond to local housing need while also protecting our equally important green spaces.

The MoD decision is a relief for the time being but we can never become complacent – some will keep trying to destroy our natural environment and we must match them every step of the way.

 

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June 5, 2017

Where do local parties stand on Local Plan? #SaveLodgeHill

A recent edition of Medway Messenger (Thursday 25th May) helpfully included an article (“We must prevent Medway turning grey” by Michelle Guinness) on the Local Plan public consultation and encouraged readers to respond to it.  However the only political views included about the Plan were from Conservative politicians.

The consultation has now finished, but as the changes to come from building nearly 30,000 extra homes in Medway will impact on everyone locally, it would certainly help local voters to know where all of the parties stand on this. Particularly since Cllr Howard Doe thinks the way forward is being imposed by Central Government, who will insist on having their way anyway “usually to the behest of developers”.

In fact, although the Tory Government’s growth agenda certainly favours private developers, closer examination of the evidence suggests that the numbers are nevertheless challengeable. A different approach by both Government and Council could both shift development away from the Medway Towns and ensure that a lot more of the homes are affordable to local people which would in turn lessen the impact.

The ‘elephant in the room’ in the Medway Messenger’s report was of course the lack of any mention of the Council’s insistence on development at Lodge Hill, near Hoo, a Site of Special Scientific Interest which hosts the country’s largest number of breeding nightingales, an endangered species. This was high on the agenda in both the Rochester and Strood by election in 2014 and the last General Election and has yet to be resolved.

Whilst the Green Party has been consistent in opposing development there, I would urge all other Rochester and Strood candidates to communicate their positions during this election on both this issue and the Local Plan in general so voters can be clear what they are voting for.

Sonia Hyner
Green candidate for Rochester and Strood

Medway Green Party’s response to the latest stage of the local plan consultation can be found on our website.

 

 

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May 20, 2017

Greens put the environment at the heart of their General Election campaign

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Last week saw the launch of the Greens’ “Environment Manifesto” which includes plans for a new Environmental Protection Act [1].   This would seek to protect the natural world following the EU referendum decision by creating a new UK environmental regulator and court and enshrining in UK law all the existing EU environmental legislation.

It would also establish “a right for every person in the UK to have access to a healthy and safe natural green space, promoting good mental health, physical exercise and building community”.

Medway’s own natural environment is threatened by the scale of development proposed in the Council’s local plan, which has at its centre the proposed building of nearly 30,000 homes. [2] Every development option proposed in the Council’s consultation document is likely to impact on countryside and wildlife.  In particular all options suggest development eventually taking place at Lodge Hill, near Hoo, an area which includes a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Sonia Hyner, Green Party candidate for the Rochester and Strood constituency which includes Lodge Hill, says:

“An Environmental Protection Act is vital to protect our environment and wildlife following Brexit.  It would give statutory protection to SSSIs like Lodge Hill which supports the largest number of breeding nightingales (an endangered species) in the UK and areas of green belt land.  While we recognise the need for additional housing in Medway, we are disputing the requirement for as many new homes as are currently being proposed.  We are also concerned that they will not be the right kind of homes, sustainable in design and affordable to local people. We must not risk destroying our local natural environment needlessly. We must fight to protect it for ourselves, our children and future generations as well as for our wildlife, 60 per cent of which are in long term decline.

“The threatened development at Lodge Hill was high on the agenda in previous elections and the issue has yet to be resolved. Whilst we have been consistent in our opposition to development there, we would urge other Rochester and Strood candidates to communicate their positions during this election on both this issue and the future of environmental protections in general so voters can be clear what they are voting for.

“Many plants and animals have died out because their natural habitat has been destroyed as a result of poor choices and distorted priorities.   We must not let this happen here in Medway. The Green Party is the only political party to put the environment at the heart of all of its policies.”

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[1]  https://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/2017/05/11/caroline-lucas-announces-green-party’s-environment-promises/

 

[2] http://www.medway.gov.uk/planningandbuilding/planningpolicy/localplan-futuremedway.aspx

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March 3, 2017

Development must not be at the expense of local environment #SaveLodgeHill

Lodge Hill in Autumn - Kent Wildlife Trust

Lodge Hill in Autumn – Kent Wildlife Trust

The Green Party notes that in the consultation document for the latest phase of their new Local Plan, Medway Council states that their aim is to ensure Medway grows sustainably while protecting and enhancing our local natural environment.

We hope that they are genuine in their environmental aims and would welcome the creation of a truly green Medway Towns. However it concerns us that the Council seem to wish to press ahead with major development at the SSSI designated site at Lodge Hill, near Hoo, whichever development option on offer in the consultation is eventually chosen. This is despite a policy approach in the Natural Environment section of the consultation that promises “a high level of protection from damaging impacts of development will be given to Sites of Special Scientific Interest” [1].  It is also pre-empting the outcome of the public Inquiry about the site, due to take place next year.

We would also like to know why the updated Strategic Land Availability Assessment (SLAA) 2017, commissioned by the Council to inform the Local Plan, did not include Lodge Hill in a list of sites screened out early in the process, on the basis of having an environmental designation (SSSI), [2] despite this being a clear part of the methodology of determining that sites chosen meet sustainable development criteria.   Is the Council being honest about its sustainability aims?

Lodge Hill is the best and most important site in the UK for nightingales. It also has rare grassland, ancient woodland and is home to many other rare and protected wildlife species and plants. It is also located in a wider environment of national and international importance. What we are talking about is not just the Hoo peninsula, but an area interconnected with the Thames coastline of Essex, the North Kent marshes and more, including many other SSSIs. Taking away Lodge Hill will disrupt or damage an entire local eco-system. Does Medway Council really want to be known as the local authority that did this?

Of course we recognise that the people of Medway Towns need more homes but it is questionable whether development at Lodge Hill would address real housing needs. If the Council continues with its current agenda in relation to approving developers, most, if not all, properties will prove too expensive and inaccessible for those who already live here, especially young people struggling to find an affordable home.

If the projected figures for population growth in the Medway Towns are correct, we will need many more homes. However it is important that these are not built at the expense of ruining our local environment. Future generations will not thank current politicians if the Medway Towns becomes just one large urban sprawl, devoid of plants, trees, green spaces and wildlife.

Details for taking part Medway Council’s Local Plan consultation are here.

[1] http://www.medway.gov.uk/pdf/7.%20Natural%20Environment%20and%20Green%20Belt.pdf p65

[2] http://www.medway.gov.uk/pdf/SLAA%20Report%20&%20Maps%20February%202017.pdf p45

 

March 2, 2017

Lodge Hill and the Nightingales by RSPB

March 2, 2017

Party People article on housing, Lodge Hill and the Local Plan

The article below, written by Medway Green Party Coordinator, Steve Dyke, was recently published in the Medway Messenger Party People column.

Medway residents are encouraged to respond to the The Local Plan consultation.  The deadline for sending comments has been extended to Monday 10th April at 5 pm. Details here.

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In drafting last week’s housing White Paper, the Government had a chance to radically tackle the housing crisis in this country.  Unfortunately, while some positive moves were outlined, there was no real change in direction.  They could have allowed Local Authorities to build their own Council homes by removing the cap on borrowing. They could have introduced measures to shift development from the South East. Instead they are simply tinkering on the margins of the problem.

This comes at a time when Medway Council is consulting on the latest phase of its Local Plan, including its vision for the Medway Towns and four options for the direction which planned development may take.

Whichever option is chosen, the Council seems determined to press ahead with housing at Lodge Hill.  Large scale building there would certainly destroy natural habitats of national importance as well as setting a damaging precedent for other Sites of Special Scientific Interest. It is difficult to reconcile any such development with the Council’s aim stated in its consultation document of protecting and enhancing our natural environment.

It is also uncertain what mix of homes we will end up with.  The Council’s research identified a need for 17,112 ‘affordable’ homes in Medway.  This represents nearly 60% of the 29,463 being planned for.  Yet the Council seem to envisage no more than 25% of the eventual mix being affordable, failing to meet the needs of many residents.

A direction encouraging the wrong type of development would lead to needless expansion of the Medway Towns and could result in over 9,000 homes being built which don’t meet the needs of our local population.

It is good to have a future vision, but also important to think past current political limitations. It doesn’t need to be like this.

February 14, 2015

Small but Significant Victory for Locals in Battle to Save Lodge Hill

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Clive Gregory with RSPB at Northward Hill Nature Reserve

Medway Green Party has welcomed the good news that the proposed development at Lodge Hill has been called in by the government. This means that it cannot now go ahead without a public enquiry.

Please see below some comments on this decision by Clive Gregory, our candidate for Rochester and Strood:

Good news.  The proposed development at Lodge Hill has been called in and now cannot proceed without a public enquiry.

The by-election in Rochester and Strood last year gave me, and the Green Party, a platform to fully inform the people of Medway and further afield about the importance of Lodge Hill.  We additionally sought the advice of the RSPB to increase our knowledge of the site and saw, first hand, that in isolation it is of vital importance but, when taken in the context of all the SSSIs on both sides of the Thames estuary right out to the north sea and including the Medway estuary, it is of national and international importance.

In the recent by-election, where Lodge Hill was one of two main local issues, over 81% of votes went to the three candidates who had vehemently opposed this development, including myself, the UKIP candidate and the Conservative candidate. This represents a total rejection of the project by local people.

So, for now, let’s celebrate this important decision from, Brandon Lewis, the Minister, and appreciate that he’s made the right decision.

However, although this certainly is a victory, we need to be aware that the Minister may simply be ensuring that this matter does not create controversy prior to the General Election in May. It is important that we continue to apply pressure on both Medway Council and the government to now confine this vile project to the scrap-heap.

In addition to joining others in highlighting the vital importance of the site environmentally, we have spoken out about the likely failure of this project to address Medway’s urgent housing needs. Most of the properties proposed in this plan are likely to be too expensive for local people. Along with the Green Party’s national policy, we call on Medway Council to look at both bringing empty properties back into use, and building truly affordable rentable housing for the benefit of those in desperate need.

A project on this scale is not only wrong for the proposed area but will likely expand the population of Medway by creating homes for people being priced out of London. We think a project of this type may well make Medway’s housing problems worse.

Unlike other party candidates, I’ll never change my mind on this issue, or go with the flow – this is our world we’re campaigning to protect, not a political system.  We’ll always oppose this development and we will continue the fight until it is finally scrapped”

Clive also wrote the following letter recently to the Medway Messenger, in response to one published by Derek Munton, Chairman of Rochester and Strood Constituency Labour Party.

Lodge Hill – Labour just don’t get it!

In a recent edition of Medway Messenger, Derek Munton, Chairman of Rochester and Strood Constituency Labour Party was reported to claim that “walking away” from the proposed development at Lodge Hill would be “irresponsible” a position that I will strongly refute.

Yes, Medway needs housing. However, this grandiose scheme will do little to address our real housing needs. Most of the properties will be in excess of £250k, most will be significantly more. Sure, they’ve promised some, so called affordable housing, but even these do not address the most urgent housing needs. The most important housing needs are for those people who are in temporary accommodation or sub-standard housing. These people are in need of low rent property and there’s very little of that planned for Lodge Hill.

The Green Party would take the bold steps needed to get to the heart of the housing crisis with key policies that focus on bringing empty homes back into use, a better deal for private tenants, ending the Right to Buy, and action on rent levels plus a pledge to build 500,000 new rentable social homes in the UK over five years.

In contrast, Labour is saying they will build 200,000 more homes a year but do not specify how many would be affordable, just ‘more homes’[1]. It is likely that under Labour we will get more of these out of town estates in areas that destroy wildlife habitats; estates of houses that those in real need cannot afford.

Last week I visited the RSPB site at Northward Hill to learn more about the environmental importance of Lodge Hill and the Hoo peninsula. The most striking impression was that what we’re dealing with here is an area made up of, not just the Hoo peninsula, but interconnected with the Thames coast line of Essex, the North Kent marshes and more. DEFRA’s map of the Thames estuary area displays vividly the importance of the entire region with SSSI sites at regular intervals. Even before we take into account the specifics of why Lodge Hill was designated an SSSI, a study of the map shows that, to link these SSSIs together, Lodge Hill is essential – take it away and build on it and the entire eco-system is disrupted and quite probably destroyed.

This environment is vital, not just for the animals and plants and especially the world’s birds – millions of them that migrate along this route – but for us too. Why can’t our local councillors understand how special this site is – it is not for them, or any of us, to have any right to destroy it – we must nurture it.

The Green Party’s housing plans mean that we would have greater control than if we just let big private builders like Land Securities (the developer responsible for the Lodge Hill proposal) build where they want.  We will be announcing planning reforms that ensure councils can put new homes in the right place, without taking up prime agricultural land or wildlife havens or parks.  This is not as difficult as it sounds; according to the UK National Ecosystem Assessment, only a tiny fraction (just over 2%) of the UK has been built on.  The issue is not whether houses should be built to address our housing needs, this is absolutely necessary, but what kind of houses should be built and where they should be built. This leads me to my next point – who would buy the houses at Lodge Hill?

Geoff Juby, the LibDem candidate in the recent by-election, and a councillor, seems to think that this development will help his children buy their first home. But will it? I very much doubt it. The problem for Medway currently is that thousands of people are being priced out of London. They look for somewhere they can live more cheaply but still have good access to London. Well, guess what, here we are in Medway in just such a position. Typically, many of these people will have more money to spend than those currently working and living in Medway. As a result they’re more likely to be able to afford these high price units and can always pay a little more and so outbid the locals.

I predict this: should this evil be perpetrated on the Hoo peninsula, less than 50% of properties will go to those currently registered as living in Medway and virtually no one regarded as being on the 20,000 housing waiting list will benefit. Instead, we’ll expand the population of Medway with people piling out of London to exploit cheaper housing. This may even exacerbate our housing problems in the long run.

Thus, don’t be taken in by the arguments of Labour or other councillors. For all the reasons stated here and more, Medway Green Party continues to call on Medway Council and the Government to make the truly responsible decision and abandon this scheme.

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December 24, 2014

Medway Green Party Newsletter December 2014

By-election result

Greens win 1692 votes, 4.2% which is a remarkable result given the money that went into the 3 main parties’ campaigns. Clive Gregory certainly had to work for it, 4 hustings including BBC SE Battle for Rochester & Strood. More TV, radio and press interviews than he can remember and countless stalls and miles walked on the campaign trail.

Clive Gregory

View the election night album (photos) 4:30am finish but a great time had by all.

Lodge Hill – the fight continues

Clive writes to the Minister and head of council urging them to “call it in, then scrap plans for development”. This after the by-election result showed 81% of voters had ‘in effect’ rejected this plan based on UKIP, Conservative and Green votes (all of who oppose the plan) added together.

You can read the letter in full here… Letter to Brandon Lewis.pdf

Whatever happens, rest assured that the Medway Greens will do whatever it takes to protect that land from development. We are also working on ideas to protect the entire Hoo peninsula, which is a vital eco system for the south east of England – it is not open to developers.

Moving on – we’ve a general election to fight

We’re now pretty confident that we’ll have 2 more candidates to join Clive Gregory, selected as our candidate for Rochester and Strood, standing in Gillingham and Rainham and Chatham and Aylesford constituencies.

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So sorry you’re leaving us – shock horror the Marchants are moving

The Medway Green Party would not have grown into a party capable of doubling membership in 2014, fighting a successful by-election campaign and preparing for a fully funded general election campaign next year without Trish (3rd from left) and Simon Marchant (far left – where else). Trish has a new job in Cambridgeshire starting in February and we wish both her and Simon every success with their new life – no doubt Cambridge will see a new force for Green establishing itself over the coming months.

December 20, 2014

81% ‘Overwhelming Rejection’ means Lodge Hill Development Must Be Scrapped

Green Party general election candidate, Clive Gregory, has called on decision-makers to abandon the Lodge Hill housing scheme in light of “overwhelming rejection” by local people.

Clive Gregory, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Rochester and Strood has written to the Leader of Medway Crsz_p1030717 (1)ouncil, Rodney Chambers, and Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Brandon Lewis (who replaces Eric Pickles as the minister with responsibility for passing final judgement on the Lodge Hill planning application) calling for the proposal to be totally rejected.

In his letters to the Head of Medway Council and the Minister, Clive Gregory says:

“The recent by-election in Rochester and Strood constituency saw Lodge Hill as one of two main local issues, the other being Medway Maritime hospital.  For the first time the real facts and issues about Lodge Hill were widely and fully debated and this issue was key to the way many voted.  Three party candidates were strongly opposed to the development at Lodge Hill, namely; Mark Reckless, the UKIP candidate and now MP, Kelly Tolhurst, the Conservative candidate and myself, Green Party candidate. All three stood with the policy of rejecting (or at least calling-in) the proposed development at Lodge Hill.  When considered as a percentage of the votes, that is 42.1%, 34.8% and 4.2% respectively – a total of 81.1% of all votes cast.

“Given this overwhelming rejection of the proposal by a now fully informed local people, can the Leader of Medway Council and the Minister of State for Housing and Planning please give me their assurance that this ridiculous proposal be, not just called in but totally rejected.  I don’t need to remind you of the site’s special scientific importance, which should have, in itself, been enough to reject the proposal”.

Mr Gregory has also questioned the nature of the consultation, suggesting that decisions taken by Medway Council’s planning department have been less than democratic. He says:

“It was interesting to note during the debate that, despite Medway Council’s claim that full consultation was entered into, just how few people were aware of the main issues. For the first time in Medway, a fully democratic debate was allowed.  I use the term allowed deliberately, as it has now being brought to my attention that less than fully democratic means were employed to enable the Council to pass the motion approving the development; we’ll be investigating further on this”.

The Green Party, who have been consistently campaigning against the Lodge Hill development for the last 18 months, in contrast with the other two parties who waited until the by-election to speak out, are aiming to protect the whole of the Hoo Peninsula.  Clive Gregory says:

“We believe that the environmental impact will be devastating and that the peninsula that Lodge Hill edges onto, in its entirety, is a special environment that needs to be protected from development of all kinds.  We will be working even more closely with national and local environmental protection and pressure groups to ensure its protection in the months and years ahead”.

November 19, 2014

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett urges Rochester and Strood voters to vote for hope not fear

On the eve of the Rochester and Strood by-election, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett has today urged Rochester and Strood voters to vote for the positive choice of Green Party candidate Clive Gregory.

Bennett said:

“Clive has been saying clearly to the voters that he understands they are struggling in our economy of low wages and insecure employment, with high housing costs and NHS facilities that are struggling to cope.

“But while other parties have been scapegoating immigrants and immigration, Clive has been identifying the reasons why so many are struggling: the failure to curb our fraud-ridden, risk-taking, overly large financial sector, the loss of council homes to Right to Buy and failure to build the affordable housing we need, the underfunding of the NHS and the disruption caused to it by this government’s privatisation agenda.

“And I know from my visit to the constituency how many voters have valued Clive and the Green Party’s consistent resistance to the Lodge Hill development.”

Commenting on recent campaign events, Bennett added:

“It was frankly hypocritical of Yvette Cooper to complain about the ‘arms race of rhetoric’ on immigration yesterday, while making a speech focused on tightening up control of borders.

“A couple of days before the Rochester and Strood by-election, the Labour party could have been announcing plans to make the minimum wage a Living Wage, or to end ‘right to buy’ to stop the bleeding away of the public resource of social housing. Or they could have been announcing their abandonment of the Work Capability Assessment that has plagued the lives of so many disabled and ill people.

“Instead, like the Tory candidate in Rochester and Strood by-election, who listed ‘immigration’ as her top issue, Ms Cooper has chosen to chase after Ukip and try to out-do it, rather than tackle the real causes of the struggle and insecurity faced by so many millions of households in Britain today.

“Only the Green Party candidate, Clive Gregory, with the ballot paper strap line ‘say no to racism’, is taking on Ukip head-on, exposing its damaging, dangerous misinformation.”