Archive for ‘Ecosystems’

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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NOTES:

[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

 

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.

Notes:
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”.

October 10, 2014

Press Release: Selected Green Party By-Election Candidate on Corporate Takeover

The Green Party’s candidate for the expected by-election in Rochester and Strood has been selected. The candidate, Clive Gregory, has lived in Stoke on the Hoo peninsular for 22 years, and is a freelance musician and sound engineer by trade. Clive also runs the local PA hire business, Clive Sound.  Clive joined the Green Party because of disillusionment with the other political parties and worry about the direction of the country.

Clive says:

“Like many, I’ve gradually become disillusioned with mainstream politics.  The takeover of politics and politicians by “too big to fail” banks and corporations has got to stop.

“I believe that the current structure of the financial system lies at the root of most of the world’s problems as it drives the relentless ‘more, more, more’ machine, which in turn produces unsustainable demand for materials and goods. It is nothing short of a suicide mission for the planet to continue in this way.

“It is a suicide mission which is taking the rest of the natural world with us, with 60% of UK species in decline and a 50% decline in wildlife globally in the last 40 years. This feels very prominent locally right now with the potential loss of the Lodge Hill nightingales and all the other rare species the area supports.

“Additionally this rollercoaster of boom and bust, driven by our politicians’ dependence on economic growth, does not in reality make us any better off.  The Green Party promises to put our future security first with a minimum wage that is enough to build a life on; affordable homes; accessible local shops; a fully funded, nationally run health service we can be proud of; and a parliament which is answerable to us.

“The Green Party has policies to improve our lives massively in all these areas and many more; all within the context of protecting the natural ecosystems that support us.  All it requires is joined up thinking and the political will.

“The Medway Greens are a genuine local grassroots party making the best use of minimal funds to effect change.  The national Green Party is funded solely by its growing number of members which hit 20,000 this week. This contrasts with the huge corporate funding for UKIP and the Tories.  While UKIP love to portray themselves as outside the current political elite, they are in fact at the heart of the establishment. Only the Green Party can be trusted to bring about the changes we need”.

Clive will be out on the streets talking to voters over the coming weeks.

September 10, 2014

Press Release: Lodge Hill Decision – Disgraceful Hypocrisy by Medway Council

Medway Green Party has accused Medway Council of hypocrisy in passing plans for housebuilding at Lodge Hill  and called on local people to contact the Secretary of State.

Medway Green Party members have expressed extreme disappointment in Medway Council’s decision to approve the plans for 5000 houses at Lodge Hill. The party is also highly critical of the conflict between this decision and previous arguments made in Medway Council’s campaign against an airport in the Hoo penisular.

Trish Marchant, parliamentary candidate for Gillingham and Rainham comments:

“Only last week, Medway Council Leader, Rodney Chambers, was celebrating the Council’s anti-airport campaign for stopping (in his own words) “mass destruction of habitat and wildlife that could never be replaced”.  How is this any different? The hypocrisy of Medway Council is disgraceful!”

The Lodge Hill site has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as it supports the UK’s largest nightingale population which could be destroyed if the development goes ahead.  Campaigners claim that overruling the SSSI would set a dangerous precedent for many other SSSI’s in the country.

Medway Green Party is urging local people to continue their support for the nightingales by contacting the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, who has overall responsibility for housing.

Clive Gregory, parliamentary candidate for Rochester and Strood says:

“So much for Medway Council putting local democracy first; these plans were opposed by the overwhelming majority of those consulted, a factor which Medway Council completely disregarded. There is still a chance to stop this unique site being destroyed, however, if we contact Eric Pickles, Secretary of State, who has the power to overrule this decision. Please ask Eric Pickles to call in this disastrous plan”.

RSPB are heading a campaign to contact the Secretary of State regarding the Lodge Hill decision, called “Ask Eric Pickles to Step In”.  This is available on the following website address: http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/381776-Lodge-Hill

May 29, 2014

It’s simple. If we can’t change our economic system, our number’s up by George Monbiot

'The mother narrative to all this is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots.'

Let us imagine that in 3030BC the total possessions of the people of Egypt filled one cubic metre. Let us propose that these possessions grew by 4.5% a year. How big would that stash have been by the Battle of Actium in 30BC? This is the calculation performed by the investment banker Jeremy Grantham.

Go on, take a guess. Ten times the size of the pyramids? All the sand in the Sahara? The Atlantic ocean? The volume of the planet? A little more? It’s 2.5 billion billion solar systems. It does not take you long, pondering this outcome, to reach the paradoxical position that salvation lies in collapse.

To succeed is to destroy ourselves. To fail is to destroy ourselves. That is the bind we have created. Ignore if you must climate change, biodiversity collapse, the depletion of water, soil, minerals, oil; even if all these issues miraculously vanished, the mathematics of compound growth make continuity impossible.

Economic growth is an artefact of the use of fossil fuels. Before large amounts of coal were extracted, every upswing in industrial production would be met with a downswing in agricultural production, as the charcoal or horse power required by industry reduced the land available for growing food. Every prior industrial revolution collapsed, as growth could not be sustained. But coal broke this cycle and enabled – for a few hundred years – the phenomenon we now call sustained growth.

It was neither capitalism nor communism that made possible the progress and pathologies (total war, the unprecedented concentration of global wealth, planetary destruction) of the modern age. It was coal, followed by oil and gas. The meta-trend, the mother narrative, is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots. Now, with the accessible reserves exhausted, we must ransack the hidden corners of the planet to sustain our impossible proposition.

On Friday, a few days after scientists announced that the collapse of the west Antarctic ice sheet is now inevitable, the Ecuadorean government decided toallow oil drilling in the heart of the Yasuni national park. It had made an offer to other governments: if they gave it half the value of the oil in that part of the park, it would leave the stuff in the ground. You could see this as either blackmail or fair trade. Ecuador is poor, its oil deposits are rich. Why, the government argued, should it leave them untouched without compensation when everyone else is drilling down to the inner circle of hell? It asked for $3.6bn and received $13m. The result is that Petroamazonas, a company with a colourful record of destruction and spills, will now enter one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, in which a hectare of rainforest is said to contain more species than exist in the entire continent of North America.

Almost 45% of the Yasuni national park is overlapped by oil concessions.
 Yasuni national park. Murray Cooper/Minden Pictures/Corbis
The UK oil firm Soco is now hoping to penetrate Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo; one of the last strongholds of the mountain gorilla and the okapi, of chimpanzees and forest elephants. In Britain, where a possible 4.4 billion barrels of shale oil has just been identified in the south-east, the government fantasises about turning the leafy suburbs into a new Niger delta. To this end it’s changing the trespass laws to enable drilling without consent and offering lavish bribes to local people. These new reserves solve nothing. They do not end our hunger for resources; they exacerbate it.

The trajectory of compound growth shows that the scouring of the planet has only just begun. As the volume of the global economy expands, everywhere that contains something concentrated, unusual, precious, will be sought out and exploited, its resources extracted and dispersed, the world’s diverse and differentiated marvels reduced to the same grey stubble.

Some people try to solve the impossible equation with the myth of dematerialisation: the claim that as processes become more efficient and gadgets are miniaturised, we use, in aggregate, fewer materials. There is no sign that this is happening. Iron ore production has risen 180% in 10 years. The trade bodyForest Industries tells us that “global paper consumption is at a record high level and it will continue to grow”. If, in the digital age, we won’t reduce even our consumption of paper, what hope is there for other commodities?

Look at the lives of the super-rich, who set the pace for global consumption. Are their yachts getting smaller? Their houses? Their artworks? Their purchase of rare woods, rare fish, rare stone? Those with the means buy ever bigger houses to store the growing stash of stuff they will not live long enough to use. By unremarked accretions, ever more of the surface of the planet is used to extract, manufacture and store things we don’t need. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that fantasies about colonising space – which tell us we can export our problems instead of solving them – have resurfaced.

As the philosopher Michael Rowan points out, the inevitabilities of compound growth mean that if last year’s predicted global growth rate for 2014 (3.1%) is sustained, even if we miraculously reduced the consumption of raw materials by 90%, we delay the inevitable by just 75 years. Efficiency solves nothing while growth continues.

The inescapable failure of a society built upon growth and its destruction of the Earth’s living systems are the overwhelming facts of our existence. As a result, they are mentioned almost nowhere. They are the 21st century’s great taboo, the subjects guaranteed to alienate your friends and neighbours. We live as if trapped inside a Sunday supplement: obsessed with fame, fashion and the three dreary staples of middle-class conversation: recipes, renovations and resorts. Anything but the topic that demands our attention.

Statements of the bleeding obvious, the outcomes of basic arithmetic, are treated as exotic and unpardonable distractions, while the impossible proposition by which we live is regarded as so sane and normal and unremarkable that it isn’t worthy of mention. That’s how you measure the depth of this problem: by our inability even to discuss it.

Twitter: @georgemonbiot. A fully referenced version of this article can be found at Monbiot.com

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Some solutions:

Given the political will, and the will of the people, one solution provided by the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)  is in reducing our demand for energy in the West (by 60% in the UK) alongside the elimination of fossil fuel use. A model of how this would look in the UK is illustrated  in their ZeroCarbonBritain2030 report which demonstrates that it CAN be done without going back to the Stone Age, or “the lights going out”.

A change in our economic system could involve the  transition to a steady state economy. This could be supported by citizen’s income or basic income, which would protect us from the the effects of zero growth, provide security, and enough to cover basic needs. It would also remove the stigma associated with claiming benefits, as well as removing obstacles to work. Citizen’s income is part of Green Party economic policy and will be included in the Green Party 2015 manifesto. We also have policies to reform the monetary system and the banks, explanation of which I will leave to a future contributor in an upcoming blog.

At a global level, many of these solutions acknowledge our need to be fair to poorer people and poorer countries; the CAT model takes into account our historical responsibility as an industrial nation; estimating an energy budget which would allow greater flexibility to poorer countries who have been left behind.  The Green Party has a policy called “contraction and convergence” which basically means that rich countries would be encouraged to consume less, and be given a smaller budget for CO2, allowing poor countries to develop and consume more, until everyone is at a similar level.  However we need not fear that we will ourselves be reduced to poverty.  In the context of  reaching a sustainable level globally, Patrick Curry, author of “Ecological Ethics” says:

“In principle, there would be no need to choose between social injustice and ecological suicide if the wealthy minority [those in the West, other than people living in poverty or on lower  incomesmy words] were to reduce their consumption – and only to a level which would still enable a reasonably comfortable “European lifestyle” (at the modest end of the spectrum) while the majority increase theirs enough to permit the same”.

However, as George Monbiot argues, we need to start by recognising the problem. Until we do, little progress will be made in discussing solutions and avoiding devastating actions of Ecocide, as described in the article, with consequences on humanity as well.

 

March 31, 2014

Press Release: Time is running out to reject Lodge Hill development say Medway Greens

Medway Green Party calls for rejection of new plans for development at Lodge Hill.

Medway residents have been given until 15th April 2014 to send responses to a public consultation on a resubmitted planning application to build 5,000 houses at Lodge Hill.

Trish Marchant, Medway Green Party, says:

“This proposed development is bad for wildlife and bad for local people. Medway Council have argued that local democracy has been overridden by the SSSI ruling, but the fact is that there is already huge objection to these plans from neighbouring residents. Residents, who have replied so far to the consultation, are against it at a ratio of nearly 300 to 5.  Thus if Medway Council allowed this development to go ahead,  not only would it be turning a blind eye to the threat to other species (with 60% of UK wildlife species in decline – largely due to building on wildlife habitats) but they would be laughing in the face of local democracy.”

The SSSI designation recognises Lodge Hill as an important site as it supports the UK’s largest nightingale population which could be destroyed if the development happens. Though alternative sites have been identified by Medway Council, the developers are arguing that no alternative site can provide the ‘unique benefits’ of Lodge Hill and the loss of the nightingales’ home can be compensated elsewhere.  One suggested site for relocation of the nightingales is Shoeburyness in Essex.

Trish comments:

“The developers (and Medway Council who are in favour of this development) do not appear to have considered the practical difficulties of relocating the birds. The RSPB have stated that existing bird populations do not move on to other areas, but return to their existing habitats which would be blighted by this development. If this planning permission goes through it could set a damaging precedent for all other SSSIs in the country”.

Along with the nightingales, Kent Wildlife Trust has highlighted that the area homes a number of badger sets, six species of bats, lizards, grass snakes, adders, slow worms, newts, frogs, toads and rare insects, including the shrill carder bumblebee. It also contains ancient semi‐natural woodland, which cannot be replaced, and unimproved neutral grassland which is the single most threatened type of grassland in the UK.

Trish adds:

“Even if we didn’t care about the devastation to local wildlife, and extinction of other species, it is unlikely that this development would address local housing needs. Instead it is more likely to provide expensive and inaccessible out of town housing that is out of reach for the majority of people who already live in Medway. This would be particularly unhelpful to young people in the area struggling to find an affordable home”.

“Rather than building new towns for people outside Medway, in locations that destroy local natural habitats and their dependent wildlife, affordable housing should be built in areas that would give local people greater access to green spaces.”

Responses to the public consultation can be sent to the Planning Officer by letter or email quoting Application Number MC/11/2516. The address to write to is: Carly Stoddart, Development Control, Medway Council, Gun Wharf, Dock Road, Chatham, Kent, ME4 4TR or email: planning.representations@medway.gov.uk.

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ENDS

Notes for editor:

Information gathered from:

Natural England: http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/Images/lodge-hill-meeting-paper-11march2012_tcm6-35509.pdf

Kent Wildlife Trust: http://www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/

RSPB: http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/casework/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-317476

State of Nature report: http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/stateofnature_tcm9-345839.pdf

March 28, 2014

The fate of the Lodge Hill nightingales is in our hands

***Thoughts  of a Medway Green Party member***

We have the power to decide their fate.  That in itself is perhaps too much power. What happens to the Lodge Hill nightingales is in our hands, or, more correctly, in the hands of those who decide for us – the local Council. The local Council have the power to make decisions for those who have no power in the political process at all – the wildlife themselves. They can, if they wish, decide to obliterate the homes of other species, and contribute to that species dying out, as they have nowhere to live anymore, or, at least, they lack the capacity to move to another site 30 miles away.

Notwithstanding that national processes might get in the way, being as the Lodge Hill site has been designated as having special scientific interest (even that suggests that these birds, and the site that they make their home is deemed of consequence only if we find it interesting enough).

We tend to look for concrete arguments to reject the development, and there are plenty, but somehow they don’t go quite far enough to express what is really at stake. Perhaps what is really at stake can only be expressed by poets, though Chris Sams went some way to doing it in his excellent article here.

Thus we currently have the RSPB  arguing, quite rightly, that a decision to go ahead with the development would be in conflict with the government’s “flagship” National Planning Policy Framework.  This policy, the RSPB points out, contains “important tests” to ensure that special places are only damaged where there really is no alternative, and the need for development clearly outweighs the impact on the SSSI and on the national network of SSSIs”.  This argument is well made as Medway Council have, indeed, identified alternative sites for the development, though it is unclear where these sites are.

However, this only goes some way to deflecting the problem, without dealing with the crux of the issue. The phrase “clearly outweighs” is vague; “clearly outweighs” in whose opinion and on what basis? The phrase “no alternative” can also be called into question.  In this context it is more likely to mean “no alternative site for us to concrete over”, rather than “no alternative way to live”.  We can definitely assume that it represents no alternative to the mindset that places us above nature, a mindset that always puts our wants and supposed needs first.  This often follows even if the interpretation of those needs is constructed on questionable grounds, such as the need to encourage entrepreneurs to the area (trickle-down economics) or to encourage economic growth.

And, perhaps, I will become cloying here (apologies) but it is in an effort to express a sense of loss which I think underlies some of the political battles to conserve our natural environment; a sense which I guess is expressed between the lines in the State of Nature report, a report which demonstrated that 60% of UK species are in decline; a sense of loss which is difficult to demonstrate in political battles that focus on concrete arguments, and can perhaps be better encouraged and expressed through wonderful photos, art, poetry and music.

When the world becomes silent apart from the noise of cars and power tools, pop songs in shopping malls and the chatter of other people; when the birdsong that greets us each morning, and as dusk falls – an experience which allows us to contemplate that we share this world with other forms of life; that the world has other priorities as well as our own; that it is bigger and more important than we are; when this experience of nature becomes a distant memory, preserved only on audio-recordings, or in books, and videos, will it be a better world? We do, at least, know that it is likely to be too late to change our minds.

Thanks for listening, Carrie

 

March 24, 2014

RSPB call for help in protecting Lodge Hill’s Nightingales

We have until 12 noon on 28th March 2014 to respond to a short consultation organised by Medway Council on a resubmitted planning application,  This application is to build 5,000 houses, and associated infrastructure on the former military base at Lodge Hill. Lodge Hill is a designated protected area as a “Site of Special Scientific Interest” (SSSI) due to its large population of breeding nightingales.

Medway Council did withdraw their strategy following the decision by Natural England to uphold the SSSI and protect Lodge Hill from development, but they continue to support plans to build on Lodge Hill, and now the developer have updated and resubmitted their planning application.  Though alternative sites have been identified by Medway Council, the developers are arguing that no alternative site can provide the ‘unique benefits’ of Lodge Hill and the loss of the nightingales’ home can be compensated elsewhere.Medway Green Party comment:

“The developers (and Medway Council who are in favour of this development) do not appear to have considered the practical difficulties of relocating the birds. The RSPB have stated that existing bird populations do not move on to other areas, but return to their existing habitats which would be blighted by this development. If this planning permission goes through it could set a damaging precedent for all other SSSIs in the country”.

“It is also unlikely that this development would address local housing needs. Instead it is likely to provide expensive and inaccessible out of town housing that is out of reach for the majority of people who already live in Medway. This would be particularly unhelpful to young people in the area struggling to find an affordable home”.

“Rather than building new towns for people outside Medway, in locations that destroy local natural habitats and their dependent wildlife, affordable housing should be built in areas that would give local people greater access to Green spaces.”

Please support our local wildlife, and local residents by responding to this consultation.  Further information provided by the RSPB can be found here.

Responses to this planning application can be sent by letter or email quoting Application Number MC/11/2516.  The address to write to is: Carly Stoddart, Development Control, Medway Council, Gun Wharf, Dock Road, Chatham, Kent, ME4 4TR or email: planning.representations@medway.gov.uk.

Thank you.