Deangate Development threat to Lodge Hill

“We all know how important the protection of the Lodge Hill SSSI is.

Beccy Speight RSPB CEO writes about the Hoo Peninsula in response to a concerned High Halstow resident.

“The Hoo Peninsula is a really important place for the RSPB.  We have been managing nature reserves in the area since 1953 and have fought some considerable battles to save it from harmful developments (you may recall the ‘No Airport at Cliffe’ campaign).  Once again, you’re absolutely right, it is at risk.  Across the South East we are seeing high levels of house building and, although we understand the demand for housing, we need to make sure that the right homes are put in the right places.  In the case of the Hoo Peninsula, we are facing a lot of housing proposed to be built in a very sensitive location, being near to both Lodge Hill and the Thames Estuary and Marshes.

At this stage of the process, from our perspective, the priority is to make sure that the planning authority, Medway Council, understands the potential impact of the proposed housing on nature and to ensure that any Biodiversity Net Gain and mitigation work will truly deliver.  We have been making this clear to Medway as they collate what they call a ‘cumulative ecological impact assessment’.  We have also been talking to High Halstow and Hoo parish councillors to keep them in the loop with this process and to help them develop their own response.

A big problem with housing development, we find, is that it is often delivered in a developer-influenced and non-strategic way, which in Kent has led to a gradual erosion of open countryside and poor outcomes for nature.  The award of a Housing Infrastructure Fund grant for Medway gives some hope of a more joined-up solution.  However, there is still a big risk that we are left with an over-developed and nature-depleted landscape on the Hoo.  Because of this, we have been very clear with Medway about our expectations and will continue to assess the proposals to ensure they deliver for nature.

We were asked by Medway to support their application to the Housing Infrastructure Fund but declined to do so.  Instead, we wrote outlining our concerns.  Because it is usually more effective to have a positive influence on a potentially damaging development early on in the planning process, we often try to engage with local authorities in some way.  Unfortunately this can be misconstrued as support.  However, I can assure you that our interest is in saving nature on the Hoo Peninsula in the face of a development threat and we will continue to take the action required to deliver that interest.” (Beccy Speight CEO RSPB)

For us, the crux of the matter is that Lodge Hill Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is meant to be protected. As far as we can see, the national planning guidance is clear – SSSIs are a last resort for development. We fought the airport campaigns on the basis that it would destroy sites of national and international importance. And Medway Council fought with us, shoulder to shoulder.

That’s why we’re so disappointed that the Council seems so determined to destroy Lodge Hill SSSI. It would actually be an own goal, for if they set this precedent and weaken the protection afforded to protected sites, we will all have less chance to save other protected places in future. And we all lose something that makes Medway special.

The bottom line is that if Medway Council allocates Lodge Hill, then nowhere is safe.

However, we understand that the human population of Medway is growing, and there is great pressure to find space for housing, especially affordable housing. And we realise it is very inconvenient that this MoD site, hidden away for over 100 years, should turn out to have secret treasures that were never going to come to light until someone was allowed to look.

But the nightingales and the rare meadows ARE there. Medway Council needs to accept it, be proud of it, and come up with a Plan B for Lodge Hill, something that looks after the nightingales and offers something good for the people of Medway and beyond.”

In 2018 Medway Council announced the closure of Deangate Ridge Golf Course which is directly adjacent to lodge Hill and contains a portion of the Lodge Hill SSSI.

Late in January 2021 Medway released its HIF consultation “New Routes to Good Growth in which they propose to build a new relief road through Deangate Ridge and separately consider the proposal of ‘Parkland living” on Deangate.

The people of the Hoo Peninsula are once again standing up for themselves in their loss of Public amenity and Stand up for Nature in demanding that Deangate Ridge be designated a Country park.

Will you join the Deangate Community Partnership who hold Deangate as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) under s.89 of the Localism Act in signing a petition to save Deangate.