This is an urgent appeal for you to give a couple of minutes of your time to add your voice to the campaign to save Lodge Hill and it's nightingales. You only have a few days left to do your bit.
In the last two weeks this campaign has gone from being a local battle to save the only protected area in the country for nightingales, to a national fight to protect all of England’s Sites of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSIs) from the threat of damaging development in the future.
Followers of Martin Harper's blog will know that the RSPB has been campaigning to stop a development of 5000 houses on Chattenden Woods and Lodge Hill SSSI.
This ex-MOD training ground is home to a nationally important population of nightingales (possibly the most important site in the UK for this iconic and declining species), as well as ancient woodland and rare grassland.
Medway Council has made the decision to approve the application from Land Securities, MoD’s delivery partner.
The vote to approve the development goes against the advice of Natural England, the government’s own environmental advisors, as well as a raft of conservation organisations.
It's a shocking decision.
If the development goes ahead it would destroy the SSSI including the home to more than 1% of our national nightingale population. Worse - it would set the terrible precedent for future development. Under the terms of the National Planning Policy Framework (clause 118), there is a presumption against building on SSSIs - our most important wildlife sites. The public benefits from the development need to significantly outweigh the environmental damage. Houses which are important locally must not trump nationally important wildlife sites.
The Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, can ‘call in’ the application and make the decision himself with the national perspective it needs. In effect this would take the decision out of Medway’s hands, and allow it to be made through the rigorous process of a public inquiry.
We’ll be reminding him that if the development goes ahead, it will be one of the largest losses of SSSI land in the country - perhaps the biggest loss since the mid-1990s. This is not what we’d expect from ‘the greenest government ever’. Not only that, but it would be contrary to the Government’s own guidance on developing protected sites.
It is clear that Medway is in need of housing and employment, but these needs should be assessed through a thorough strategic review. Reliance on a single proposal at Lodge Hill is not the answer to providing a sustainable long-term solution.
Please help us tell Eric Pickles why this decision matters across England, and ask him to call it in. You can do so here.
You can catch up with the whole history of the case on our Lodge Hill web pages.
I'm sad to say this is my last day working as Visitor Experience Officer at RSPB Dungeness...I'm very happy to say I am staying with the RSPB however, and will be moving to work at The Lodge as a Visitor Experience Development Officer. I'll definitely be back to visit Dungeness when I can in the future, there aren't many places in the world that are as special as this!
It's been another great week for sightings as autumn brings in more migrants. Up to four great white egrets are now being seen regularly, and the glossy ibis continues to be seen almost every day.
Here are this week's highlights, with the date and location most recently seen:
Garganey – two on ARC on 17th. Red crested pochard – on ARC on 16th. Black-necked grebe – two on ARC on 16th. Bittern – one at Christmas Dell hide on 17th. Great white egret – two at Hookers ramp and one at ARC on 19th. Glossy ibis – one at ARC on 18th. Merlin – one over Hooker’s viewing ramp on 18th. Hobby – over reserve on 17th. Avocet – two on ARC on 14th. Golden plover – on ARC on 16th. Dunlin – on Burrowes on 15th. Ruff – eight at ARC on 14th. Snipe – eight at ARC on 17th. Black-tailed godwit – on Burrowes on 18th. Bar-tailed godwit – at ARC on 13th. Curlew – on Burrowes on 15th. Spotted redshank – three on Burrowes on 9th. Greenshank – one on Burrowes on 16th. Common sandpiper – on Burrowes 17th. Water rail – one at ARC on 11th. Kingfisher – one at Denge Marsh on 16th. Swallow – over Burrowes on 13th. Sand martin – over reserve on 10th. Yellow wagtail – flock on entrance track on 18th. Grey wagtail – at Denge Marsh on 10th. Yellowhammer – three on Discovery Trail on 18th. Bearded tit – at Scott hide on 18th. Meadow pipit – on entrance track on 17th. Wheatear – on entrance track on 19th. Whinchat – at Denge Marsh on 16th. Lesser whitethroat – three at ARC on 11th . Spotted flycatcher – on Willow trail on 14th. Raven – at Denge Marsh on 15th
Enjoy the weekend, let's hope this beautiful weather continues!