Save Swanscombe Marshes

Tagged with: Casework status: Open Casework type: Construction Site designations: SSSI

Overview

1184 x 395 Swanscombe_Aug2015_DGreenwood_hi-res-8-C-Daniel-Greenwood-1024x678 (003).jpg

Photo credit: Daniel Greenwood 

The London Resort is a proposed theme park on Swanscombe Marshes, a nationally important wildlife site on the River Thames.

In March 2021, Natural England notified the Swanscombe Peninsula as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This recognises its national importance for breeding birds, invertebrates, plants and geological features.

As well as its significant biodiversity, Swanscombe is a precious green space for local residents.

Dubbed as the 'UK Disneyland' the proposed London Resort now threatens this vital greenspace, and the wildlife that call it home. The development could lead to one of the largest ever losses of designated habitat in England.

Map

Why is it worth fighting for?

The Swanscombe Peninsula in North Kent is home to a remarkable mosaic of grasslands, coastal habitats, scrub and intricate wetlands.

The exceptional range of breeding birds at Swanscombe is comparable to some of the best sites in England- a testament to the rich array of habitats. The variety of scrub is home to nightingales, cuckoos, and the elusive grasshopper warbler. Ducks like shoveler and pochard breed in the ditches, whilst marsh harriers rely on the reedbeds, and grey herons breed in the secluded copse. In a few places, derelict buildings from previous developments even provide important spaces for rare birds such as black redstarts.

The diverse habitats at Swanscombe also support an extraordinary variety of invertebrates including; the endangered Duffey’s bell-head spider, brown-banded carder bee, saltmarsh shortspur beetle, and the orange-striped water beetle. The site is also one of only two sites in the country that is home to the critically endangered distinguished jumping spider. Over 2,000 species of invertebrates have been recorded at Swanscombe, double the number at our Canvey Wick reserve, which was designated as a SSSI in 2005 for that very reason.

Swanscombe Peninsula is also home to rare plants such as the Man orchid as well as bats, reptiles and water voles.

The recent notification of the Swanscombe Peninsula as a SSSI is a recognition of its status as a nationally important wildlife site.

As well as its importance to today's wildlife, Swanscombe plays a significant role for local people as a precious greenspace. On the fringes of an increasingly congested city, green spaces are vital for people’s recreation and well-being, something that became increasingly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A coalition of environmental Non-Government Organisations alongside 77 senior figures from conservation groups and public bodies supported the rationale for the site’s SSSI designation.

We want to ensure this important site is safeguarded for people and wildlife.

How you can help

We need your help to secure the future of this outstanding site for wildlife. Please help by signing Buglife's #SaveSwanscombe petition.

Our position

The RSPB, together with Kent Wildlife Trust is actively supporting Buglife’s campaign to save Swanscombe Marshes.

We do not believe that Swanscombe Marshes is a suitable location for the proposed London Resort.

We strongly support the notification of Swanscombe Peninsula as a SSSI for its nationally important wildlife. SSSIs represent the best of England’s natural heritage and play a fundamental role in conserving and reversing declines of priority habitats and species. When given appropriate weight in decision-making, SSSIs ensure that development and other land-use change does not damage our most important places for wildlife.

However, the London Resort proposal will result in the direct loss of over 100ha of SSSI land (almost 40% of the SSSI). This could lead to one of the largest ever losses of designated habitat in England. In addition to the direct loss of habitat there will be irreparable damage to much more. The proposals will also negatively impact many other sites designated for wildlife including those which fall within the site boundary of the London Resort; Swanscombe Marine Conservation Zone and the Botany Marsh Local Wildlife Site. 

Protection of the most important wildlife sites, like Swanscombe Peninsula, will be crucial to achieving the UK’s national and international commitments to halting and reversing the loss of biodiversity. The London Resort proposals are contrary to the Government’s commitments to create a Nature Recovery Network and to protect 30% of the UK for wildlife by 2030 and would set an alarming precedent for the destruction of designated habitats.

Given the notification of the site as a SSSI we believe the London Resort proposals are inappropriate. There is also widespread public support for protecting the site from development. We are concerned that the London Resort will destroy much of the nationally important habitat of Swanscombe Marshes, removing this site for rare wildlife and local people.

Timeline

  • August 2021
    We expect the Planning Inspector to commence the Examination early in 2022.

  • 5 May 2021
    The Examining Authority exercised its discretion to defer the start of the Examination by four months following a request from the developer.

  • 11 March 2021
    Natural England notified the Swanscombe Peninsula as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

  • 8 February 2021
    Buglife, Kent Wildlife Trust and RSPB write to Natural England presenting the case for Swanscombe Marshes to be protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

  • 28 January 2021
    The Planning Inspectorate accept the developer’s application for examination

  • 4 January 2021
    The Planning Inspectorate acknowledge receipt of the developer’s application.

  • September 2020
    The RSPB and other partners respond to the non-statutory consultation for the proposed London Resort.