17/02/2015
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Government calls for public inquiry on Kent Nightingale site

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Nightingale is a species with a limited range in Britain, with Kent and Essex holding most of the breeding pairs. Photo: John Bridges (rspb-images.com).
Nightingale is a species with a limited range in Britain, with Kent and Essex holding most of the breeding pairs. Photo: John Bridges (rspb-images.com).
The Government has called for a public inquiry into the application to build 5,000 homes on England's best Nightingale site, after more than 12,400 people signed a petition against it.

The site of the proposed development is at Lodge Hill, Kent, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and home to 84 pairs of nightingale at the last count. Medway Council's Planning Committee approved a planning application by the Ministry of Defense to build approximately 5,000 homes at Lodge Hill, to widespread criticism from conservationists and many local people.

The RSPB was among the first to express their delight at this turn of events, with Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, commenting: “There has been public outrage and condemnation that a site of national importance for wildlife has been considered for development without public scrutiny. We are delighted that the Government has listened to these concerns, and has reached the only logical conclusion.”

The case will be examined at the highest level, where the full merits and values of the site and associated issues can be aired. Martin Harper added: “Through an inquiry, we hope and expect that this development will be rejected and the future of this SSSI will be secured. The important issue of housing allocation in North Kent should proceed without impacting on nationally-important wildlife sites.”

Lodge Hill is possibly the most important site for Nightingale in England, as well as holding nationally important types of grassland and ancient woodland.

The RSPB led the campaign, which was also supported by the Kent Wildlife Trust, Buglife and the Butterfly Conservation and the Woodland Trust. The campaign petition attracted over 12,400 signatures, and the Government has recognised that public support for the protection of the site was influential in encouraging ministers to decide to call in the decision for public inquiry.
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