Plans approved for £2m nature reserve on Hoo Peninsula


Plans for a new £2 million nature reserve have been given the go-ahead on the Hoo Peninsula in Kent despite concerns about loss of farmland.

Medway Council's intention to establish the 'Hoo Wetlands Reserve' on agricultural land in Hoo St Werburgh is essentially mitigation, due to wider plans to build no fewer than 10,600 homes on the peninsula. 

It's expected that £2 million of a £14 million budget for environmental enhancements will go on the 6.5-ha site that is set to stretch from the Medway Estuary and West Hoo Creek to Abbots Court Road to the south of Hoo. It contains part of the Saxon Shore Way, the 262-km coastal footpath connecting Gravesend and Hastings.

A map showing the location of the proposed Hoo Wetlands Reserve (Medway Council).

The council hopes the mix of fresh and saltwater wetland habitat would support wildlife including wildfowl, such as Common Shelduck and Eurasian Teal, Eurasian Skylark, as well as Water Vole. There would be access for pedestrians off Abbots Court Road and the Saxon Shore Way.

The site would feature a ranger's station, a series of bridges and boardwalks to allow people to walk around and information boards detailing Second World War defences including anti-tank cubes and pill boxes.

Councillors discussed the plans at a meeting of the planning committee on Wednesday 8 March [2023]. Ward councillor Ron Sands (Ind) said he disagreed with the plans, saying the lack of parking for cars and cyclists will disturb residents living in nearby roads.

He said: "You can't improve the natural environment by first destroying it. It's a fact that nature knows best; with nature, there's no rush and there's no confusion. This application is both rushed and confused."

Planning committee vice chairman Cllr Chris Buckwell (Con) said: "I'm really sad that Cllr Sands feels like this about the application. I think, overall, this is so positive and innovative. There are vast areas of land on the Peninsula, as we know, and the suggestions made here in this application for what is proposed for this significant site, I think, are exciting."

Cllr Simon Curry (Lab), said he was not overly concerned about the lack of parking as he felt most visitors would be on foot, adding: "I think it's a very exciting project. What's being proposed here is a rewilding project, which we have not had in Medway and that's exciting in its own sense."

The council has already approved its own plan to create a country park between Hoo St Werburgh and Chattenden which will be called Cockham Community Parkland and plans to establish another park neighbouring the MOD land at Lodge Hill.