One of Britain’s most iconic birds, celebrated by the likes of Shakespeare and Keats, could be wiped out on the Hoo Peninsula by the development of a 5,000-home estate, a charity has warned.
RSPB said if Medway Council allowed plans for a new town at Lodge Hill near Chattenden to go ahead the future of more than 80 nightingales looked bleak.
This is despite developer Land Securities saying it would create new habitats.
The charity’s warning followed a survey which found numbers have doubled in the last decade to 150 on the Hoo Peninsula, making the area one of the birds’ strongholds.
Key sites include Lodge Hill and the area between Higham, Cliffe and the RSPB’s reserve at Northward Hill.
And with 84 males at Lodge Hill, the charity outlined the site as one of the most important in the country for the species, which is declining drastically nationally.
Director for the RSPB’s south east region Chris Corrigan said the damaging plans should be withdrawn.
“Most of the nightingales are found in the proposed development site, a development that would wipe out their habitat,” he said.
“Recreational disturbance and predation by domestic pets mean the remaining nightingales in the adjacent Chattenden Woods Site of Special Scientific Interest would be very badly affected.”
Developer Land Securities wants to build a new town at the former army base on land north off the A228 at Chattenden.
It would include up to 5,000 new homes with community facilities such as schools and new roads.
The developer stressed the masterplan proposals were woven into the existing landscape and that parts would be enhanced, preserved and protected.
They said they would also create new nightingale habitats both on and off site.
But despite these proposed measures, the RSPB objected strongly to the development at a recent inquiry and called on Medway Council to turn down the plans.
A date is due to be set for the authority’s planning committee to determine the application.
Mr Corrigan said: “The developers have claimed they can create new habitat for nightingales, but this is untried and untested – we simply should not be taking a risk with somewhere this important.”
“We find it astonishing that a site that is so important for a rapidly declining species is earmarked for development.
“This place is one of the natural wonders of Kent; the nightingale was celebrated by Keats and Shakespeare and should be protected for the inspiration of future generations.”
Development director for Land Securities Stephen Neal said a significant amount of time and resources had been dedicated to undertaking a range of ecological surveys.
“These studies have enhanced our understanding of the local wildlife and enabled us to bring forward a comprehensive and robust strategy of mitigation in line with national guidance,” he said.
“Creating a vibrant and diverse environment for wildlife is integral to our vision for Lodge Hill, which is why we have prepared a comprehensive mitigation strategy for the site that addresses all potential impacts associated with our proposals.
“This includes the protection of existing woodland, the creation of new nightingale habitats both on and off site linked to the phased 20-year construction programme, and a management plan designed to monitor, manage and enhance the habitats’ ecological value in the long-term. Considered together, these measures represent an opportunity to secure significant enhancements for the existing nightingale population.
“As the Defence Infrastructure Organisation delivery partner we take our responsibility to preserve and protect the wildlife on site very seriously.
“We are in an ongoing dialogue with all parties who share our desire to see the nightingale continue to play a prominent role in Kent landscape, and as we move through the planning process we look forward to refining the details to enable this to be achieved.”
Article first appeared in Kent News