Adder (c) Jason Steel

Adder (c) Jason Steel

Kent Wildlife Trust welcomes the recognition of Lodge Hill – earmarked as a 5,000 home development site – as a nationally important site for wildlife by Natural England, the Government’s advisor on the natural environment.

On 13th March Natural England, the Government’s advisor on the natural environment, notified Chattenden Woods and Lodge Hill on the Hoo Peninsula in Kent as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

SSSIs comprise some of the country’s best wildlife sites, including our most spectacular, important and beautiful habitats, and Natural England has a duty to designate such areas under national legislation that protects them for future generations.

Chattenden Woods, a large area of ancient woodland and grassland, was originally designated as a SSSI in 1984 under the Wildlife & Countryside Act. More recently, investigations into the adjacent Lodge Hill site as part of proposals for a significant housing development, have highlighted that this area is also very important for the same reasons.

The site supports communities of bats (six species), lizards, grass snakes, adders, slow worms, newts, frogs, toads, badgers and rare insects such as the shrill carder-bee.

It has a significant breeding bird population, most notably nightingales, which were found to be widespread across the proposed development site, and the new SSSI supports at least 1.3% of the national population of this declining species. The new SSSI encompasses the old SSSI and the important areas of Lodge Hill.

Greg Hitchcock, Thames Gateway Officer for Kent Wildlife Trust, said:

“Kent Wildlife Trust has sought to ensure that the wildlife impact of the proposal to build 5,000 homes was fully understood. The surveys prove the importance of the site and the adjacent SSSI for wildlife. It wasn’t until an outline planning application was submitted, and the results of the 2012 British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) nightingale survey became available that the true value of the site became known. It became clear that development of the site could not be undertaken without massive damage to the environment.”

Interested parties have been given until 15th July 2013 to make representations supporting or objecting to the new notification.