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Lodge Hill developers Land Securities plan to move nightingales to Shoeburyness after Natural England rule area Site of Special Scientific Interest

By Chris Price

Developers behind plans for 5,000 homes in Medway have suggested moving a nightingale population 14 miles away after their habitat was protected last year.

Land Securities have made no changes to their masterplan for Lodge Hill on the Hoo Peninsula, except outlining proposals to create new grasslands for the birds in Shoeburyness, Essex.

In November, the housing scheme was thrown into doubt when large parts of the proposed development were deemed Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by Natural England.

Land Securities have proposed moving the nightingale population at Lodge Hill to Essex

However, this does not mean the land cannot be developed but only that efforts must be taken to mitigate any impact on the environment.

Land Securities development director Tom Venner said: "We will provide a purpose-built larger area of land than the birds have over here, which is suitable to accommodate the current nightingale population.

"Nightingales thrive in locations like that. They thrive in Lodge Hill and will continue to thrive there. We are minimising the impact."

Yet the proposal to move the birds to the 264-acre new habitat on MOD-owned land across the Thames was derided by many residents who attended an exhibition at Chattenden Community Centre.

Where developers propose moving the nightingale population

Carol Sales, 45, of Lodge Hill Lane, said: "How do you relocate birds? They said you cannot move the birds when they were proposing the airport in the estuary so to say it now is contradictory."

"Nightingales thrive in locations like that. They thrive in Lodge Hill and will continue to thrive there..." - Development director Tom Venner

Dean Sales, 43, said: "They won't start building the habitat until Lodge Hill has already started. It may take up to eight years before it's ready so what happens to the birds in the meantime?"

Jonathan Farrow, 50, of Christmas Lane, High Halstow, said: "I don't see how it would work, but I'm not a bird expert. It's an odd one."

Michael Puxty, 64, of Wall Close, Hoo, said: "It's just a fudge. They don't care about what's up there."

Peninsula ward Cllr Phil Filmer said: "I'm not convinced you can do it. No one has ever proved you can do it as far as I'm aware."

The environmental mitigation by Land Securities also includes creating various other habitats nearby including an 86 hectare environment adjacent to the development for animals such as gold-crested newts.

The proposed site for the Lodge Hill development

The original application for outline planning permission was submitted in November 2011. It has never been determined or withdrawn.

Land Securities aims to deliver the project over a 15 to 20-year period, with a target of laying the first brick by early 2016.

The revised application, with details of the new environmental considerations, can be seen at www.medway.gov.uk with reference number MC/11/2516.

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