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Home   Medway   News   Article

Medway Council withdraws core strategy after Lodge Hill, Chattenden, confirmed as Site of Special Scientific Interest because of nightingales

03 December 2013
by Alan McGuinness

Six years and £35 million later, Medway Council has decided to rip up its housing strategy and start again.

It comes in the wake of Lodge Hill in Chattenden being confirmed as a site of Special Scientific Interest by Natural England

The decision, made at the end of last month, is the final nail in the coffin for plans to build a new town of 5,000 homes on the former army base.

The former Lodge Hill Army base, Chattenden

The former Lodge Hill Army base, Chattenden

It would have hosted a third of the Towns’ housing up to 2026.

The following day the council decided to throw out its core strategy, which sets out what development will take place in the Towns.

The area was declared Britain’s most important nightingale habitat at the start of the year, after a survey revealed 84 singing male nightingales use the site for three months a year.

Views of the former Lodge Hill army camp, Lodge Hill Lane, Chattenden

Views of the former Lodge Hill army camp, Lodge Hill Lane, Chattenden

The site has been combined with SSSI land at neighbouring Chattenden Woods to form Chattenden Woods and Lodge Hill SSSI.

It is the first in Britain to have the nightingales as one of its notified features.

SSSIs are the country's very best wildlife and geological sites.

Views of the former Lodge Hill army camp, Lodge Hill Lane, Chattenden

Views of the former Lodge Hill army camp, Lodge Hill Lane, Chattenden

Views of the former Lodge Hill army camp, Lodge Hill Lane, Chattenden

Views of the former Lodge Hill army camp, Lodge Hill Lane, Chattenden

As the government’s conservation adviser, Natural England has a duty to say when it considers an area of land is of special interest for its flora, fauna, geological or geographical features.

The decision will be difficult one for the council to stomach.

Leader Cllr Rodney Chambers (Con) bemoaned the "surprising and frustrating 11th hour" recommendation of a planning inspector for the council to withdraw the document.

Cllr Chambers found it especially galling because the ruling came whilst the consultation on the SSSI at Lodge Hill was ongoing.

The core strategy, the previous version of which was also declared unsound in 2007, cost taxpayers £27m.

Medway Council spent £2m drawing it up and the government’s Homes and Communities Agency spent £25m acquiring the land at Lodge Hill from the Ministry of Defence.

Housing developer Land Securities spent £8m on the blueprints.

Former Lodge Hill army camp, Lodge Hill Lane, Chattenden. Houses formerly used by people stationed at the Royal Naval Armament Depot. They were later used for urban warfare training during the Irish troubles

Former Lodge Hill army camp, Lodge Hill Lane, Chattenden. Houses formerly used by people stationed at the Royal Naval Armament Depot. They were later used for urban warfare training during the Irish troubles

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