Published: 13:12, 02 October 2021
| Updated: 15:20, 04 October 2021
Environmental campaigners and residents gathered at protected marshland to take a stand against plans to build a Disneyland-style theme park.
The proposed London Resort development would result in the loss of large swathes of Swanscombe Marshes - and it was there that around 100 people gathered this morning to protest against the plans.
Environmental groups Buglife, RSPB, Kent Wildlife Trust, CPRE Kent and Save Swanscombe Peninsula were all in attendance, and representatives spoke about the value of the marshes before a guided walk.
Dubbed the "UK's answer to Disneyland", the proposed £2.5bn theme park would feature rollercoasters and a dinosaur-themed “prehistoric nature reserve”.
The plans, which need to be approved by the government, would see the park built on 465 hectares of land between Dartford and Gravesend, and those behind it anticipate it would generate £50 billion over an initial 25 year period.
But campaigners say it would 'concrete-over' 100 hectares of marshland - which would be one of the largest-ever losses of designated habitat in England.
Swanscombe Marshes are home to more than 2,000 species of invertebrates, with 200 listed as rare or scarce, including the rare distinguished jumping spider.
Rare plants such as the Man orchid are also found at the site, which also provides habitat for bats, birds - including marsh harriers and bitterns - as well as reptiles and water voles.
Julia Hunt, head of advocacy at Kent Wildlife Trust, said building the London Resort would result in the "biggest single loss of protected wildlife site this country has ever seen".
She added: "Swanscombe Peninsula is one of the most important wildlife sites in the entire country. If this site is lost to development it will be devastating for local people. It has national importance and it sets a terrifying precedent for nature across the UK.
And she said claims that the development would have sustainable and environmentally friendly elements were nonsense.
"This is one of the best wildlife sites in the entire country. The suggestion that you can improve wildlife by concreting over 140 football pitch size worth of the best wildlife site is crazy."
Matt Shardlow, chief executive of the Buglife, added; "The site's been designated an SSSI (site of special scientific interest), so it's been recognised by the government as being of national significance for its biodiversity. We're in the middle of a biodiversity crisis and everyone here has turned up to make the point that this site cannot be destroyed and turned into a funfair.
"They're building on top of an SSSI, they would be destroying 100 hectares of SSSI. That's pretty unprecedented in modern times.
"They can't show that they will restore these habitats. Their plans at the moment do not recreate the sort of high priority specialised habitats that these endangered species are dependent upon.
"No credible ecologist out there believes what they're saying in terms of trying to restore and recreate this unique and valuable habitat."
Dartford Cllr Laura Edie, who represents the Newtown ward, said: "It was an incredible turnout at Saturday's event, with over a hundred people coming along despite the predicted downpours.
"I felt genuinely moved by the passion from all those who attended, and it was wonderful to stand together with not only Buglife, Kent Wildlife Trust, CPRE Kent and RSPB, but also feel the strength of support from the local community and wildlife enthusiasts from across the country.
The Green party member added: "This borough already suffers from some of the worst air quality in the south east and traffic is often at a standstill.
"We simply can not cope with yet more pollution and congestion. The Peninsula is also home to hundreds of local businesses that provide thousands of strong local jobs.
"As an every day person you feel no match for a billionaire corporation, but I am just so proud of the way in which everyone has come together to form a united front against London Resort, to protect our precious Peninsula for the generations who follow us."