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Campaigners' bid for Romney Marsh National Park status

By Sean Axtell

Campaigners are launching a bid for Romney Marsh to be included in a new wave of UK national parks, potentially giving it the highest level of protection.

It comes as environment secretary Michael Gove announced plans for a review of protected areas, to help bolster wildlife, improve visitor access and support people who live and work within them.

Dymchurch Parish councillor Richard Blackwell, who is spearheading the scheme, hopes a successful application will preserve the wetland’s heritage for generations.

View of Dungeness Power station from Lydd Picture : Gary Browne (7551216)
View of Dungeness Power station from Lydd Picture : Gary Browne (7551216)

“It would protect the land from the constant attempts at development, there seems to be a real disconnect between the district and parish council,” he said.

“I think we’d have a real chance of being granted the status, this is the Romney Marsh after all.

“The history is incredibly rich, and it has some of the most diverse flora and fauna in the country.

“We are in the process of getting every parish to agree to this plan.

“This isn’t just for us. It is for our children and their children,” he said.

Sun seekers enjoy the new look sea wall and steps running the length of Dymchuch Beach Picture: Gary Browne (7551341)
Sun seekers enjoy the new look sea wall and steps running the length of Dymchuch Beach Picture: Gary Browne (7551341)

Dungeness is one of Europe’s largest expanses of shingle and the marsh is well-known for its 14 medieval churches and additional ruins.

Peppered with Martello Towers, Napoleonic Forts and sound mirrors, swathes of land are already designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Special Areas of Conservation.

Council leader David Monk is “ambivalent” about the project and urged campaigners “to be careful what you wish for.”

“If you get the status then so many prohibitions come on and you can drive the area into stasis," he said.

“I’m a believer in the democratic process and if they gain enough momentum to go ahead then all power to their elbow.

A view across Romney Marsh. Picture: Margaret Read
A view across Romney Marsh. Picture: Margaret Read

“But I’m against it and people need to think very carefully. They need to be careful what they wish for.”

He added the sparsely populated area coupled with an ageing population could hinder advancements in infrastructure – schools and healthcare etc.

Gove said his review was prompted in the rising population and decline in certain habitats.

The environment secretary launched the probe last year to consider expanding the network of protected areas to “meet our needs in the 21st century”.

Micheal Gove
Micheal Gove

There are 15 national parks in the UK and 62 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

National park authorities are the strategic and planning authorities for their areas.

It means district or unitary councils do not exercise planning control in an area covered by a national park.

To find out what else is going on in Romney Marsh, click here.

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