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RSPB says garden village for Marden could threaten country's turtle dove population

Maidstone council is considering a number of sites to build a "garden community."

One proposal is for 2,000 new homes in Marden .

Turtle doves are at home in Marden Photo: John Smith
Turtle doves are at home in Marden Photo: John Smith

Not surprisingly, existing Marden residents are incensed and have formed the Marden Planning Opposition Group to lobby against the proposals.

Recently, the group has found a new ally - the turtle dove.

Turtle doves are a migratory species, spending their summers in England, nesting and breeding.

But turtle doves are in rapid decline and are now one of the red-listed endangered species.

It turns out that Marden is one of 12 zones in Kent identified by the RSPB as being the best habitats for turtle doves and the charity has been working hard in the Marden area to conserve the species and to count and record breeding pairs as part of its Operation Turtle Dove project.

Claudine Russell, chairman of the Marden Opposition Group
Claudine Russell, chairman of the Marden Opposition Group

Nicole Khan, RSPB turtle dove conservation advisor, who heads up the operation in the area, said: “We have been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of passion and enthusiasm there has been within the Marden community to save this iconic species.

"From farmers creating areas of feeding habitat (in most cases on a voluntary basis) to local people carrying out breeding bird surveys to help us monitor the turtle dove population in and around Marden."

But said Miss Khan: "We do have concerns that this great work could be undermined with the proposed 2,000 homes in Marden.

"We believe that this could potentially lead to habitat fragmentation as well as increasing disturbance to turtle doves.

"The RSPB is committed to continue its work to save turtle doves in Marden and across Kent.”

RSPB advisor Nicole Khan
RSPB advisor Nicole Khan

The Marden Planning Opposition Group argues that an extra 2,000 houses will irrevocably harm the countryside and its wildlife and "crush the village of Marden."

Chairman Claudine Russell said: “Wildlife and environmental sites are proven to be interlinked and such is the character of the interconnecting network of hedges, field ditches, ponds and in line trees that are intrinsically characteristic of the Low Weald.

"A development of this size immediately adjacent to one of the sites for Operation Turtle Dove will cause irrevocable harm to this species.

"Given how much everyone has been enjoying the countryside and wildlife since we have been in lockdown, will a vast housing estate badged as a garden village be worth the potential loss of turtle doves in the area?”

The group is urging all Maidstone residents to lobby their local councillors "to save the turtle dove - and Marden."

Helen Grant MP joins a group of protesters
Helen Grant MP joins a group of protesters

Mrs Russell said: “We are not against all development, but the scale of this particular proposal is out of all proportion to our village and its infrastructure."

In May last year , nearly 2,000 people marched through Marden in protest at the garden village proposals.

But Covid regulations on social gatherings have prevented the group organising further protests this year.

The village has already absorbed more than 570 new homes since 2013, representing an increase of a third in the number of dwellings.

For information about Marden Planning Opposition Group, click here .

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