Published: 06:00, 12 January 2021
| Updated: 13:29, 13 January 2021
Habitats for rare birds will be put at risk should plans to extend a caravan holiday park be given the go-ahead, the RSPB fears.
The charity, which manages the Seasalter Local Nature Reserve, believes the siting of 91 extra caravans at the Alberta complex will cause "significant effects" to the thriving bird population.
Park Holidays, the nationwide firm operating Alberta, has lodged plans for the additional holiday homes as well as a new playground area and sports zone.
The proposal has sparked fears that, combined with the huge Cleve Hill solar farm being approved on the opposite side of the nature reserve, Seasalter's allure as a bird haven will be put at great risk.
In 2019, Park Holidays failed to secure permission for an expansion of 143 holiday homes after concerns were raised about the impact on local ecology and wildlife.
That number has since been whittled down to 91, but the RSPB continues to hold reservations due to predicted impact on the 560-acre nature reserve.
While the the proposed expansion does not touch the neighbouring reserve, the charity says birds regularly forage on the land earmarked for development.
Seasalter is one of the prime spots in the UK to see the "vulnerable" curlew, which is Europe's largest wading bird.
In its objection, the RSPB states: "A development of this type and the recreational activity associated with it, would encroach on the nature reserve and negatively impact on its ecological value.
"The reserve is managed for the benefit of, among other things, birds of conservation concern, including groundnesting birds such as lapwing, redshank and skylark.
"Breeding waders in particular are vulnerable to disturbance and require open landscapes. This proposal would reduce the existing 'buffer' around the edge of the reserve and reduce its ecological value."
In their plans however, developers say there will there would be "no adverse concerns regarding ecology and/or protected species" as a result of the scheme.
They say surveys identified nine species with breeding territories on the site, "all of which were located in hedgerows or marginal swamp habitats, with the majority along site boundaries".
There are already 332 static caravans on the current Alberta site - the majority of which are privately-owned.
The extra 91 would be installed on land opposite Lucerne Drive, next to Bridge Country & Leisure Park.
Park Holidays previously stated the extra capacity would be "good news for Kent's tourism economy, and the many local businesses which depend wholly or in part on visitor spending."
It also stressed the expansion is in response to the "huge and unprecedented demand" for staycation holidays in the past year.
Meanwhile, objector Dr Edmund Lamb said: "The plot lies on marshland which is a vital habitat for wildlife and near to a Ramsar site.
"Many endangered species are found in this area including marsh harriers and bearded tits.
"The Seasalter and adjacent marshland is under immense pressure due to the solar farm being built at Cleve Hill and it is vital that further development of this precious habitat is prevented."
To view the application, go Canterbury City Council's planning portal and search CA//19/00707.