My Friday afternoon was pleasantly disturbed by news that the Government has decided to call in for public inquiry an application to build 5000 homes on Lodge Hill, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, in Kent.
Not only did the Government's own statutory advisor, Natural England, seek a call in, but 12,400 people contacted ministers to express their outrage and condemnation that the nation's finest nightingale site had been considered for development without public scrutiny.
I am delighted that the Government has listened to these concerns, and has reached the only logical conclusion. Failure to call in this case would have set an alarming precedent for other SSSIs. I trust they will reach the same conclusion over Rampisham Down SSSI.
Call in means that this case will be examined at the highest level where the full merits and values of the site and associated issues can be aired.
But, a rather obvious point is that the battle is not over. We still have to win at public inquiry.
Through an inquiry we hope and expect that this development will be rejected and the future of this Site of Special Scientific Interest will be secured. North Kent's housing need must proceed without impacting on nationally-important wildlife sites. As I will show on Monday, it is possible to build houses with nature in mind and I hope other local authorities and developers take note.
There is huge solidarity amongst the conservation community on this case as there is over Rampisham Down. As we continue to support the Wildlife Trusts in Dorset, so the Lodge Hill campaign has been supported by the Kent Wildlife Trust, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation and the Woodland Trust. And that is the way it should be.
Have a great weekend.
That is great news and gives everyone a chance to draw breath and prepare for the public inquiry. Credit is due I would presume,to Mr Pickles for this decision as it would probably have been easy to allow the development to slip through with all the hubub of the general election going on.
However credit is also due to the conservation organisations for "shouting so loudly" on this issue, but especially well done RSPB for leading that "shout" because as you say, Martin, this has serious implications for all SSSIs.
"Fingers crossed" now for Rampisham Down. We must all continue "shouting loudly" for a public inquiry fot this one too.
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