Nightingales prompt legal battle from Kent council over blocked housing development

Medway District Council will mount a formal challenge to Natural England's decision to declare proposed site for 5,000 homes a protected area

A A A

The case of a major new housing development being threatened by a population of nightingales, reported in The Independent yesterday, is to become a legal battle.

Medway District Council in Kent is to mount a formal challenge to the decision by Natural England, the Government’s wildlife agency, to declare the site for 5,000 proposed new homes a protected area because of the nightingales that nest there.

On Wednesday Natural England announced that Lodge Hill near Chattenden in Kent, a disused army site, had been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)  because its population of more than 80 nightingales makes it the best breeding site in Britain for the bird, which is rapidly declining.

The SSSI designation of Lodge Hill will make it much harder for the council to proceed with its development there, which is in effect to be a new town, costing hundreds of millions of pounds and expected to provide up to 5,000 jobs. And yesterday the Tory-controlled council took up the challenge.

 “We will be opposing Natural England’s decision to notify Lodge Hill as a SSSI,” said  Councillor Jane Chitty, Portfolio Holder Economic Growth and Strategic Development. “This brownfield site is key to our core development plan in providing homes and services for our expanding local population.

“The Prime Minister has repeatedly stated how important localism is and this decision by a national Quango completely rides roughshod over this publicly stated aim. We will be looking to meet with Ministers and reverse this ill-considered decision so that we can move forward with delivering the homes that local families urgently require.”

She added: “The fact that Natural England have announced that this site will become a SSSI, so as to provide a summer residence for around 80 migrating birds rather than future houses for 5,000 local families, will no doubt send shockwaves through all local planning authorities, housing developers and ministers.

“We need to be able to develop and deliver affordable homes to meet the housing needs of this country. After all, property is already very expensive and young people are already finding it very, very difficult to get on to the property ladder.”

In announcing its decision on Wednesday, Natural England said of Lodge Hill: “It is one of the most important sites for nightingales in the UK. Natural England’s executive board therefore has a legal duty to designate it as a SSSI.”

The nightingale is one of the world’s most celebrated birds, famed for the song which the males sing in the middle of the night to attract females, from mid-April to June, after their migratory return from Africa. But in Britain it has dropped in numbers by more than 50 per cent since 1995, and by more than 90 per cent since 1970.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us