Med­way Coun­cil pro­poses build­ing new homes on im­por­tant nightin­gale habi­tat.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Agenda - James Fair

Bri­tain’s most im­por­tant nightin­gale pop­u­la­tion is still at risk after Med­way Coun­cil in Kent pub­lished a new draft Lo­cal Plan that des­ig­nates the area where they nest as be­ing suit­able for new hous­ing.

The RSPB says the coun­cil has ig­nored the views of 12,000 peo­ple who ob­jected to pro­pos­als to de­velop the for­mer Min­istry of De­fence site of Lodge Hill, on the Hoo Penin­sula, last year.

It also says Med­way has not – as it should un­der na­tional plan­ning guid­ance – ex­plored all other op­tions for where the houses could be built in­stead, or put in place ways in which the im­pacts of the devel­op­ment can be mit­i­gated or found a new lo­ca­tion where the nightin­gales can breed that com­pen­sates for the loss of this one.

With only about 5,500 pairs breed­ing in Bri­tain ev­ery year – of which 85 use Lodge Hill – nightin­gales have de­clined by 90 per cent in the past 50 years.

“We need the lo­cal coun­cil to recog­nise there is a na­tion­ally sig­nif­i­cant site on their doorstep that must be pro­tected,” says the RSPB’s Chris Cor­ri­gan.

Lodge Hill’s sig­nif­i­cance for nightin­gales was only dis­cov­ered in 2012, and it was des­ig­nated as a Site of Spe­cial Sci­en­tific In­ter­est (SSSI) in 2013 be­cause of the num­bers that breed there.

Med­way Coun­cil ar­gues that it has to find space for nearly 30,000 new homes by 2035, and that the Lodge Hill area could pro­vide up to 5,000 of them. A spokesper­son has told BBC Wildlife that de­vel­op­ing the site is one of only four sce­nar­ios set out as part of its devel­op­ment strat­egy con­sul­ta­tion.

“We are en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to have their say on the four sce­nar­ios and we wel­come feed­back,” the spokesper­son says. “We will be care­fully con­sid­er­ing all com­ments re­ceived as part of this con­sul­ta­tion.”

Lodge Hill in Kent is home to 85 nightin­gales, but th­ese fa­mous song­birds have de­clined mas­sively in the UK in the past half cen­tury.

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