NIGHTINGALES V HOMES?
Medway Council proposes building new homes on important nightingale habitat.
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.