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Woodland charity condemns plans for 5,000 homes

PUBLISHED: 07:53 10 September 2014 | UPDATED: 07:53 10 September 2014

Aerial view of the Lodge Hill site

Aerial view of the Lodge Hill site

Archant

“The fact that this application is even being considered is extremely worrying”

Plans to raze protected countryside in Medway to build 5,000 homes have been condemned by a national woodland conservation charity.

The Woodland Trust is calling for Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to hold a public inquiry into the planning application for the Lodge Hill site at Chattenden, on the grounds that it would damage five areas of ancient woodland nearby.

Medway Council received hundreds of letters objecting to the application, which would destroy the Chattenden Woods Site of Special Scientific Interest. The site is home to one per cent of the UK’s nightingale population, which has declined by 90 per cent in the last 50 years.

Despite the opposition, the council’s planning committee gave outline permission for the development on Thursday.

Austin Brady, director of conservation and external affairs at the Woodland Trust, said: “The Site of Special Scientific Interest designation is considered to be the strongest form of habitat protection to guard against destructive development.

“The fact that this application is even being considered is extremely worrying and highlights weak planning policies that are threatening our precious and irreplaceable habitats.

“Because the approval of this application sets a detrimental precedent for other SSSI sites and may put further ancient woodland under threat, the Woodland Trust supports the call for the Secretary of State to intervene and examine Medway Council’s outline decision.

“It is vital Eric Pickles appreciates the devastating damage it could cause to wooded areas. Development should not be at the expense of an irreplaceable habitat, especially as this now covers just two per cent of our landscape. Until robust legislation is put in place to protect habitats, they and the precious species flourishing within them will always be on the precipice of destruction.”

The plans would involve building 5,000 homes, shops, three primary schools, a secondary school, medical and leisure facilities by redeveloping Chattenden Barracks and the Lodge Hill training area in the Hoo Peninsula. The development would house 11,500 people and is expected to create around 5,000 jobs.

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