Homes plan threatens nightingales

Numbers of UK nightingales decreased by almost 60% between 1995 and 2009

Plans to build up to 5,000 homes on a site that is said to be key to the UK’s nightingale population have been condemned by environmental campaigners.

The BBC looked at the original plans in 2011

The area of land – on Kent’s Hoo peninsula – was declared a “site of special scientific interest” (SSSI) by Natural England last year, for its nightingale population and its ancient woodland.

Between 1995 and 2009, the UK’s nightingale population decreased by almost 60%, according to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

The BBC’s environment analyst Roger Harrabin said it was for this reason that the proposals were previously rejected by a planning inspector.

Writing on his blog, the RSPB’s conservation director Martin Harper warned that the area was “possibly the most important site in the UK for this iconic and declining species”.

“If the development goes ahead it would destroy the SSSI, including the home to more than 1% of our national nightingale population.

“Worse – it would set the terrible precedent for future development.”

Calling on Eric Pickles the local government secretary to intervene, Mr Harper added: “This is not what we’d expect from ‘the greenest government ever’.”

But Robin Cooper, Medway Council’s director for regeneration, community and culture, said: “This is one of the key regeneration projects in Medway that will shape the future of the area and provide much needed jobs for our young local people.”

Developers Land Securities’ plans include a replacement 304-hectare nesting habitat for the area’s nightingales north of the Thames at Shoeburyness – a move described by the RSPB as “unscientific, unprecedented, and over-optimistic”.

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