Are you enjoying Green Planet, the BBC’s latest natural-history blockbuster (showing now on all working televisions)? Of course, the corporation’s standards in this field are second to none, while it makes a big deal of its record on sustainability, so it’s difficult to understand its involvement in the proposed development of the London Resort theme park, a scheme that would effectively destroy one of the most wildlife-rich sites in the country – the Swanscombe peninsula. Campaigner Chris Rose highlights this apparent quandary in his blog on biodiversity, which will be highlighted during COP CBD15, or the 15th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity, taking place in China in May. As he points out, the ongoing loss of biodiversity – the ‘nature emergency’ – is overshadowed by the climate emergency, even though the two are inextricably linked. This, he argues, needs to change, with lip-service to the cause of biodiversity translating into genuine action and policy change. The failure of the theme-park developer, London Resort Company Holdings, to meet deadlines has delayed the Planning Inspectorate’s six-month examination of its application and the process is now anticipated to begin in March (it had been scheduled for September last year), meaning it is likely to be running throughout COP15. The UK government will of course be participating in that conference – it’s time for the big talk to be matched by the action…
You can read Chris Rose’s blog ‘The Cinderella COP And The Extinction Theme Park’ here
Wildlife charities are calling for the withdrawal of the London Resort theme park planning application that would destroy a nationally important wildlife site in north Kent, after the site was awarded special conservation protection today (Wednesday, November 10). Swanscombe Marshes, which sits on the bank of the River Thames, has now received confirmation of official designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by Natural England – the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England – after a consultation period. SSSI status recognises that the marshes are of high conservation value and particular interest to science, due to the unique and biodiverse wildlife and plant species found there. CPRE Kent, the RSPB, Buglife, Kent Wildlife Trust and Save Swanscombe Peninsula are working together to fight the building of the London Resort Theme Park on the marshes. The marshes being confirmed as an SSSI is another stepping-stone in the fight against this proposed colossal entertainment development, which would concrete over vital wildlife habitat, meaning much of this haven would be lost forever. The decision to award SSSI protection status is particularly timely during COP26 as, more than ever, the importance of protecting the environment and natural spaces like Swanscombe Marshes is key when the world is facing a nature and climate emergency. The wildlife charities say the site, which consists of a remarkable mosaic of grasslands, coastal habitats, scrub and wetlands, is home to a staggering amount of wildlife. This includes more than 2,000 species of invertebrate, including the critically endangered distinguished jumping spider, found at only one other site in the UK, as well as the sea aster mining bee, brown-banded carder bee and saltmarsh shortspur beetle. Swanscombe supports an outstanding number of breeding birds, comparable with the best sites in England, including marsh harrier, cuckoo, nightingale, black redstart and grasshopper warbler. Hilary Newport, director of CPRE Kent, said: “We are hugely relieved that the SSSI designation has been confirmed. The wildlife on Swanscombe Marshes is extraordinarily rich and varied, while the site provides an invaluable green lung for local people in an otherwise heavily over-developed part of the world. We believe London Resort should drop its plans to destroy this wonderful place.” Jamie Robins, projects manager at Buglife, added: “We welcome the great news that Natural England has taken the crucial step of confirming Swanscombe Marshes as a SSSI. This should dispel any notion that it should be anything but a haven for nature and the local community. We urge the London Resort to look elsewhere to build their theme park, as in a biodiversity and climate crisis, it cannot be justified to concrete over one of our finest wildlife sites.” Nick Bruce White, operations director at the RSPB, shared the excitement: “We know the value and importance of Swanscombe Marshes for wildlife and the natural world and are incredibly pleased that the government’s own adviser on the environment, Natural England, has also recognised how truly important this site is, too. We now call upon the London Resort Company to withdraw its application to build on this nationally important wildlife site.” Julia Hunt, head of advocacy at Kent Wildlife Trust, said: “Not only is this site important in its own right; it also forms a critical part of the nature recovery network that we sorely need to prevent irreversible loss of wildlife and damage to our climate. “We are thrilled that Natural England has recognised the site’s value. It is now imperative that London Resort cease their plans to destroy this wildlife haven.” Finally, Donna Zimmer, of the Save Swanscombe Peninsula group, which has said: ”Natural England have completed a thorough and professional assessment which formally recognises Swanscombe Peninsula as one of the best wildlife sites in England. As a local campaign group, we are absolutely thrilled that our irreplaceable green space with such wonderful wildlife receives this much needed protection. We expect London Resort to recognise this and so withdraw their theme park proposal.”
To sign the Save Swanscombe Marshes petition and make your voice heard, clickhere
Today (Wednesday, November 10) Natural England decides on the SSSI designation for Swanscombe peninsula, the biodiverse haven in north Kent under threat from the London Resort theme park. CPRE Kent believes the UK must demonstrate the right approach at home as we host COP26. This is our chance to protect and restore habitats, creating wildlife-rich, climate-resilient landscapes that lock up carbon, paving the way for nature’s recovery. Here’s hoping that NE does the right thing and upholds the SSSI notification, helping Buglife, the RSPB, Kent Wildlife Trust, Save Swanscombe Peninsula SSSI, CPRE Kent and so many others who love this precious site to Save Swanscombe…
The event attracted more than a hundred campaigners – many were local but one man had travelled from Bristol to show his support
More than 100 people joined yesterday’s (Saturday, October 2) rally calling for the protection of the wildlife-rich Swanscombe peninsula. The event went better than anyone could have hoped for, especially given a grim weather forecast, although happily the storm didn’t really get going until later in the day. The walk around this fantastic site was interspersed with short talks, while there was a strong local-media presence. The cooperation between conservation groups – notably Buglife, Save Swanscombe Peninsula SSSI, Kent Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and CPRE Kent – was particularly impressive and augurs well for the campaign ahead.
To learn more about the Swanscombe peninsula, click here
Here’s a final reminder about tomorrow’s (Saturday, October 2) rally at which we will be calling for the protection of the wildlife-rich Swanscombe peninsula. Sadly, however, we must report that the SSSider Soak planned for Gads Hill Farm in the afternoon has fallen victim to a grim weather forecast. Hopefully another time! It’s full steam ahead for the Swanscombe rally, though, and we would love to see you at 10am for a tour, where we can all enjoy the sights and sounds of the peninsula, which is threatened by the proposed London Resort theme park. If you can’t make it bang on 10am, we’ll be walking at a gentle pace, so you’ll be able to join us over the next couple of hours. CPRE Kent is one of an alliance of organisations, notably Buglife, Save Swanscombe Peninsula SSSI, the RSPB and Kent Wildlife Trust, fighting to stop such a hugely destructive scheme coming to pass.
Campaigners on the rally will gather at Manor Way, opposite Britannia Metals, Northfleet DA11 9BG, on Saturday, October 2, at 10am
To learn more about the Swanscombe peninsula, click here
Kent’s best-kept conservation secret – the Swanscombe peninsula – is under threat from the development of London Resort theme park. CPRE Kent is one of an alliance of organisations fighting to stop this destructive scheme coming to pass – and on Saturday (October 2) we are holding a rally calling for this special wildlife site to be protected. We would love to see you on Saturday at 10am for a tour, where we can all enjoy the sights and sounds of the peninsula. If you can’t make it bang on 10am, we’ll be walking at a gentle pace, so you’ll be able to join us over the next couple of hours. And the fun doesn’t end there! You can come along to Gads Hill Farm for the SSSider Soak, which celebrates the wildlife of the peninsula. The event is based in a cider orchard; there’s a cider shop and bar and the Dartford Folk Massif are striking up at 3pm.
Campaigners on the rally will gather at Manor Way, opposite Britannia Metals, Northfleet DA11 9BG, on Saturday, October 2, at 10am
The SSSider Soak in the afternoon runs until 5pm at Gads Hill Farm ME3 7NX
To learn more about the Swanscombe peninsula, click here
Examination of a developer’s bid for consent to build the country’s largest theme park has been stalled again. The scheme entails the construction of the London Resort park at Swanscombe, between Dartford and Gravesend. The Planning Inspectorate’s six-month examination of the application by London Resort Company Holdings had been anticipated to begin in September, but in July the inspectorate advised that “The ExA [examining authority] does not have a detailed understanding of the Applicant’s proposed consultations and updates” before stating that the process was not going to begin until the second half of January next year – at the earliest. Now it has been delayed again because LRCH has failed to produce all the documents required by the inspectorate; the preliminary meeting is “unlikely to be held before April 2022”. Further, the inspectorate seems unconvinced that LRCH has consulted enough parties in preparing its submissions, while it’s not clear if the developer’s evidence will even be up to date by the time the examination eventually starts.
The proposed London Resort theme park has largely disappeared from the radar in recent months, so it is timely to give an update on proceedings. In January this year the Planning Inspectorate declared that it was accepting the application by London Resort Company Holdings for a Development Consent Order to build the park. A six-month examination of the project, in which CPRE Kent will take part, had been expected to begin two to four months from that point. Good news for the peninsula, its wildlife and the local people for whom it is a critical area for recreation, but there would be a four-month consultation before potential SSSI confirmation. Far from it, however! LRCH chose instead to plough on with its project, although saying it would be changing its plans after the SSSI designation. It was granted an extra four months to submit revised documents in its DCO bid, meaning the examination would most likely begin in September. However… in July this year the Planning Inspectorate advised that “The ExA [examining authority] does not have a detailed understanding of the Applicant’s proposed consultations and updates. Having considered the information available to date, the ExA is minded not to decide on the date(s) of the PM [preliminary meeting] before it has seen the Applicant’s submissions. On that basis the ExA anticipates that it will be unable to decide on the date(s) of the PM before mid-December 2021 and that therefore a PM is unlikely to be held before mid-January 2022.” Or, in other words, examination of the London Resort is not going to begin until the second half of January next year – at the earliest.
The deadline for supporting the designation of the Swanscombe peninsula as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is Monday, July 12, 2021. Can you spare 10 minutes to tell Natural England you agree that this nationally important wildlife site should be protected? The importance of the Swanscombe peninsula for nature was recognised by Natural England in March, when it notified this wildlife haven in north Kent as an SSSI. This means it is an area of particularly high interest for its wildlife and significance for our natural heritage. Although this legal protection took effect immediately, there is currently a consultation on this designation. Will you help us make sure that one of the country’s most threatened wildlife sites receives the protection that it deserves by taking part in the online consultation and letting Natural England know that you want its SSSI designation to stay? The consultation portal is currently live here, where you can find all of the information on the proposed SSSI, including the detailed analysis of its precious flora and fauna, together with a map of the proposed SSSI. You can respond to the consultation online following the guidance below, but if you would rather, you can simply compose your own email, outlining your support for the SSSI designation and sending it to email@example.com. You can find guidance on what to say in our answer to question B6 below. When you are ready to take part in the online consultation, make sure that you have five or 10 minutes free, then click on ‘Click here to submit an online response’ near the bottom of the page. The first page asks you to say who you are and asks if you have any legal interests in the land or own any land in the SSSI. It is important that, even if you have been made aware of the consultation by any of Buglife, CPRE Kent, Kent Wildlife Trust or RSPB, you make it clear you are answering on behalf of yourself and not for an organisation in question A4. The second page is for ‘Your views on the Swanscombe Peninsula SSSI notification’. Most of these questions simply require you to select ‘Yes’, as the text boxes are reserved for explaining any objections. However, the following should help guide you through this section easily:
B1. Do you accept the scientific rationale behind the notification of this site for its special interest? Please select ‘Yes’ and move on to the next question, leaving the text box blank
B2. Do you agree that the boundary of the SSSI appropriately encompasses the features of special interest? Please select ‘Yes’ and move on to the next question, leaving the text box blank
B3. Do you agree with the views about management? Please select ‘Yes’ and move on to the next question, leaving the text box blank
B4. Do you agree that the operations requiring Natural England’s consent are appropriate? Please select ‘Yes’ and move on to the next question, leaving the text box blank
B5. Do you have any additional evidence or further comments that you wish to submit in relation to the SSSI? If you don’t have any additional information or thoughts that would further support the SSSI notification, please select ‘No’ and move on to the next question, leaving the text box blank. However, if you have any additional evidence such as your own survey data or observations of wildlife using Swanscombe peninsula, then select ‘Yes’ and either explain your evidence in the text box or choose to upload a file by selecting ‘Choose file’.
B6. Do you wish to submit a representation to the notification of Swanscombe Peninsula SSSI? Please select ‘Yes, I support the notification’. This is your opportunity to say clearly why you believe that the Swanscombe peninsula should be notified as an SSSI in your own words. Some ideas of what you can write are included below, but take any opportunity to personalise your response with your own views on the site and your own experiences of Swanscombe if you live locally. Explain why you think that the notification is justified based on the important wildlife and habitats that the Swanscombe peninsula supports. This could include highlighting: • The supporting information compiled by Natural England provides a detailed picture of the rich wildlife on the Swanscombe peninsula. • The Swanscombe peninsula clearly meets the criteria for qualifying as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. • Swanscombe supports a unique complex of open mosaic habitat on previously developed land and estuarine habitats, including grasslands, scrub, wetlands, grazing marsh and saltmarsh. • The nationally important assemblage of rare and threatened invertebrates, rich breeding bird assemblages and populations of nationally scarce vascular plants make it essential that the site is protected as an SSSI. • Swanscombe peninsula is also a vital greenspace for the local community, a place where they can escape and reconnect with nature. • Highlight your concerns that wildlife across the country is in catastrophic decline and that it is more important than ever to make sure that places like Swanscombe peninsula are protected for future generations and for perpetuity.
The third page is then simply answering if you are happy with the online consultation process – your chance to give feedback on the consultation itself. The fourth page will then ask you to click ‘Submit Response’, which will then give Natural England permission to include and analyse your submission. You will then be emailed a copy of your final submission. Thank you for your continued support for our efforts to Save Swanscombe. If you haven’t already done so, please sign and share our petition, which has already been signed by more than 24,300 people.
For more on the threat to the Swanscombe peninsula, click here
Proposals for the largest theme park in the country could spell a miserable time for the wildlife of the Swanscombe peninsula and the people who live and work in the area. David Mairs reports on a scheme that really is no fun for nature.
It could almost be the standard definition of brownfield. Dominated by the excesses of our urban and industrial assault on the Thames estuary, the Swanscombe peninsula is flanked on its southern and eastern fringes by warehouses, breakers’ yards, deepwater docks and used-car dealerships and to the north by the river and the ugly sprawl of south Essex. It is cut through by HS1 and glowered over by the tallest electricity pylon in the country. It has been abused through the widespread dumping of fly ash – a legacy of the cement industry that was once such a feature of this area – and targeted for landfill. In short, Swanscombe Marshes have not been loved. However, such intricacies do not trouble the extraordinary wildlife that makes its home on the peninsula, which juts into the Thames between Greenhithe and Northfleet. It is the numbers of invertebrates that highlight how important a site this is. Almost 2,000 species have been recorded, more than 250 of them classified as of conservation concern. In total, there are 49 Red-listed species, meaning they are accorded highest conservation priority. The star of the show is the distinguished jumping spider (surely the name alone warrants respect!), which is found at only one other site in the UK, but there is also an array of scarce bees, beetles, butterflies and moths among a wider fauna that makes this the most important brownfield site for invertebrates in the land. Swanscombe represents an uplifting tale of nature coming back against man’s abuse of our natural environment. The combination of natural features and human activity has formed what charity Buglife _ “the only organisation in Europe devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates” – describes as “a remarkable mosaic of grasslands, coastal habitats, brownfield features, scrub and intricate wetlands”. The peninsula is home to more rare and threatened species than any other brownfield site in the country. They include the endangered Duffey’s bell-head spider, brown-banded carder bee, saltmarsh shortspur beetle and orange-striped water beetle. Surveys have shown the presence of water voles, harvest mice and dormouse; cuckoos, nightingales and black redstarts breed; there are exceptional reptile populations; and scarce plants include the man orchid. The estuary’s most comparable brownfield for natural wealth lies on the other side of the river at Canvey Wick and has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). As important as its wild inhabitants, of course, the peninsula provides space for people living in a desperately overcrowded part of the country to walk, birdwatch, go fishing or simply take an increasingly precious breather from their more regular surroundings… Cue proposals for the “UK’s Disneyland” – or the London Resort theme park. Or to put it yet another way: developers intend to build the largest theme park in the country on the peninsula. London Resort Company Holdings submitted its 25,000-page application for a Development Consent Order to the Planning Inspectorate on New Year’s Eve last year – and in a letter dated Thursday, January 28, the inspectorate announced it had accepted the application, which is now proceeding towards a six-month examination. The final verdict will lie with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, a post held at the time of writing by Robert Jenrick. The scheme has been designated a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), the first ‘business or commercial project’ to be accepted as such by the government under the Planning Act 2008. Covering more than 1,000 acres (958 acres at Swanscombe and 63 in Essex), London Resort is anticipated by its backers to open in 2024 should work begin next year. The project is predicted to create 8,810 jobs on site by 2025, of which 3,590 will be full-time, 1,990 part-time and 3,230 seasonal. From 2038, we are told there will be 17,000 jobs on site, of which 6,535 will be full-time, 3,690 part-time and 7,080 seasonal. An access road to the A2 is planned, along with “easy access” from Ebbsfleet International station. On the other side of the river, in Essex, linked infrastructure would take up more than 60 acres east of Tilbury, with an “access corridor” around the A1089. This would all enable a “park-and-glide” system to ferry people across the river. The project website states: “Sustainability is at the core of our vision. We are exploring new and innovative ways of integrating sustainable and low-carbon principles into every area of design and operation of the London Resort. Our aim is to create one of the most sustainable theme park destinations in the world.” It adds: “Our designs will integrate local public rights of way and a green network, with improved access to the river for visitors and local communities. The London Resort will showcase the natural features of the site, seamlessly integrating them into our designs. A large proportion of the peninsula landscape will remain undeveloped and will be enhanced.” However, such fine words have failed to convince everyone and not only are there widespread fears for the site’s wildlife but concerns have been raised for people employed on the peninsula who might see their workplaces lost. It has been estimated that some 2,000 workers could effectively be forced out by the proposed development. The concept of sustainable communities seems to have been mislaid along the way. Further, it is unclear how many of the claimed new jobs will go to local people. With the plans including “staff accommodation, which will reduce the amount of staff travel”, it is evident that a significant element of the workforce is expected to be drawn from outside the immediate area. And would the bulk of the roles that did become available be of the calibre to really lift the north-west Kent economy? With the developer predicting up to 12.5 million visitors a year by 2038, CPRE Kent believes work needs to be done in relation to transport. Could the existing road network really cope with taking such huge numbers of people to and from the site? On top of all this, it is feared the NSIP status, usually reserved for such substantial schemes as roads, airports and power plants, might result in a largely inaccessible and not widely understood process (the 25,000 application pages come in 449 documents!) that deters people from participating. But it is the potential loss of wildlife that has perhaps struck the loudest chord, with Buglife, the RSPB and Kent Wildlife Trust calling on Natural England to protect the peninsula by declaring it an SSSI. The three groups have presented a ‘Rationale for the SSSI designation of the Swanscombe Peninsula’ to the government advisory body, together with a letter signed by 77 current and former senior staff from nature organisations and public bodies. Matt Shardlow, Buglife chief executive, said: “Biodiversity is in crisis; wildlife populations, particularly of insects, are in steep decline; many habitats and specialist species are increasingly rare and their fragmented populations are at risk of extinction. “Too few wildlife-rich brownfield sites like the Swanscombe peninsula are protected, and this is the last chance to protect a large Thames estuary brownfield site before it is too late. This is one of only two sites nationwide for the distinguished jumping spider. If the development is allowed at Swanscombe, it will push this special spider a step closer to national extinction.” Richard Bloor, of Kent Wildlife Trust, added: “Swanscombe is one of the last remaining wildlife-rich brownfield sites in the Thames estuary, with habitats ranging from dry bare earth, which is vital for invertebrates, to complex wetlands, which support a great diversity of birds, reptiles and mammals.” Swanscombe’s broader importance was emphasised by Emma Marsh, RSPB England director, who said: “In September, the Prime Minister announced the government’s ‘30 by 30 pledge’ – a commitment to protect 30 per cent of UK land for biodiversity by 2030 – calling for immediate action and avoiding dither and delay. Saving nationally important wildlife sites like Swanscombe is surely an easy win on the road to meeting that commitment.” As part of the campaign for SSSI designation, a Save Swanscombe Marshes petition has been set up by Buglife. Aimed at Mr Jenrick, it has, at the time of writing, been signed by more than 22,000 people. There is also the Swanscombe Marsh Protection Campaign, “run for and by local residents who are concerned about the loss of the marshes for current and future generations, for the difficulties it could bring to local residents, and the loss of habitat for the wildlife which lives there”. The concerns are many and varied. How high will the buildings be? How many outside events are likely? Laser shows? Fireworks? What price tranquillity? How robust was the methodology employed for the ecology reports? So many questions and so much to be done to ensure a desirable future for the Swanscombe peninsula. CPRE Kent has registered as an Interested Party for the forthcoming inquiry and submitted the necessary ‘relevant representation’. The battle is just beginning. After nature has already fought back so strongly, surely we owe it to the Swanscombe peninsula, its wildlife and its people to not betray it now.
To learn more about the Save Swanscombe Marshes campaign and sign the petition, see www.buglife.org.uk
The developer behind the proposed London Resort theme park has been accused of failing to provide enough information about the impact of increased traffic on road and rail in north Kent and London. In damning submissions from leading transport organisations to the Planning Inspectorate, it is suggested that transport infrastructure could be overwhelmed by traffic from the development, on the Swanscombe peninsula. Highways England says there has been “insufficient information” to allow conclusive statements on traffic impact, citing junctions 2 and 30 of the M25, the A13/A1089 junction and the A2/M2 east of the M25 as potential problem spots. Transport for London, meanwhile, has slammed London Resort Holding Company’s lack of an “appropriate assessment methodology”, saying it could mask “significant impacts that must be mitigated”. It said: “The failure to use appropriate modelling means that impacts on the rail and Underground network have not been assessed with any degree of certainty. “The arbitrary assumptions about the scale of traffic that will use the north Kent lines risks ignoring potential impacts at their central London termini and on interchange flows at Abbey Wood (to the Elizabeth line).” It also warned that the development could cause congestion on north Kent roads and lead to problems at east London road tunnels. For its part, Network Rail was concerned about impact on stations close to the planned development as well as the effect on the Ebbsfleet Southern Link and HS1. As if all that were not enough, the C2E Partnership feared that the scheme could take up land earmarked for a potential Crossrail extension to Ebbsfleet. A list of Relevant Representations was published on Planning Inspectorate website in April after its deadline for comments had passed.
The developer behind the proposed London Resort theme park on the Swanscombe peninsula is ploughing on with the project, although it will be changing its plans after the location’s designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). London Resort Holding Company has been granted an extra four months to submit revised documents in its bid for a Development Consent Order from the Planning Inspectorate, meaning examination of the project is now likely to begin in September. It is reported by the BBC that LRCH does not intend to make any “material” changes but will be amending almost half of its 460 submission documents. A letter to the Planning Inspectorate shows that 11 documents will be replaced or have “substantive” updates, 46 will receive “some amendments” and about 160 “minor amendments”. Some 250 documents will not be changed, says the BBC. If the report is correct, LRCH’s latest proposals fall very far short of meeting an appeal by CPRE Kent and three other conservation charities, who have said in a joint letter to the Planning Inspectorate that LRHC “should have sought to withdraw their existing application and restart the pre-application process” after the SSSI designation. The letter has been signed by CPRE Kent, Buglife, Kent Wildlife Trust and the RSPB. Jamie Robins, of Buglife, said: “There is so much change here, it is hard to argue that it doesn’t warrant resubmission and fresh consultation.” He urged LRCH to consider other locations as “you cannot replace these habitats”. Natural England, which made the SSSI designation, said some 40 per cent of the site would be lost to the theme park, while there would be probable further impact from construction and operation. Transport and river navigation assessments will also receive “substantive updates” in response to concerns from Transport for London, the Department for Transport and the Port of London Authority. The Save Swanscombe Peninsula campaign says LRHC appears to be “using the extension as an opportunity to try and address big holes in the original application and not just regards their devastating impact on biodiversity”. With the six-month examination of the DCO application due to begin in September, the final decision on the project – by Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government – will be made next year.
To read the letter from CPRE Kent, Buglife, Kent Wildlife Trust and the RSPB, click here
The wait is over – the spring edition of Kent Countryside Voice is with us! Features on the glory of hedgerows, possible ways to tackle the county’s water crisis and the threat posed by a planned theme park to a wildlife haven are among a cornucopia of treats for all who treasure our county’s countryside. So settle back with a brew or your favourite tipple and enjoy a great read here
Consultation on Dartford Borough Council’s pre-submission version of its Local Plan closed today (Friday, April 9, 2021) and CPRE Kent feels this has been largely a positive example of Plan-making within the constraints of the planning system. By focusing development on well-connected brownfield sites within the town of Dartford and at Ebbsfleet Garden City, the Plan is essentially a genuine example of a brownfield-first strategy. Coupled with strong Green Belt protection policies and policies responding to the climate-change emergency, there is a lot to commend. Of course, there remains areas where things could be better. We have taken exception to the continued support of roadbuilding within a borough that has some the worst air quality in the South East and the council’s continued support for the Lower Thames Crossing. We have called on the authority to be bolder with measures to truly respond to our biodiversity crisis, along with further strengthening of active-travel measures. We were disappointed not to see a policy protecting intrinsically dark landscapes. We have reminded it about the implications of Natural England’s designation of Swanscombe Marshes and land to the south as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Overall, though, there was certainly as much good as there was bad. We now must just hope that this good work is not undone should the proposed London Resort theme park be consented.
Plans to build a huge theme park on the Thames estuary have passed their first hurdle. The Planning Inspectorate has accepted the application for a Development Consent Order to build the London Resort theme park between Greenhithe and Northfleet. This means the project, submitted by London Resort Company Holdings on New Year’s Eve and received by the Planning Inspectorate on Monday, January 4, can proceed to examination. The decision to accept the 25,000-page application was announced in a Planning Inspectorate letter dated Thursday, January 28. The project, targeted for the wildlife-rich Swanscombe peninsula, has been roundly condemned by conservation groups including the RSPB, Kent Wildlife Trust and Buglife. There is also widespread concern about the scheme being designated a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), the first ‘business or commercial project’ to be accepted as such by the government under the Planning Act 2008. It is feared such status means it will not be subject to the same scrutiny that would be applied through the regular planning process. The examination, in which CPRE Kent intends to take part, is expected to begin two to four months from now and must be completed within six months of the start-point. Although it is too early to comment extensively, it is apparent that plenty of work needs to be done in relation to transport. The Lower Thames Crossing proposed for nearby does not appear to have been factored into the plans, while the developer will need to show how it can take people to and from the site on the existing transport network. Once the six-month examination has been completed, the final decision on the project will be made by Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.