London Resort plans withdrawn…

Nature finds its way, given half a chance

“…and for this relief, much thanks”, as Shakespeare might have said. The plans for a ‘world-class’ theme park on the post-industrial landscape of the Swanscombe peninsula have been withdrawn, just before the formal public examination was due to begin.

For a whole decade the proposals have been discussed and amended and discussed again, but it is more recently that it has become clear just how important the site has become for wildlife and nature as heavy industries turned away from the site.

Indeed, Natural England recognised this in November 2021 when it granted the site its designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for the plants, geology, birds and invertebrates the site houses. It is the complex and fragile inter-linkages of these species that make the site so special, and it is one of only two UK sites where the critically endangered distinguished jumping spider can be found (the other is on the far side of the Thames on the West Thurrock Marshes).

Support for the site’s promotion began to dwindle with the departure of the BBC and ITV as backers in February. Today we have learned that the promoters have withdrawn the application, providing welcome respite from the threat of development on this sensitive site for the time being. But – along with the community groups and other environmental NGOs who have worked tirelessly to get this far – we will continue to stand firm to protect this special area from any further proposals for inappropriate development.

  • For more on London Resort, see here

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Brilliant news! BBC Studios and ITV Studios pull support for Swanscombe theme park

The future of the Swanscombe peninsula’s wildlife might be a little rosier after all (pic Buglife)

CPRE Kent is one of a coalition of charities to welcome the decision by BBC Studios and ITV Studios to withdraw their support for a proposed theme park in north Kent that would have a devastating impact on a nationally important wildlife site. We are now calling on Paramount Entertainment to similarly publicly sever ties with the developer.
However, despite BBC Studios’ confirmation that its agreement has expired and that London Resort can no longer use the BBC’s Intellectual Property, it appears that London Resort’s exclusive appointed investment partner, Armilla Capital, is still seeking to secure investment by promoting “signed long-term partnerships” with both BBC Studios and ITV Studios to lure investors.
The Swanscombe peninsula, which sits on the bank of the River Thames, is under threat from the proposed London Resort theme park, which would see more than 100 hectares of habitat concreted over.
Until recently, both BBC Studios and ITV Studios intended to pursue commercial relationships with London Resort theme park that would see rides and experiences built on their brands. However, following a letter signed by 12 national and local groups, both have revealed they no longer have agreements with London Resort, while ITV Studios has committed to ceasing all future involvement with the controversial development.
Matt Shardlow, chief executive of Buglife, said: “We welcome ITV Studios’ full recognition of the environmental harm this misplaced theme park would cause and its commitment to have no future involvement. 
“It’s great that BBC Studios has also withdrawn from the scheme, although a long-term commitment to never become involved would fit better with the BBC Studios image and environmental sustainability claims. We are disappointed that Paramount has not responded to British wildlife charities’ request to reconsider their involvement but hope it will do so and will join ITV Studios and BBC Studios in halting their support for destroying endangered species.  The theme of this wildlife oasis is nature and it must remain so.”
The Swanscombe peninsula is incredibly rich in wildlife, home to some of the UK’s most threatened species of plants and animals. More than 2,000 species of insects and other invertebrates have been recorded here, including the critically endangered distinguished jumping spider.
It is also the richest site in the South East for breeding birds, which live side by side with otters, water voles and rare plants such as man orchid. This is thanks to this special site’s remarkable mosaic of grasslands, coastal habitats, scrub and intricate wetlands, much of which is brownfield habitat that has been reclaimed by nature. In recognition of its valuable wildlife, it was made a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) last year.
Dr Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, said: “This is a fragile and tranquil oasis of dark skies, open space and extraordinary natural biodiversity. It is all the more precious because of its location in one of those parts of the South East subject to the most intense development pressure. In the light of the crisis of the climate emergency and catastrophic loss of biodiversity we simply cannot risk the degradation and loss of this vitally important site.”
The BBC has an international reputation for exemplary wildlife programming, with voices such as Sir David Attenborough’s highlighting the urgent need for action to save our environment to audiences worldwide.
ITV Studios has also gone to great effort to green its productions and instil an environmental culture, while on screen it has broadcast programmes such as A Planet for All of Us, featuring His Royal Highness Prince William. It has both paid attention to its own important messaging and decided to avoid involvement in the destruction of a nationally important wildlife site.
Donna Zimmer, from local campaign group Save Swanscombe Peninsula, said: “BBC Studios and ITV Studios must have been aware how this looked to their millions of viewers and we are really pleased that they have both stepped away from the London Resort – we hope they both now commit to doing so for good.
“For local communities in Swanscombe, Greenhithe and Northfleet, the peninsula is an essential and much-loved green lung, a place for peace and calm to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life in one of the most built-up and congested parts of the country. It is unthinkable that national broadcasters could have sought to benefit from a scheme that would deprive people of experiencing wildlife on their doorstep.”
Evan Bowen-Jones, chief executive at Kent Wildlife Trust, said: “At a time when society is increasingly concerned about the nature and climate crises, it is becoming commonplace for companies to talk about sustainability. But paper commitments are not enough. Only action counts.
“So we are pleased that ITV has severed all ties with the proposed London Resort. We now want to see the BBC do the same. This flagship British institution must confirm it will never work with a project that would do so much harm to our native wildlife if it is to have any green credibility at all.”
Unfortunately, despite the Swanscombe peninsula being notified as a SSSI in March 2021 by Natural England, the government’s adviser on the natural environment, it remains threatened by the application to build the theme park on it.
These proposals are being considered by the Planning Inspectorate as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), a process normally reserved for major roads, airports or power plants. This is the first ‘business or commercial project’ to be considered to date.

  • For more on the London Resort scheme, see here
  • To read why CPRE Kent views the project as so damaging, click here

Monday, February 28, 2022

Turn your lights out for Swanscombe… and join us on Saturday (March 5) to count the stars

Star Count began on Saturday (February 26) and there’s plenty for us all to get involved in over the next week or so.
This year, we’re putting a particular focus on north Kent’s Swanscombe peninsula, a site home to a fantastic range of wildlife but threatened by plans for the London Resort theme park.
As part of the campaign to save the peninsula from development, we aim to count the stars on-site and more broadly in the local area to demonstrate how much of a dark oasis the peninsula is – and how its wildlife could be affected by the blinding lights of a theme park.
Together with our friends at Save Swanscombe Peninsula, we are asking people in the area from tomorrow (Tuesday, March 1) to get involved by turning off their lights and turning up the stars.
This involves:

  • Choosing a clear night
  • Counting how many stars you can see within the constellation of Orion
  • Sharing your photos on our social-media pages with the hashtag #starcount

If you don’t know where Orion is, you can download a free CPRE Star Count family activity pack, which includes a checklist and star-finder template, here
Finally, we can all meet up in person for our Dark Skies Event on Saturday, March 5, when we will be gathering on the peninsula at 5.30pm to experience the magic of the stars, count them and just enjoy the beauty of the site.
To sign up to the Swanscombe Star Count use the QR code on the poster below or click here

To join us for our Dark Skies Event at Botany Marshes, Northfleet, Swanscombe DA10 0PP, on March 5, phone 01233 714540 or email info@cprekent.org.uk for more information. Also check out the poster at the top of this story.
If you would like to come along, please print off, read and sign the risk assessment form here If you are unable to do that, we will have forms at the event itself.
CPRE Kent and Save Swanscombe Peninsula are also working with Buglife, the RSPB and Kent Wildlife Trust in a combined effort to protect this wonderful site. To keep in touch with what we’re all doing, visit the CPRE Kent website

You can also follow us on Facebook:

@Save Swanscombe Peninsula SSSI

@CPREKent

… and on Twitter:

@sspcampaign

@CPREKent

@Buzz_dont_tweet (Buglife)

@KentWildlife (Kent Wildlife Trust)

@Natures_Voice (RSPB)

Monday, February 28, 2022

Star Count is almost upon us… and we’re putting Swanscombe peninsula in the spotlight

It’s time for this year’s CPRE Star Count, during which we ask you to become ‘citizen scientists’ by counting stars to help measure our dark skies.
We’re looking for counters across the county, of course, but just for now we’ll highlight a place on which we’re putting a particular focus (see what we did there?).
CPRE Kent has teamed up with the brilliant Save Swanscombe Peninsula group to present a range of events over the Star Count period of Saturday, February 26, to Sunday, March 6.
To get things under way, we’re hosting a Zoom event on Tuesday, February 22, at 7pm, during which CPRE Kent director Hilary Newport will introduce Star Count, explore the reasons behind studying the stars, explain how to take part and detail the devastating impacts of light pollution on people and wildlife alike.
The Swanscombe peninsula is home to an extraordinary range of wildlife but threatened by plans for the London Resort theme park. As part of the campaign to save the site from development, we aim to count the stars on-site and more broadly in the local area to demonstrate how much of a dark oasis the peninsula is – and how its wildlife could be affected by the blinding lights of a theme park.
The following week (beginning Tuesday, March 1) we’re asking people in the area to get involved by turning off their lights and turning up the stars.

This involves:

  • Choosing a clear night
  • Counting how many stars you can see within the constellation of Orion
  • Sharing your photos on our social-media pages with the hashtag #starcount

If you don’t know where Orion is, you can download a free CPRE Star Count family activity pack, which includes a checklist and star-finder template, here

Finally, we can all meet up in person for our Dark Skies Event on Saturday, March 5, when we will be gathering on the peninsula at 5.30pm to experience the magic of the stars, count them and just enjoy the beauty of the site.

  • To sign up to the Swanscombe Star Count and join Dr Newport’s talk on February 22, use the QR code on the above poster or click here
  • To join us for our Dark Skies Event at Botany Marshes, Northfleet, Swanscombe DA10 0PP, on March 5, phone 01233 714540 or email info@cprekent.org.uk for more information.
  • CPRE Kent and Save Swanscombe Peninsula are also working with Buglife, the RSPB and Kent Wildlife Trust in a combined effort to protect this wonderful site. To keep in touch with what we’re all doing, visit the CPRE Kent website here   

You can also follow us on Facebook:

@Save Swanscombe Peninsula SSSI

@CPREKent

… and on Twitter:

@sspcampaign

@CPREKent

@Buzz_dont_tweet (Buglife)

@KentWildlife (Kent Wildlife Trust)

@Natures_Voice (RSPB)

Tuesday, February 16, 2022

At last, the meeting to get examination of London Resort under way has a date

The fate of this marvellous place lies in the balance (pic Paul Buckley)

Whisper it quietly (or not), but we are finally seeing progress with examination of the proposed London Resort theme park at Swanscombe.
After delays and uncertainty caused by developer LRCH asking for more time to address both transport issues and the peninsula’s designation as a Site of Scientific Interest – together with its failure to produce necessary documents and doubts that it had consulted enough parties in preparing submissions – we now have a date for the preliminary hearing.
A letter from Rynd Smith, lead panel member for the Planning Inspectorate’s examining authority, announced yesterday (Monday, February 14) that the meeting will be held virtually on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 29-30 (this year!), with reserve dates of Tuesday and Wednesday, April 5-6, should they be required.
Yesterday’s letter read: “The purpose of the Preliminary Meeting is purely procedural, to enable views to be put to us about when and how the application should be examined. The Agenda for the meeting… divides the meeting into two stages.
“• Stage 1 will be held on 29 and 30 March 2022 and will consider the question of when to examine the application in the light of recent and likely future progress by the Applicant to address important and relevant issues and provide supporting information. It will support a decision on the timing of the examination.
“• Stage 2 will be held on 30 March if required and would consider how to examine the application in circumstances where a decision on timing has been made and the application is proposed to enter Examination commencing at the end of March 2022.”
All those wanting to participate in the preliminary meeting must register by Tuesday, March 15.
In essence, we now have a roadmap for examination of this contentious project to proceed…

  • For more on the London Resort scheme, see here
  • To read why CPRE Kent views the project as so damaging, click here

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

London Resort, Swanscombe, the BBC and biodiversity… actions will speak louder than words

The Swanscombe peninsula is a wonderful place for wildlife (pic Paul Buckley)

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
  • For more on this story, see here

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Time to ditch the London Resort: wildlife charities call for withdrawal of theme park planning application after Swanscombe wins special protection status

The vote is unanimous! Natural England decides to confirm Swanscombe Marshes as an SSSI

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, click here  
  • For more on the SSSI designation, click here

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Swanscombe: will Natural England confirm SSSI status?

Campaigners made their message clear during October’s rally

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…

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

  • For more on the SSSI designation, click here

Swanscombe rally proves a win-win on a special day in a special place

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

Sunday, October 3, 2021

See you tomorrow (Saturday) for the Swanscombe rally… but the SSSider is off

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

Friday, October 1, 2021

Join Swanscombe rally to show how much you care for this special site (and listen to a band and drink cider)

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

Monday, September 27, 2021

London Resort examination… now we’re looking at April

The marvellous wildlife habitat of the Swanscombe peninsula is under threat (Paul Buckley)

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.

For more on this story, see here

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

London Resort examination will not begin before January 2022

The Swanscombe peninsula has a superb array of natural habitats… CPRE Kent would like it to stay that way (pic Paul Buckley)

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.

  • For more on this story, see here
  • To read why CPRE Kent views the project as so damaging, read here
  • To read the Planning Inspectorate letter detailing the delay in beginning the examination, see here

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Please tell Natural England you want the Swanscombe peninsula protected

The Swanscombe peninsula is home to an extraordinary array of plants and animals (pic Buglife)

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 thamesestuary@naturalengland.org.uk. 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

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Swanscombe peninsula: the last resort?

The peninsula hosts a spectacular array of flowers (pic Buglife)

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
  • To read about the work of the Swanscombe Marsh Protection Campaign, see swanscombemarshes.co.uk      
  • For more on the Swanscombe peninsula, see here

Monday, June 21, 2021