I have just been sent a copy of the letter which Medway Council has sent to Housing Minister Brandon Lewis, responding to his request for information just before christmas, about Medways plans to build a 5000 house new town on Lodge Hill SSSI, home to the famous nightingales, but actually also an incredibly important place for all sorts of other wildlife, and history.
In essence, in their response Medway seek to dismiss all opposition to Lodge Hill from Natural England, RSPB, Kent Wildlife Trust and over 11,000 people who wrote to the Government asking for this decision to be called in. Medway completely ignore concerns that the Nightingale Compensation land will fail to deliver for Nightingales, while destroying existing high quality (and protected) wildlife areas.
They didn’t even bother to respond to concerns that their plans to translocate all the nature-rich grassland from Lodge Hill to a neighbouring farm were unjustified, untested and would not work.
As for alternative sites for housing, they belittled the Planning Inspector’s damning rejection of their Local Plan Core Strategy in 2013 and instead explained that they were happy with the applicant’s assessment of alternatives for housing allocations. It’s hardly surprising that the developers at Lodge Hill are not going to have found alternatives – it wouldn’t exactly be in their interest, would it? “Oh no, it’s ok, we won’t don’t want to build these 5000 houses on this bit of land we own, as there are plenty of other places to build them in the area.” That doesn’t seem very likely.
I’m no expert, but I think the idea behind local planning is that the council do an independent assessment of housing needs based on government projections of population growth, then identify locations where the houses can be built – assessing the suitability of each location against a series of tests set out in the NPPF. This is what I seem to recall being called a Local Plan? Perhaps Medway Councillors need to go on a training course.
Here’s the letter.