Lodge Hill Granted Planning Permission

Despite being thrown out of the local plan, offsetting is proposed even though it is an SSSI.

RSPB Blog

the RSPB has been campaigning to stop a development of 5000 houses on Chattenden Woods and Lodge Hill SSSI.

This ex-MOD training ground is home to a nationally important population of nightingales (possibly the most important site in the UK for this iconic and declining species), as well as ancient woodland and rare grassland.

Last night, Medway Council made the decision to approve the application from Land Securities, MoD’s delivery partner.

The vote to approve the development goes against the advice of Natural England, the government’s own environmental advisors, as well as a raft of conservation organisations.

It’s a shocking decision.

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.  Under the terms of the National Planning Policy Framework (clause 118), there is a presumption against building on SSSIs – our most important wildlife sites.  The public benefits from the development need to significantly outweigh the environmental damage.  Houses which are important locally must not trump nationally important wildlife sites.

Nightingale singing. Image by John Bridges (www.rspb-images.com)

The Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, can ‘call in’ the application and make the decision himself with the national perspective it needs. In effect this would take the decision out of Medway’s hands, and allow it to be made through the rigorous process of a public inquiry.

We’ll be reminding him that if the development goes ahead, it will be one of the largest losses of SSSI land in the country – perhaps the biggest loss since the mid-1990s.   This is not what we’d expect from ‘the greenest government ever’.  Not only that, but it would be contrary to the Government’s own guidance on developing protected sites.

It is clear that Medway is in need of housing and employment, but these needs should be assessed through a thorough strategic review. Reliance on a single proposal at Lodge Hill is not the answer to providing a sustainable long-term solution.

Please help us tell Eric Pickles why this decision matters across England, and ask him to call it in.

Kent Online

Plans for a controversial housing development on the former Army camp at Chattenden were unanimously approved by Medway Council at a special planning meeting last night.

The “stand-alone, sustainable” development at Lodge Hill will include 5,000 homes, new schools, healthcare facilities, leisure facilities and employment and business space.

The plans will now be referred to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Natural England.

 

Robin Cooper, director of regeneration, said: “I am pleased the development at Lodge Hill is being reconsidered with fresh material from Land Securities.

“A new sustainable community in this location will play a substantial role in providing Medway with the new homes and facilities it needs to cater for the growing population.

“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.”

 

Views of the former Lodge Hill army camp, Lodge Hill Lane, Chattenden

Lodge Hill was declared at Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) last year, which meant developers Land Securities had to reassess the environmental impact upon the site.

This included finding new homes for the 84 nightingales and other wildlife that inhabit the site – compensation land has been proposed at Shoeburyness, Essex, for the song birds.

The site will also include 65 hectares of open space for parks and wildlife as well as three walking loops.

 

Tom Venner, Development Director for Land Securities, said: “We are delighted that Medway Council has approved our Outline Planning Application for Lodge Hill, which will allow for a truly sustainable development to be delivered.

“We have worked hard over several years to create a masterplan which addresses all potential impacts associated with the regeneration plans and we are grateful for the constructive involvement of Council officers, local residents and other important stakeholder groups.

“Lodge Hill will benefit life and business in Medway by bringing much-needed homes and road improvements and will create approximately 5,000 jobs to secure the Peninsula’s status as a significant economic destination in the region.”

 

Cllr Chris Irvine (far right) and members of the Rochester and Strood Conservatives protested before the planning meeting last night.

At the special planning meeting, six ward councillors from the peninsula were granted permission to speak about the plans.

Cllr Tom Mason said: “The SSSI site is so important and if this was to be agreed it would set a precedent, I believe, that SSSI sites would mean nothing.”

Cllr Chris Irvine said: “If this application is approved this evening it would be a death sentence for our environment, our villages and our communities in rural Medway.”

 

View of the area that would be developed

Cllr Phil Filmer and Cllr Peter Hicks expressed concerns about access to and from the site. The plans include new sliproads from the A289 to the site, avoiding Four Elms Roundabout.

As part of the deal, the landowner must enter into a Section 106 agreement – promising to deliver a number of additional projects in Medway to cope with additional demand as a result of the development.


There are 25 conditions, which include:

  • A contribution of £7.5million towards highway and public transport improvements on the A228 and A289 including Sans Pareil Roundabout, Anthonys Way Roundabout, Wulfere Way, Berwick Way and Vanguard Way
  • Provision of three primary schools with a total of eight classes per year group, one school with expertise in special educational needs.
  • A secondary school with a sixth form and sports facilities
  • Contribution of £90,000 towards improvements to the cycle links between the site and Medway City Estate
  • Contribution of £1,040,750 towards off site formal sport at Deangate Ridge

If given the go-ahead by the Secretary of State, work on the site will take place over a 15 to 20-year period, with a target of laying the first brick by early 2016.

4 thoughts on “Lodge Hill Granted Planning Permission

  1. Thanks Andrew.

    I’m interested in your view on the possibility of a call-in, for example, because of the impact on the SSSI. As I understand it Medway Planning Committee have voted unanimously in favour of the Planning Application. The Officers have stated that the application will need to be “referred” to CLG because the development is not in conformity with policies of the local plan: and Sport England’s objection re loss of playing fields. They don’t mention the SSSI at this point.

    How long does it take from a planning committee vote, to the planning permission being formally granted? Is permission formally granted on the “decision date”? After it has been formally granted, my understanding is that the SoS cannot then call it in, but only revoke planning permission and direct an Inquiry to take place.

    Thanks

    Miles

  2. Hi Miles, my understanding is as follows:

    1. It can take anything from a few hours to several months for the decision notice to be issued. Delays are typically caused by the negotiation of the Section 106 agreements, etc.

    2. Permission is formally granted on the day when the decision notice is sent. This means that if there are any material changes that occur after the planning committee decide to grant but before the decision notice is issued then the planning authority is supposed to go back to the planning committee to confirm that this does not change their minds (as there is a requirement to take account of all material considerations as they stand at the time that the decision notice is issued).

    3. If a refusal is appealed it will be decided by a planning inspector no behalf of the SoS. The SoS has the power to call in a planning application for his determination before the Decision Notice is issued. The SoS can also ask that the Decision Notice not be issued before he has fully considered the matter, and they have to wait for the SoS if it is circumstances where a referral is required (which seems to be the case here). The application cannot get called-in if the planning authority decides to refuse, but the applicant does have the automatic right to appeal the refusal (and this can be recovered for determination by the SoS in some circumstances).

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