Photo: Richard Bayfield

A coalition of wildlife charities has written to Government Minister Michael Gove, asking him to revoke a planning designation that puts a nationally important wildlife site in North Kent at risk of being turned into a Theme Park.

The Swanscombe Peninsula, which hosts over 2,000 species of invertebrate and 82 species of breeding birds, was granted a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) status in 2014 for the London Resort Theme Park project. However, the wildlife charities say this status is preventing them from implementing a community-led Vision for the site that would protect its biodiversity and provide a green space for people.

It was recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 2021 by Natural England, the Government’s advisor for the natural environment in England and led to the withdrawal of the theme park application in 2022 and growing support for the Vision that would see the Swanscombe Peninsula as the heart of a thriving community wildlife haven.

However, the NSIP direction still remains in place, which means that any future development proposals would bypass local planning authorities and be decided by Mr Gove who is the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

The wildlife charities’ letter to Mr Gove calls on him to use his powers under the Planning Act to remove the NSIP status and enable plans for the Swanscombe Peninsula to move forward. They argue that the site is a unique and irreplaceable habitat for rare and endangered species, such as the Critically Endangered Distinguished Jumping Spider, the Endangered Man Orchid, Water Voles and Otters. They also say that the site is a valuable asset for the local community, offering opportunities for recreation, education and wellbeing.

Jamie Robins, Programmes Manager at Buglife says, “We have known for years that the site is a haven for wildlife, but the threat of a theme park continues to hang over it, leaving the community uncertain over the future of their much-loved green space, year after year. The time has come for the Secretary of State to remove this unnecessary and damaging planning status, so that we can take the steps to save it.

“The Swanscombe Peninsula is a unique site, home to thousands of species of animal and plant and an unrivalled green space for the local community, with the potential to be a nature park accessible to all. We are in a nature crisis and the Government has committed to protecting 30% of the UK for wildlife. We need to defend nature and to start by protecting SSSI sites like Swanscombe Peninsula once and for all and helping to make the Vision for the Swanscombe Peninsula a reality”

Buglife, CPRE Kent, Kent Wildlife Trust and the RSPB have been working together for a number of years, together with local community groups to save the Swanscombe Peninsula, calling for it to be notified as a SSSI, engaging with the complex planning system, working with the local Save Swanscombe Peninsula community group and developing the Vision for the Swanscombe Peninsula.

By Ed

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