Looking over shoulders

It’s about time I introduced everyone in the Conservation team properly. Starting with the planning team, which just involves a short walk across the yard to the farmhouse offices, we can look over some shoulders and see what people are up to.

We put a lot of time and effort into trying to prevent habitats being damaged and wildlife lost through building development. Perhaps surprisingly, this is more often about advising on how housing, roads and other built development schemes can be designed and implemented in a way that avoids damage, and sometimes even benefits wildlife, than about trying to prevent development schemes. Keith, Vanessa and Greg all have slightly different roles within the team, providing advice on whether wildlife is likely to be harmed by development schemes and how this could be prevented. Here is how we do it…

Looking for habitat information to assess the impact of planning proposal
Keith has been alerted to unauthorised motorcycle scrambling on a Local Wildlife Site by a KWT member, who has sent photographs showing how the site is being damaged. He is checking which habitats and species are found on the site so that he can let the local district council know which are protected by law and lobby them to take action to stop any illegal activity.
Not that the Trust is against motor cycle scrambling – we want people to enjoy the countryside in all sorts of ways, but there are places where this can happen without damaging wildlife that is already seriously declining.

As a previous Director of Planning at Tonbridge and Malling District Council, Keith has helped the Trust develop a very professional approach to our planning work. He works with us two days a week, spending much of the rest of the time advising on planning policy in other parts of the country. Keith focuses on checking planning proposals which might affect Local Wildlife Sites, as well as other important areas for wildlife, but Kent Wildlife Trust is particularly concerned to look out for Local Wildlife Sites because there is no-one else to do it.

 

 

Vanessa working at her desk at Kent Wildlife Trust, reviewing the ecological information from a planning application
Major planning applications are accompanied by hundreds of pages of additional information. A few years ago, Vanessa would have been surrounded by thick folders of environmental information as she checked to see what impact this 500 home development would have on the environment. Now it is all online, she just has to do a lot of scrolling.

Vanessa also has a professional planning background, she worked for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council before coming to work with us nearly two years ago. She reviews the new Local Plans that the local councils have to produce to show where new housing and other development can be built and where land will be allocated to other uses, including green spaces and nature reserves. The plans have policies in them covering all eventualities; Vanessa’s task is to check that they have strong enough policies to protect wildlife and the natural environment.

Greg working at Kent Wildlife Trust, emailing people about Lodge Hill Public Inquiry
There is still a lot of uncertainty about the timing of the Lodge Hill Public Inquiry, which makes it a bit tricky for us to plan ahead. Greg is working on the background evidence for the case we will present at the Inquiry, but the timetable is yet to be agreed and it looks as if it is is going to be further delayed. On the noticeboard is one of Greg’s beautiful tree photos. He is a really good photographer of many subjects, but his tree theme collection is particularly gorgeous. Maybe he will let me head this post with one!

Greg is the Trust’s Thames Gateway Officer, although the Thames Gateway as a concept seems to be quietly going away. That doesn’t mean that the development activity in North Kent is slowing down though. With long term schemes like the Ebbsfleet Garden City still going through the planning process, North Kent is still one of the busiest areas for us in terms of planning work. This week, Greg has been replying to the Thames Lower Crossing consultation – the proposed tunnel will damage ancient woodland Local Wildlife Sites and SSSI (you can have your say  here), meeting people about the Ebbsfleet Garden City and pressing on with the Lodge Hill Public Inquiry work.

 

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