Biodiversity masterplanning

The brief

Thomson Ecology was appointed to assist Land Securities with the planning application for the Lodge Hill development. We undertook all of the ecological work needed to take the project from its inception through to making the final planning application.

What we did

The Lodge Hill development site is owned by the Ministry of Defence but the site is now surplus to requirements. The application area is c.326ha, including green infrastructure.

The development proposal is for a mixed use settlement comprising up to 5000 residential units, business and retail floor space, four schools, a community facility and several other elements included to make Lodge Hill a complete community.

The site contains some important habitats including ancient woodland and significant populations of protected species. It was also found to support nationally significant numbers of breeding nightingale and a noteworthy grassland type. As a consequence, Natural England designated most of the development site as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) after the initial planning application was made. Nevertheless, it was decided to press on with the development proposal and re-submit the planning application taking into account Natural England’s decision.

Thomson Ecology was involved in the Lodge Hill project for seven years. Our work included

  • A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal and a suite of protected species surveys to inform the development masterplan
  • Attendance at masterplan meetings and assisting in the design of the development in order to minimise the impacts on biodiversity
  • Attendance at the public examination of Medway Local Plan, of which Lodge Hill was a key component
  • Production of the ecology chapter of the Environmental Statement, plus revisions following the SSSI designation
  • Production of a shadow Appropriate Assessment dealing with potential effects on nearby Special Protection Areas (SPAs)
  • Preparation of mitigation plans including plans designed to compensate for the partial loss of the SSSI and avert impacts on the SPAs
  • Input to the planning statement and the preparation of draft planning obligations, including a Section 106 agreement
  • Assisting Land Securities in negotiations over the SSSI notification, including challenging the arguments put forward by Natural England
  • Representing Land Securities at a meeting with the Secretary of State for Defence.

Recommendations and outcomes

Medway Council were satisfied with the ecological mitigation and compensation package and granted planning permission for the Lodge Hill development but referred their decision to the Secretary of State, who decided that the development should be called-in for a public inquiry.

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