Parishes take on Medway


Two Hoo Peninsula Parish Councils have engaged top lawyers Leigh Day to issue a warning to Medway Council over their multi million road building “HIF” programme. The £170 million “Housing Infrastructure Fund” grant from the Government is intended to provide the extra road and rail capacity to allow the building of 12,500 houses mainly within two parishes on the Peninsula  – High Halstow and Hoo St Werburgh. The largest sum £86 million is for new roads, bringing at least a doubling of road traffic onto the Peninsula with its internationally recognised ecology and habitats.

Parish Councillors decided to use the top legal team of solicitors and barristers which successfully stopped the Heathrow expansion in its tracks earlier this year. Leigh Day have written to Medway Council, criticising their refusal to provide any information about the environmental impact of the massive road building proposals or to even tell local community any of the detail of their proposals. 

Medway Council seem to believe that they are entitled to plan our future in secret by agreeing to concrete over large parts of the Peninsula without telling us how it will affect our communities, our ecology and our living conditions.” says High Halstow Parish Council Chairman, George Crozer 

Both parish councils are concerned that Medway Council will enter into binding agreements with government housing agency Homes England to deliver specific infrastructure projects that will foreclose public debate about less harmful alternatives. This would be unlawful, says the letter, because of Medway’s failure to consult the Hoo Peninsula community,  or to assess the environmental impact before entering into the agreement. As a result both Parish Councils are unable to progress their neighbourhood plans while they are being being kept in the dark about Medway’s proposals.  

The entire reasoning behind the HIF programme is to expand the highway capacity to allow even more vehicle traffic onto local roads, to serve a massive house building programme on poorly located sites in the rural area. 

This cannot be the way forward,” says Cllr Crozer, “Medway are refusing to give the Parish Councils  the information they need to understand how they will be affected, in terms of traffic, air quality and the effects of building thousands of new family homes on our treasured greenfield landscapes, with nothing in the HIF programme for  providing the local health, education, retail and other services that we need, forcing new residents to use their cars for all their daily needs. Anyone would be suspicious of Medway’s motives when they are so desperate that they won’t tell us what they are doing, leaving us with no alternative but to resort to the courts!”

See Solicitors letter below.Letter, LD to Medway Council (16-07-2020) (as sent)

Hoo’s jewel in the crown?

The Jewel in the ecological crown of Hoo St Werburgh is the magnificent Medway Estuary and Marshes.  Seen from the foreshore the estuary forms a single tidal system with the Swale and joins the southern part of the Thames Estuary between the Isle of Grain and Sheerness forming the Northern section of the renowned North Kent Marshes.


The site has a unique complex arrangement of tidal channels, which drain around large islands of salt marsh and peninsulas of grazing marsh. There are large areas of mudflat, which have high densities of invertebrates providing a good food source for wading birds. Grazing marsh can also be found landward of some sea walls in the area. Small shell beaches occur too, particularly in the outer parts of the estuary. The area is very flat and low lying, with large expanses of uninterrupted views.

The complex and diverse mixes of coastal habitats support important numbers of waterbirds throughout the year. In summer, the estuary supports breeding waders and terns, whilst in winter it holds important numbers of geese, ducks, grebes and waders. The middle and outer parts of the estuary represent the most important areas for the birds. Important areas for birds include the Saltings and Hoo flats on the north side and the stretch from Copperhouse marshes eastwards towards Chetney marshes on the south side. The islands within the Medway also provide good habitat for protected birds, in particular some of the breeding species. The two main protection designations are the Medway Estuary and Marshes Ramsar site and Medway Estuary Marine Conservation Zone. These the whole foreshore and intertidal habitats from Upnor to Grain (and beyond) and across the medway to Gillingham and Rainhan and on to the Swale.


Newt counting delay

“Newt counting delays” in our planning system are a massive drag on productivity and prosperity of our country  says our Prime Minister Boris Johnson

It seems that having a go at the ecological protection our planning laws provide is the new blood sports of our prime minister. Challenging the value of ecological protection is nothing new.  In November 2011, George Osbourne, then Chancellor of the Exchequer,  launched a similar attack.  In its White Paper of 7 June 2011 entitled ‘The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature’ the Government stated its ambition:
“We want to improve the quality of our natural environment across England, moving to a net gain in the value of nature. We aim to arrest the decline in habitats and species and the degradation of landscapes. We will protect priority habitats and safeguard vulnerable no-renewable resources for futures generations. We will support natural systems to function more efficiently in town, in the country and at sea. We will achieve this through joined-up action at local and national levels to create an ecological network which is resilient to changing pressures.”
Less than six months later, Osbourne announced that he wanted to make sure that so called “gold plating”  rulesprotecting things like habitats was not putting “ridiculous costs on firms by burdening them with endless social and environmental goals”. DEFRA reviewed the impact of  the Habitats and Wild  Birds Directives and found that Natural England had actually objected to only 0.5 % of the 26,500 consultations on development it received each year.
If developers and Councils follow the rules, development is entirely possible whilst at the same time looking after our wildlife and most precious environment. The means of protection is already in place to protect our ecology for future generations to enjoy and is for the benefit of all. It just requires those charged with its protection to have the will to enforce it.
Both the PM and  Medway Council would seemingly disregard the crucial role that nature, wildlife and our environment has to play in keeping us both physically and mentally sound as we work and play. It is evident to the people of the Peninsula the importance our natural surroundings  – especially during this ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Nature has provided people with much solace during this coronavirus crisis and we know that we need nature not just for health and wellbeing but also because restored natural habitats can capture carbon.  The government plans Investing in roads will put more cars on the road. And investing in  unsustainable developments and undermining vital environmental protections, will mean nature continues to lose out and will leave us open to the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

The facts are that healthy ecosystems on the land and better understanding of the role nature based solutions can play to absorb more carbon will help us deal with climate change something Medway Council declared in the Climate change emergency in 2019.”making Medway a place to be proud of the key outcome of becoming a “clean and green environment “

And now especially as the slow recovery from lockdown begins we are in place a quite unique place to start to deliver a green recovery to bring back lost habitats,protect our beautiful places and to ask planners and developers to design places where people and nature thrive together,preserving,protecting and promoting our natural green spaces.

 We do not believe Medway Council knows what the effect will be on our ecology of building 12,500 homes on the Hoo Peninsula. We do not believe they have done the simplest of ecological assessments or paid any attention to the Paris Accord on Climate Change in their submissions to the HiF bid. They are leading us blindly into an unsustainable future.
We must  DEMAND  Medway confirm that the HIF bid conform to the Paris accord on Climate Control and that a thorough Ecological assessment has been undertaken with positive results.  Or  pull out of the HiF agreement and rethink development on the Hoo Peninsula.