Damson, Goat Willow, Hawthorn and Elder… not cast members from a Harry Potter film, but some of the many species of the trees that developers over the last few years have ripped out because they are apparently ‘low quality’, or ‘over mature’. The other day I was stood on the edge of a site taking a long gaze at the destruction developers are reaping on our wonderful Peninsula, I could see, out of the corner of my eye one of the developers representative giving me a long hard look.
We are all aware of the benefits of trees, for oxygenation and drainage, but trees such as the Damson is a food plant for not only humans, but a large number of butterflies and moths, its flowers attract many pollinating insects. The fruit is also a food source for birds and mammals.
Goat Willow, also known as the pussy willow, is the main food plant for the Purple Emperor butterfly. Its catkins provide an important early source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, and birds use goat willow to forage for caterpillars and insects.
Hawthorn, is much loved by insects and invertebrates and nesting birds. At one it was thought that if you burned elder wood you would see the devil! Many residents of the Peninsula believe we know that devil! Elder is also known as the ‘Judas tree’. Judas Iscariot is said to have hung himself from an Elder tree. The removal and destruction of these or any trees flies in the face of Medway Council’s climate emergency .
National Planning Policy Framework 2019 states that planning decisions should enhance the natural and local environment. Medway Local Plan 2003 states developments should seek to retain trees, woodland and hedgerows. Councils should make the most of natural resources, but this apparently doesn’t apply on the Peninsula.
The HIF Project will destroy not only fabulous grade one agricultural land and hedgerows, but trees and wildlife habitats and those natural outdoor spaces that have such a restorative effect on peoples health and well-being. Our Hoo Peninsula for which we are the latest custodians must be protected, we cannot allow this project to be railroaded through on a nod and a wink at Gun Wharf.
So I ask you to join me and demand that Medway Council leave our Peninsula greener in the long term than it is today. Rich in wildlife, a place where people and nature are better connected, a place where children can benefit from green spaces to explore, to learn and to play much like I was lucky enough to do as a boy!
There is a campaign to save Deangate, a ready made country park, from a spur road being driven through it and to open it up for development.If you haven’t yet signed the petition or you have friends and family that haven’t please add your weight. The Peninsula needs your support.
Consider this, our Local Authority buys a parcel of land in 1972 to build a golf course to further the health and well being of its residents. Since 1972 the course and club house facilities become a much loved hub for not only golf but social interaction and well being for local people.
In 2008 the Local Authority begins a decade of golf course and amenity improvement promising a world class facility we can all be proud of. The improvements are to be self funded by allowing millions of tons of soil from development to be dumped on the course’s driving range and existing par 3 course.
During this decade of improvement, the immensity and disruption of the project hits and the golf course loses revenue due to the temporary closure of the amenity (the driving range and par three course). It also stifles a vital introductory element of sport for the youth but it is all worth while as the community watches the improvements taking place from the comfort of the club house with its extensive views.
In 2018 and almost in the week the new facility is opened the Authority’s governing Cabinet suddenly announce its intention to close the whole facility on the grounds that it has consistently lost money over the previous 10 years. (It is important to note that many if not most of the Council’s recreational facilities are run at a loss and are poorly maintained, “Splashes” as an example has just (2021) been grant a 5M capital upgrade by the authority, no doubt needed due to lack of good maintenance over its lifetime).
After much public outcry and indignation and after the decision close is “called in” to the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee the Cabinet closes the facility. In an act of commiseration its leader announces a £50,000 study into the possibility of a sports centre to replace the loss. This hasn’t materialised to date.
Local protest fails but is successful in convincing the Authority to register the whole of the site as an Asset of Community Value, a move normally taken by an authority against a third party (like a pub) when the owner closes a much loved and vital amenity in the pursuit of profit. This has resulted in the unique situation of a Local Authority registering an Asset of Community Value against itself as the owner.
Shorty after closure the Cabinet commission a £150,000 study to establish how much the site it is worth in terms of development and now in 2021 the authority propose building a road way through the site and announce the concept of “Parkland living at Deangate”, all in the name of ‘New Routes to Good Growth.’
Saving Deangate is not a local issue. No community in this country would quietly stand by whilst its local authority disregards the health and well being of the community it serves, however small.
Please take this opportunity to have your say and sign the SAVE DEANGATE PETITION.