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Defra hints at Lodge Hill solution

Wed 3 April 2013, 4:27 pm

The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) has hinted that it is keen to find a way forward for the Lodge Hill development, despite part of the 285ha footprint being declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Last month Medway1 reported that Natural England had decided to make the environmental designation on the basis of Lodge Hill’s nightingale population - potentially jeopardising plans for the Land Securities development of 5,000-jobs and 4,500 to 5,000 homes.

Following criticism of the decision from Chancellor George Osborne, Defra is looking at the potential for “biodiversity offsetting” - where a new habitat for the nightingales would be created to replace the lost one - to keep the development on-track, the Guardian reported.

It quoted a Defra spokeswoman saying: "Growing the economy is the government's top priority and we can do this at the same time as we improve the environment.

"Lodge Hill presents a strong opportunity to test [biodiversity offsetting] to allow development while ensuring wildlife and habitats thrive."

Medway Council reacted with fury to last month’s news that Natural England had decided on a Site of Special Scientific Interest designation for Lodge Hill, branding the move “astonishing” and “absurd”.

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