Earlier this week I read a really good blogpost on the Nightingale situation at Lodgehill and followed it up with the local press reports from the week before and felt moved to write to the Medway Messenger letters page for this Friday, on behalf of the local party - having received my Chair's green light.
Unfortunately it wasn't published but I have published it here instead, I have also expanded the letter as well as I have more space to manoeuvre and to explain.
The original letter appears in Italics.
I am sure I can speak for many who care about the conservation of England's wildlife when I say I'm pleased about the colony of Nightingales on the Hoo peninsula and the SSI.
Too often we see local authorities ready to send in the bulldozers and play havoc with our biosphere.
I was very disappointed by Councillor Chambers' comments in local and national press regarding Government agencies "delaying" the "much needed homes"
I'll come to the housing part in a moment. I want to concentrate on Cllr Chambers' comments (and those of Cllr Chitty the portfolio holder for this sort of thing) as they directly bemoaned a Government agency stopping another Government agency from doing its much needed business.
As Britain's natural habitats are quickly being eaten up, ancient woodlands, marshlands, green fields all swallowed up for the ever expanding urban areas.
Britain's natural wildlife is also in rapid decline, the number of sparrows have fallen, foxes are forced to enter urban areas in search of food as their natural habitats are destroyed.
We should be welcoming the discovery that this stretch of land is so vitally important to the Nation's Nightingale population.
Yes it is annoying, from the council's point of view, yes it voids the vasts amounts of tax payers money spent on the project up until now but to fight it and to remonstrate with another faceless "Government agency" (backed by the RSPB) over something like this is foreseeably a bigger waste of money and makes you look like a lot of (excuse my Anglo-Saxon) uncaring bastards.
It would be better to put your hands up say "Fair cop gov" and then look at ways that this could be exploited for everyone's benefit. Perhaps a nature walk, better roads out to the site and amenities for bird watchers, naturalists (not nudists!) and tourists. Make it part of the local economy in a good way so people will say:
Let's go to Medway, they've got that lovely park with the Nightingales
Does that not sound better?
Although the project would provide much needed jobs surely we could reemploy the resources on much needed regeneration within the existing towns like our crumbling roads and abandoned houses.
Win for the council, win for residents and win for nature. Don't waste more money on an appeal and tearing up a rare habitat and reinvest in what we already have?
It is true that the Medway does need more affordable housing especially new housing, to attract young couples to the towns to breathe in some life and much needed funds.
There is also a need for jobs. The average wage for someone in Medway is around £14k PA, this is not really enough. I'm in the job market at the moment looking to reallocate from working in London to working closer to home so I can spend more time with my young family and my bed! However as I'm not a labourer, nor qualified for teaching, estate agency or driving I'm finding it pretty hard to find anything at the moment and am forced to stay in my current employ.
Why did a young couple such as myself and Sam reallocate to Medway in the first place?
Well the answer is two fold;
1. My grandfather had passed away and left me half the value of his house and we could get a mortgage.
2. Sam could be closer to her Mum who has not been to too well and as her younger Brother's guardian it would be better to be closer to home.
Otherwise, we might have stayed in Winchester where we had more opportunities and albeit a smaller flat.
The Medway towns needs something to attract workwise as well as the housing.
Unfortunately much of the existing Medway towns is run down and in dire need of regeneration. I'm not talking about Cllr Jarrett et al's plan to glorify Chatham Central, I mean residential, urban areas such as Gillingham North and South, parts of Chatham, Strood...
There are plenty of spots which could do with rejuvination, empty houses that could be sorted out and could be sold on to young couples. The Government have put in a scheme to make housing improvements easier, why not take advantage of this and encourage renevation businesses locally.
There's jobs, there's money, there's decent housing.
There are also other sites, former industrial and commercial sites in Medway where the same projects could be carried out on a much smaller scale and over a wider area.
In short, this is a kick in the nuts, unavoidably so and nothing that can be blamed on political ineptitude, it is just one of those things. However there are things that can be done, a redistribution of the resources and taking this opportunity to do something positive.
Also, as Councillor Chris Irvine said in his blog; It'll be interesting to see what this development will have on the plans for Boris Island etc...