Conservation charities and wildlife campaigners have welcomed the news Dover District Council has rejected plans to build a hotel on a nature-rich habitat have been rejected by Dover District Council.
The Friends of Betteshanger Group, who have been campaigning against the development of a luxury hotel and surf lagoon at the site, say the planning permission refusal is a step in the right direction for nature and congratulated the planning committee for putting nature first.
No surf lagoon
Whilst campaigners were encouraged that the plan was thrown out, they are now calling on Dover District Council to follow suit and decline the application to build a surf lagoon that they say will be more harmful to nature than the hotel.
Betteshanger Country Park is a 250-acre (100 hectare) site in Deal that had formerly been used as a spoil tip for the Betteshanger Colliery, which closed in 1989. Reclaimed by nature the area is now a nationally important site and home to vulnerable and rare species including turtle doves, water voles, lizard orchids and reindeer cup lichen.
The endangered and nationally rare Fiery Clearwing moth can be found at the site alongside a diverse community of invertebrates associated with Betteshanger’s industrial past. Over 300 species of native plants can be found there too, of which 20 are on the Kent Rare Plant Register,
A win for nature
Sue Sullivan, a member of the Friends of Betteshanger Group said:
“This is a win for nature, Betteshanger Country Park is home to precious and rare wildlife and has been used as a mitigation site for other developments in Deal several times over.
“Many councils across the country are under pressure to develop their districts at the expense of wildlife and I would like to congratulate Dover District Council on putting nature first and protecting this precious habitat. Green spaces like Betteshanger sustain us and are vital for our well-being both physically and mentally.”
The Friends of Betteshanger campaign was supported by Campaign to Protect Rural England Kent, Kent Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Plantlife and Buglife, who all expressed deep concerns about the impact the development would have on wildlife. Their expert objections submitted to planners played a crucial role in the rejection of the plan.
Putting nature first
Vicky Ellis of CPRE Kent, said:
“In this instance, Dover District Council have put nature, biodiversity, and the local community first and we commend them for this. All too often our rapidly diminishing nature does not get a voice. The Friends of Betteshanger, and the conservation groups that support this campaign, can’t all be wrong in their assessment of this special site. It’s good to see common sense prevail.
“With the hotel plan shelved Dover Council planners now have the opportunity to follow through on their commitment to nature by turning down the application to build a surf lagoon. This is potentially even more harmful to the area than the hotel itself.
“The surf lagoon will not only encroach on habitat put aside specifically to mitigate the impacts on Turtle Doves from a previous development but likely drive them from the area. It will also encroach on a nationally important colony of Lizard Orchids.
“It is now crucial that the steps are taken to secure Betteshanger Country Park in the long term and we would like to invite the council to revisit plans to designate this area as a nature reserve.”
People can still donate to a Crowd Justice funder set up by the group, which will be used to help pay for any legal fees to challenge the plans to develop the surf lagoon.
For more information on Betteshanger Country Park and why it is so important for wildlife click here.