The UK government has requested further information to assist it in deciding whether to call in Land Securities’ application for a 5,000-home development at a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) at Lodge Hill in Kent.10 Dec 2014
Medway Council resolved in September to approve the plans, in the face of widespread opposition from local people and environmental groups. The site had been designated as an SSSI by government conservation adviser Natural England prior to the Council's decision, due to the presence of a nationally significant population of nightingales and the presence of special grassland and woodland.
Planning and housing minister Brandon Lewis has now written to the Council (2-page / 257 KB PDF) to confirm that the government is "giving careful consideration" as to whether the application should be called in for determination on behalf of secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles. Pickles ruled himself out of a direct role in the decision-making process in September, due to his membership of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
Lewis said in his letter that further information was required before a decision could be made on whether to call in the application. He noted that "a number of representations" had been made to the government, "including from Natural England and the RSPB". Lewis sought the Council's view on certain of the representations, specifically requesting to be informed of the view of the planning committee that originally decided in favour of the application.
Lewis said in the letter that the views should be provided by 12 January and that an article 25 direction prohibiting the Council from granting planning permission would remain in place until the government had decided whether to call the application in.