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Government adviser urged to protect Swanscombe Peninsula

Words: Laura Edgar
Swanscombe / Daniel Greenwood

Buglife, the RSPB, Kent Wildlife Trust and CPRE Kent have called on Natural England to ‘swiftly’ confirm Swanscombe Peninsula, home to rare species, as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

In March, Natural England began a consultation on the notification of Swanscombe Peninsula SSSI under section 28C of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The deadline passed on 12 July.

Swanscombe Peninsular is an open mosaic habitat on previously developed land and a traditional estuarine habitat that connects Ebbsfleet Valley to the southern shore of the River Thames, between Dartford and Gravesend. It features chalk pits, scrub, wetlands and grazing marsh, and is of special interest owing to its assemblages of invertebrates and breeding birds, populations of five species of vascular plant, and its geological features.

The four organisations note that it is home to the scarce brown-banded carder bee, the critically endangered distinguished jumping spider and rare man orchid, as well as various bird species such as nightingales, cuckoos, and the grasshopper warbler.

Although notified as a SSSI in March, it will not get full legal protection until the site is properly established.   

The London Resort, a theme park, is proposed for Swanscombe marshes. According to campaigners, the proposals contradict the government’s commitments to create a Nature Recovery Network (NRN) and to protect 30 per cent of the UK for wildlife by 2030.

Craig Macadam, director of conservation at Buglife, said: “Recent surveys have revealed that the Swanscombe Peninsula is one of the most important sites in England for rare invertebrates. However, the site could be lost if plans to build the new London Resort theme park are approved, so we really need the notification swiftly confirmed and the site afforded full legal protection.”  

Julia Hunt, head of advocacy at Kent Wildlife Trust, added: “Government is clear on its ambitions for nature. But it needs to turn words into action and step up to prevent our best sites being lost to development. If it does not protect places like the Swanscombe Peninsula it will be failing in its ambitions to make the UK a nature-rich nation and failing people who need nature. Wildlife needs these places, and people – particularly in urban areas – need these places.”  

Image credit | Daniel Greenwod (top) and Roman Willi (square)