The tree sparrow is now a ‘priority species’ in Kent
There’s a sentiment around in some places that says it’s not worth worrying too much about the wildlife. Newts and nightjars may need protection if Imperial gets its way, but they are not enough to halt the plan, and for that reason we should bury our heads in council papers and seek salvation in the minutiae of red tape.
You can see the argument. While Imperial may be a large organisation, full of decent people, many of whom hate the idea of damaging the countryside, you tend to suspect that, if a colony of albino unicorns were found happily playing away at the foot of the Downs, the regime of Richard Sykes would carry them off for a spot of lab testing then drive the bulldozers in regardless.
All the same endangered species do matter. They need protection; or, more accurately, we need public vigilance to ensure that they receive the protection national and European law gives them already. Just as important, they give people a visible symbol around which they can rally, and in campaigns like these symbols are vitally important.
The nightjar, above, is just one of the many rare species under threat
Telling people to go out there and fight for your right to be treated fairly under Planning Policy Statement Number 9 just isn’t the same as saying, ‘Save Our Newts’. It bores the public when keeping up their interest over a long and possibly gruelling battle is essential. It also disengages them from the entire process, because they don’t understand the dreadful jargon of the planning process half the time, and I, for one, don’t blame them because it baffles me too.
What we are talking about here is called public relations: the ability to get over a simple message, clearly and succinctly, in terms that make it comprehensible to people who are just on the edge of the debate, peeking in to see what’s going on. Just because Imperial are terribly, horribly bad at it, there is no reason we should copy them down that path.
By setting Imperial’s overweening ambitions in the context of what harm they may do to small, harmless, endangered species — however much the developers object to the contrary — we bring the argument over Wye to a new and broader audience. Without that, we’re back looking to a deal behind doors in London clubs, and I for one place little confidence there.
So please think twice before rejecting the idea that paying attention to this area’s spectacularly varied wildlife is somehow wasted effort compared to the larger tasks of chasing legal options and scouring development plans for holes through which the developers might hope to slip. It’s also a good excuse to get out and about and enjoy the countryside at this time of year. Water voles and hares, orchids, butterflies and bumblebees, are all on the priority conservation list, and visible in the Wye area for those who know how to find them.
Will Imperial be able to square a huge development with the existing nature protection rules? Probably, at great time and expense if it can be bothered. But whether they will be able to mitigate all the damage I doubt. If there is one thing we learn about large building projects it is that they change the eco-system in subtle ways which sometimes take years to appreciate. Some species become more dominant, and others decline or disappear altogether. Perhaps the infamous Brooks Wilson Vulture (Avarishus Avarishus) will fall into the latter category…
And if anyone would like to start a log of sightings of local endangered wildlife, or some other kind of nature diary, please let us know — we will happily host it on this site.
You can find a lovely article about nightjars here. There is an astonishingly extensive list of endangered species in the Kent Red Book here (1.4mb download). And below you will find a list of Kent’s priority species. These cover the whole county — you can find more information here. Just in case you think this is crying wolf, I suggest you take at the birds category which includes, these days, the tree sparrow, once an everyday species we surely took for granted.
Great Crested Newt
Banded Mining Bee
Large Garden Bumblebee
Shrill Carder Bumblebee
Cerceris quadricincta (a Solitary Wasp)
Cerceris quinquefasciata (a Solitary Wasp)
Evagetes pectinipes (a Spider-Hunting Wasp)
Nomada ferruginata (a Cuckoo Bee)
Amara strenua (a Ground Beetle)
Anisodactylus poeciloides (a Ground Beetle)
Hazel Pot Beetle
Harpalus cordatus (a Ground Beetle)
Harpalus parallelus (a Ground Beetle)
Lionychus quadrillum (a Ground Beetle)
Crucifix Ground Beetle
Freshwater White-Clawed Crayfish
Lagoon Sand Shrimp
10. Flowering Plants:
Wart-Biter Bush Cricket
Shining Ram’s Horn Snail
Desmoulin’s Whorl Snail
Dark Crimson Underwing
Marsh Mallow Moth
Scarce Merveille du Jour
Black Veined Moth
19. True Flies:
Lipsothrix nervosa (a Cranefly)