Wildlife Haven or Desert?

Yesterday I came across something unexpected – I had kept a copy of the “Biodiversity Management and Monitoring Plan” submitted by developers in 2015 before they plonked a small solar panel installation on good farmland at Abbey Fields, Faversham.  It’s a wonderful read, about how they all love bunnies and the place will become so much more welcoming for all wildlife once they’ve finished.  It sounds remarkably similar to the massive Preliminary  Environmental Information Report issued by the Cleve Hill developers.  They are both so pro-bunnies that it makes me wonder whether they lifted some of the text from stories by Beatrix Potter!  (Although at Abbey Fields you can pay the farmer to shoot the bunnies – and anything else.)

The only trouble with all this is that for 2 years I’ve regularly walked my dog around the installation in Abbey Fields and have quite literally never seen any signs of life inside the security fencing.  No bunnies, no wild flowers, no birds, no bees, just grass that they mow regularly.  So I’m wondering how much of the Cleve Hill should we believe..?  Here’s a little report from when I walked around the Abbey Fields site a few weeks ago:

Outside Fence – buttercups, oxeye daisies, common vetch, meadow vetchling, creeping speedwell, scarlet pimpernel, red clover, white clover. cow parsley, hemlock, giant hogweed, woad, yarrow, pineapple mayweed, hop trefoil, goosegrass, hedge bedstraw, wild beet, bulrush, marsh dock, purple salsify, hawthorn, buckthorn, ivy, elderberry, willow, 3 reed warblers, 2 swans, 3 mallard (1 male, 2 female), 1 coot with 9 cootlings, 2 buzzards, 2 swallows plus 3 ‘Small White’ butterflies.
Inside Fence – grass (cut). Nothing else.  No wild flowers, no animals, no birds, nothing.

The small Abbey Fields installation was constructed after approval by local planning authorities, and it is notoriously easy for developers to make promises and undertake commitments, then pay £90 to have them removed.  But Cleve Hill is an enormous Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project – bypassing approval by Borough and County planners then receiving the blessing of the national government.  We need to find out how lovely fairy stories about preserving cuddly animals can be incorporated into any planning permission as definite and immovable commitments – and if we do, maybe the developers will feel their hands are tied and that what was intended purely as window dressing will become expensive pledges that they never intended.  And maybe then they will clear off somewhere else!