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|MoD to sell Lodge Hill near Chattenden|
by Chris Price
The Ministry of Defence is selling off a former barracks which had been the subject of controversial plans for 5,000 homes.
Defence minister Mark Lancaster revealed the derelict Lodge Hill army camp at Chattenden, near Hoo, is one of 12 military sites the Government is hoping to cash in for £500 million.
The land, which is home to a variety of bird populations, has been the subject of a long-running planning battle after proposals to build a new town there were approved by Medway Council in September 2014.
However, the scheme fell apart when FTSE 100 developer Land Securities pulled out of the plans last June after the Government said it would review the approval.
The plans had met strong opposition from environmental campaigners, who opposed moving the site’s nightingale population 14 miles away to new grasslands in Shoeburyness, Essex.
"Such a site is inappropriate for such a damaging proposal..." - Martin Jensen, RSPB
Large parts of the proposed development are deemed Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by Natural England.
RSPB spokesman Martin Jensen said: "The RSPB continue to be concerned about the future of Lodge Hill – the only site in the UK protected specifically for nightingales, a bird that is now in severe decline.
"Such a site is inappropriate for such a damaging proposal.
"It is disappointing that the public inquiry timetable is further delayed and the opportunity to examine the proposals for this protected site has been delayed."
The Government aims to sell off the site by the end of this parliament in 2020 as the MoD tries to reduce the size of its estate by 30%, which it hopes will generate £1 billion in land sales.
It said the 12 sites could be turned into about 15,000 new homes.
Medway Council leader Cllr Alan Jarrett said: "We see this as a positive move to providing a new community in Medway.
"We see this as a positive move to providing a new community in Medway..." - Cllr Alan Jarrett, Medway Council
"This will mean new homes and jobs for local people, as the development plans include 5,000 homes, three primary schools, a secondary school, medical facilities and leisure and retail space on the Hoo Peninsula, providing up to 5,000 jobs.
"The council approved planning permission for the site which is now subject to a public inquiry."
Defence Minister Mark Lancaster said: "By streamlining the defence estate, we will ensure that it better meets the needs of the armed forces well into the future.
"Defence has the strongest incentive to become more efficient; with every pound we make by disposing of excess land reinvested into a defence budget that keeps Britain safe.
"We are also making an important contribution of 55,000 homes to the wider government housing targets. Every acre that we can free up will ensure that more people have the opportunity to own their own home."
Source: Kentonline Tuesday, Jan 19 2016)