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Mitigating Bird Disturbance in North Kent

Bird Wise logoThe north Kent coast between Gravesend and Whitstable is internationally important for wildlife.  The Thames, Medway and Swale estuaries and marshes are protected under international designation as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Ramsar Sites.

Every year, around 250,000 waders and waterfowl travel thousands of miles to spend winter on the north Kent coast, feeding and resting on the marshes in preparation for the long return journey to their breeding grounds in the spring.

Research shows that recreational visitors can cause disturbance to these birds, reducing their chances of successful breeding.  The North Kent Strategic Access Management and Monitoring Strategy (SAMMS) (pdf, 5,009 KB) was prepared in 2014, setting out a package of strategic measures for resolving the additional disturbance issues to wintering birds, arising from new housing development.

Advice issued by Natural England in 2015 states that:-

'Residential development within 6km of a protected site could cause recreational disturbance and so it is not possible to rule out a likely significant effect.  Any additional dwelling, including houses in multiple occupation and student accommodation can have a cumulative impact on the SPAs. Other uses, including hotels, guesthouses, residential care homes and camp / caravan sites will be looked at on a case-by-case basis.  Large developments beyond the 6km zone could also cause impacts and these will again be considered on a case-by-case basis.'

One single dwelling can cause an impact so planning applications for development of 1 dwelling or more should either contain sufficient information to enable the Local Authority to undertake an Appropriate Assessment under the Habitats Regulations; or Medway Council would expect to secure a financial contribution. Medway Council have therefore drafted a Unilateral Undertaking (Word document, 46KB) for the purposes of securing the contribution, which is £223.58 per dwelling. 

The North Kent SAMMS Board is a partnership of local authorities and conservation organisations, working together under the brand name Bird Wise to deliver strategic measures to mitigate recreational disturbance.  More information is available on the Birdwise website.

Interim Policy Statement - Appendix 6 on page 245 of the Medway Local Plan Issues and Options document (pdf, 1,750KB)

Map showing the 6km buffers (pdf, 392KB)

Natural England letter of advice January 2015 (pdf, 291 KB) 

Natural England letter of advice August 2015 (pdf, 137 KB)

Research - Footprint Ecology Bird Disturbance Report July 2012 (pdf, 3,286KB)


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