Sir David Baulcombe, Royal Society Research Professor and Regius Professor of Botany at Cambridge and Michael Crawley, Emeritus Professor of Plant Ecology at Imperial College, London have both submitted objections to the planning application, to Dover District Council.
Sir David says:
"I object strongly to the proposed housing development. This rewilded site is at least of national importance and the development would be an act of ecological vandalism. The Friends of Betteshanger provide a compelling case for complete cessation of this development."
Professor Crawley say:
"The fact is that many of these older brownfield sites are much more valuable in their biodiversiy contribution than the community benefits of new housing. The benefit to the individual developer is clear. But he does not bear the costs of the loss of ecological structure and function. That biodiversity is a genuine community benefit. You must not allow this habitat destruction to go ahead."
We also applaud all the local people who have sent in objections on the grounds of the site's value for wildlife and people. It is obvious that there is a groundswell of opinion now, that during this time of ecological crisis and climate change, sites such as Betteshanger should be left intact for their biodiversity value, for the benefits, both physical and mental that they bring to people, especially at this time of Covid, and for their role in carbon sequestration.
In Dover District Council's new Draft Climate Change Strategy there is a plan for hedge and tree planting projects to improve carbon sequestration and air quality. There is a plan to maintain the existing tree stock, biodiversity and carbon capture rich areas. There is a plan to identify areas suitable for renewable energy, biodiversity and tree enhancement and rewilding. There is a plan for a sustainable pattern of development.
Given these ambitions we see the Betteshanger decision as a watershed moment.
If planning permission is granted then we shall know that the Council's new Climate Change Strategy is so much hot air. However if they refuse we shall know that they are serious in their ambition to tackle both climate change and the ecological crisis.
(Friends of Betteshanger)