Last week, we published details of the planning application for the proposed Crematorium – Mabledon Hospital Site. One resident of Dartford Borough has raised an objection based on the flora and fauna presently at the site. With the permission of @Barbus59, we are publishing full details of this objection. It certainly makes interesting reading, even for someone who has little knowledge of these matters, and actually offers alternative suggestions, rather than just objecting.
The full details of the planning application can be found in our previous article. If you have any comments either for or against this planning application, these should be made to Dartford Borough Council in the usual way.
Thanks for the information, I have looked at the documents for this application in detail. Overall I have major reservations about the development of this site as it has been a good quality habitat for local wildlife now for many many years. Thus these rare habitats have become colonised by wildlife and populations of rare species established. I would like to lodge my objection to the proposals on the following grounds.
To give some background – I live in Longfield, but regularly walk all over Kent and East Sussex, but in particular my local spots, many in the DBC area. I photograph flora and fauna that I come across and am a recorder for the Kent Botanical Recording Group.
There is little other replacement habitat in the immediate area so any loss isn’t negligible as the proposers state, it is considerable, even at an acre or so. Several rare and protected species from flies to Adders, butterflies and orchids are threatened by this development. I feel any impact on these species to be unacceptable given the alarming rate that we are losing habitat and species in this country and particularly in North Kent. This site probably has the closest Man Orchid location to London. Pyramidal Orchids are also found in their hundreds in the open grassy areas that will be built on, these will all be lost. While not rare in Kent, they certainly are in this Borough. There are a few over the road at Darenth SSSI and a few at Swanscombe Marshes, soon to be built on by Paradise Park. A handful are seen on the Roadside Nature Reserve at Hartley.
I have not seen Adders at any other site in North Kent (Cliffe Marshes being the nearest). While the plans suggest the Adders will be fine during development, my opinion is that they will leave the site and not return due to the disturbance of building. They are very shy creatures that avoid people like the plague given the chance! Adders hibernate until the ambient temperature is between 9-10 degrees Celcius. A Spring start to the work could result in many perishing as they will not be able to flee the building/landscaping works. Slow Worms also lay torpid until it warms up. Any loss of Adder habitat is not acceptable.
Grizzled Skippers are rare in Kent and I have not seen one so far. So if they are present here as the report states I don’t think they’ll hang around either while the development takes shape. Butterflies are reliant on particular plants to breed. In this case, they require Wild Strawberry to lay their eggs on. They are the only butterfly species to overwinter as a pupae, so starting work in the Spring as suggested, would be likely to kill them off as they will be hidden in the ground. Wild Strawberry and Barren Strawberry are fairly common in short turf but not elsewhere and this is where the main development will be, thus adversely affecting the Grizzled Skipper.
The SSSI chalk grassland at Darenth country park is immediately opposite Mabledon site and their flora and some fauna is within range to spread one to the other by air currents. As such, developing Mabledon will decrease the available diversity at the SSSI in Darenth as well. It is vitally important to link up these small islands of wildlife habitats to ensure populations of rare species remain viable. Develop a link in the chain and the whole habitat chain falls apart.
At this site I have personally found several Man Orchids and a colony of Ivy Broomrape, both of which are on the Kent Rare Plants Register (source: Kent Botanical Recording Group – BSBI). Most Man Orchids were found where stated on the plans but I am concerned that their removal in the manner stated will be a failure and a loss of the entire population there. The plans do not affect Ivy Broomrape as they are in the wooded area closest to the sports field car park.
Man and other orchids require a particular species of mycorrhizal fungi to be present on and in the soil in order to germinate and grow sufficiently to flower and set seed. Each orchid often requires a different fungi to be actively present in the soil, hence their rarity. The only indication these fungi are present in the soil is if orchids grow there. If habitat appears suitable and no orchids grow then the required fungi is missing and the habitat is insufficient to sustain them.
The proposed remedy for Man Orchids that are in the way of their plans is to manually dig them up together with a portion of the soil surrounding their tubers and relocate them elsewhere within the site. While this may (or may not) be sufficient for the original plant to survive, it will not enable reproduction as there is unlikely to be the correct fungi present in the new area for seedlings to establish. This is proven by the fact that Man Orchids are only present on a small part of the site and likely to be the only place the required fungus is present in the soil.
Should this development go ahead, I feel that the Man Orchids should be left in situ and plans altered around them. They are not in a large area and the plans could easily be amended to accommodate them. If this is not possible (though I can’t see why not given where they are), then all the topsoil in that area should be relocated to the new site and not just the soil around the plants. It’s also important that the soil is transplanted as it is, that is, not disturbed, so that the surface layer is still on the surface after transplantation.
Mycorrhizal fungi study is a young science and little is known about which species each orchid needs to survive. Kew Gardens is the expert on this having successfully transplanted and sown seeds from two other orchid species at their Wakehurst site.
Having attended several other crematoriums over the years, I feel the traffic flows have been under estimated. Some funerals may attract hundreds of mourners wishing to pay their respects. When the proposed car park is full, cars will be parked on the access road (possibly on top of Man Orchids) and then on the B260 causing obstruction and delay. The usual future solution is to expand the car park, further degrading the site. This happens frequently at other crematoriums, especially when a funeral over runs and mourners for the next funeral arrive before the preceeding people have left.
Given the location’s semi rural position it is but served with 2 roads, the B260 Green St Green Rd and Gore Rd. Both are very busy roads now as they are conduits to the populations in Darenth, Sutton at Hone, South Darenth and Horton Kirby, Longfield, New Barn, Hartley and New Ash Green. All will use the B260 to get to and from home and to Bluewater. The relatively new roundabout in Darenth causes tailbacks to Gore Rd every day from about 3.30pm onwards and the reverse in the mornings. Additional traffic and potential obstruction from parked vehicles will make this much worse.
I also feel the Borough has other alternative sites for a crematorium and these should be carefully looked at before granting this application. Their is ample land at and around the Bridge in North Dartford, the old Glaxo works, Littlebrook Power Station will be decommissioned in the near future, the infill site off London Road/Cotton Lane or London Rd/Hedge Place Rd – I’m sure there are other sites as well. On the last 2 sites I mention, over grazing by horses has ensured there are likely to be no valuable wildlife habitats lost. While mentioning alternative sites, Blackdale Farm further up the B260 close to the A2/M25 junction is for sale and has much land attached of low ecological value which also avoids the bottleneck of traffic at the B260/Gore Rd roundabout.
If the application is authorised, I would ask that a Covenant be put on the lease to ensure that the wildlife areas are properly maintained and respected to ensure the remaining wildlife still has a home. In particular, the maintenance of chalk grassland from tree and shrub encroachment and the removal of findings after mowing. If it falls to DBC to do this, then DBC to ensure it uses income from this development to protect the remaining wildlife at the Mabledon site.
Again, if it’s authorised, I would argue that the formal garden areas be reduced and given over to wildlife. The graves on the site of the old Darenth Hospital nearby are full of wildflowers, insects, lizards and orchids in the Summer. It doesn’t look neat but the wildlife looks fantastic all the same.
I’m sorry this has become rather long but I feel passionately that wild places in Dartford are now severely threatened and any that are special in any way should be fully protected.
As such, I object to this application and ask you to record this objection for consideration.