Several highly valued species are ‘threatened with extinction’ in Kent amid a huge rise in house building, a new report warns.
With nearly 180,000 new homes expected to be built in the county over the next nine years, experts say some vital habitats are being wiped out by increased construction, while others are being damaged by water pollutants worn out.
Water voles, beavers, doves, hedgehogs and bumblebees are species at risk.
Hundreds more are also at risk of extinction, according to a new report from the Kent Nature Partnership (KNP).
“The greatest pressure facing Kent’s wildlife comes from significant and unprecedented levels of growth,” he says.
“The Kent and Medway Growth and Infrastructure Framework identifies some 178,600 additional homes and 396,300 additional people by 2031 (24% and 23% growth respectively).”
The Kent Habitat Survey 2012 showed that the use of land classified as development had increased from 10.7% in 1961 to 17.3% in 2008 – an increase of around 62% from the original resource.
KNP Chairman Matthew Balfour said extreme weather events, such as the heatwave experienced last week, also pose challenges for Kent’s wildlife.
“For example, the bees have these fur coats and exercise a lot to go from flower to flower – they will suffer,” said the former Kent County Council cabinet member for the environment.
“I’m sure you sat in your office or at home last week and felt really uncomfortable, unable to sleep? Well, the rest of nature has the same problems if it’s too hot for its natural environment.
The State of the Wild in Kent report notes that due to the variety of geographical features in the county, it has a rich biodiversity.
But of Kent’s 3,684 species assessed for threat status, 372 are listed as threatened with extinction.
Of these, 201 are said to be vulnerable, 118 endangered and 53 critically endangered.
The report calls for government action to address environmental issues, particularly in relation to Kent’s coasts and waterways.
The county continues to face problems with sewage pollution and environmentally dangerous levels of phosphorus, nitrates and other chemicals in lakes and rivers.
The contamination of Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve, just east of Canterbury, is a prime example of aquatic environments damaged by residential development.
In 2019, 79% of Kent’s rivers and lakes monitored for phosphorus failed to meet the required standard of good environmental status as set out in the Water Framework Directive.
Mr Balfour, 70, says the most important thing members of the public can do is lobby their MPs to pressure the government to act on environmental issues.
He says there are also things individuals can do in their own gardens to help increase biodiversity.
“Don’t cut the grass too short, leave your garden a little messy so animals, and insects in particular, have a place to live,” the West Malling resident said.
But he adds that the report is “not all bad news”.
“Yes, there are a number of species that are endangered, but at the same time we are preserving and improving the environment in many ways,” he said.
The report praises the work of Medway Council to stop regular cutting along 30 miles of their road network to promote wildflowers.
It also underscores the success of the once endangered Adonis blue butterfly, as its populations are now well established and are once again spreading across the Kent landscape.
In the report’s conclusion, Paul Tinsley-Marshall and Chloe Edwards of the Kent Wildlife Trust set out what needs to be done in the future.
“We must continue to protect Kent’s special places, ensuring the best examples are resilient and can give a boost to nature’s recovery,” they said.
“Every effort must be made to ensure that there is no further loss or deterioration of key habitats and to protect them.
“To do this, we will need to continue to rigorously implement the protections provided by planning and policy and facilitate better direction and guidance for planners, developers and local politicians in the county, as well as maintain pressure on industries. that facilitate the spread of invasive species and non-native species, pests and diseases, and pollute the environment.
“We must continue to deliver larger and larger landscape-scale projects, connect fragmented habitats and secure more land in conservation.
“The urgency of the need to scale up our efforts in deploying the conservation tools at our disposal cannot be understated, and this report highlights four key areas for collective action: evidence, collaboration , investment and commitment.”
The report covers a wide range of environmental and ecological topics and brings together the work of over 60 different contributors, many of whom are volunteers.