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Betteshanger Park Development

Introduction by Peter Cutler:
Recently Quinn Estates has acquired Betteshanger Park (country park + sustainable park) from the Education Commissioners through a fire sale caused by the mismanagement of Hadlow College. The result is the end of a viable publicly funded scheme (140,000 trees and shrubs planted) and the transfer of resources to the private sector (many millions of public money has been spent on the site). Further, it will potentially result in an ecological disaster for a site which has become re-wilded over the last 31 years. Hadlow were managing a regeneration scheme on the old mine site which would have created green, sustainable jobs and respected the unique mosaic environment there.  We supported the SEEDA/Hadlow regeneration scheme.
Now Quinn wants to cover the site with houses (210 + shopping complex + industrial + apartments) leaving a small 'park' and area around the lakes for the wildlife. He claims his development will result in a 10% environmental gain. He has commissioned an environmental assessment which conveniently concludes that most of the site is of 'low environmental value'. In the meantime Quinn has rushed through a 'public consultation' allowing two weeks for comments. He has now agreed to extend this but will apply to Dover District Council for outline planning consent very soon.
DDGP is working with other groups and individuals to save this unique resource.
We don't have the money to produce a full environmental report, but a local environmentalist, Susan Sullivan, has produced a short environmental report that is included below. Please read the report and forward the link to people you know.
You could also send Quinn a comment on his plans (follow link to see his plans and send an email to the address below), (Betteshanger Grove public consultation | Quinn Estates, Canterbury & Kent ,, contact a local evironmental NGO e.g. Kent Wildlife Trust, BugsLife, Kent Reptile and Amphibian group etc:  Make an objection when Quinn applies for outline planning consent.
We certainly need DDC to carry out a proper environmental assessment before the fate of the site is decided.  If you want to keep in touch please send an email to:  If you have any other ideas - please let me know.

The Biodiversity At The Betteshanger Grove * (See Footnote) Site And Why It Should Be Protected

By Sue Sullivan

Locally, nationally and globally we are seeing catastrophic declines in wildlife, indeed scientists believe we are in the most serious extinction crisis since the demise of the dinosaurs and predict that 1 million species could go extinct. Champions for wildlife are needed.  One such champion, the American biologist, E.O. Wilson has said in his book ‘The Diversity of Life’,

‘I will argue that every scrap of biological diversity is priceless, to be learned and cherished, and never to be surrendered without a struggle.’

I agree. The time has come to fight for every scrap of biodiversity that remains, and every place where it resides.

The BETTESHANGER GROVE site bought by Quinn Estates for a housing development is one such place. Please join in the fight to save its wildlife.

Aspect Ecology who have been employed by Quinn Estates to carry out the initial ecological survey have judged the site to be of  ‘low ecological value.’

I strongly disagree. Here are my reasons:

  1. The site fits the criteria for an ‘open mosaic habitat on previously developed land’. If this is indeed the case then it is classed as a priority habitat. Brown field sites, contrary to popular opinion, can be a refuge for rare species. Indeed in the north of the country several old industrial sites have been made into nature reserves. Why not Betteshanger ?
  2. The site is unusual in the area because of its history as the old Betteshanger coal mine slag heap. There is very little soil on the site and the nutrient levels are low. This has resulted in an unusual flora – I have counted 100 different flowering plants growing there and there are undoubtedly more. Among the flowering plants of note are penny royal (a schedule 8 protected plant under the terms of the Wildlife and countryside Act 1981)  Common cudweed – a near threatened species but common on the Betteshanger site. Bee and pyramidal orchids, common scurvy grass, carline thistle, blue fleabane, hare’s foot clover, early forget- me -not* (see footnote) .There are no records of this plant in East Kent according to the NBN Atlas.

Many of the plants on the site are not commonly found in the local area and  from a botanical view point this is not a site of ‘low ecological value.’

  1. In the summer of 2019 members of the East Kent Wildlife group recorded the following birds on the site: goldfinch, house sparrow, linnet, turtle dove (an adult pair probably nesting nearby) greenfinch, song thrush, wood pigeon, blue tit, house martin, mistle thrush, blackbird, jay, willow warbler, black cap, green woodpecker, magpie.


The turtle dove is the UK’s fastest declining bird. The Betteshanger site , as it currently stands, provides all the requirements for turtle doves:

  1. A continuous supply of seed from April to August (from all the flowering plants on site) They feed on the ground in weedy areas where the vegetation is short and sparse – as it is on large areas of the site.
  2. Tall mature hedgerows, areas of scrub, woodland edges with a thick shrub layer for nesting (all present or developing at Betteshanger)
  3. A water supply from the lakes on site.


The RSPB are running an ‘operation turtle dove’ project  in Kent and Betteshanger is within one of the identified core turtle dove areas, where they are trying to encourage better habitat management for them.

From an ornithological point of view this is not a site of low ecological value.

4.Insects. I have no detailed knowledge of the insects on site but the following have been recorded in 2019:

Butterflies. Painted lady, large white, small white, gate keeper, meadow brown, holly blue, red admiral, peacock, common blue, brown argus. Clouded yellow seen on site in previous years. The common blue is a Kent Nature Partnership priority species. It was flying in good numbers last summer on the Betteshanger site accompanied by brown argos. Their larval food plants such as black medick, birds foot trefoil, dove’s foot cranesbill and common storks bill are plentiful on the site.

Other insects. 3 types of dragon fly, several different bee species, hoverflies,  bee flies, spiders, grass hoppers, crickets, cinnabar moth caterpillar, blue damselfly.

From an entomological view point this is not a site of low ecological value

  1. Other species present include bats , a protected species, and badgers, also protected. Unknown numbers of amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates are likely to be present as are interesting lichens , mosses and fungi.
  2. The site has many, many native trees and shrubs, many planted at the time of the coalfield regeneration when Betteshanger Park was created. These include sallow, dog rose , elder, spindle, dogwood, hawthorn, oak, rowan. These provide vital habitat, nesting sites, shelter and food for a wide range of wildlife.
  3. The Betteshanger site is an important stepping stone in the landscape, important as part of landscape scale conservation to connect nature rich areas, so that wildlife living in them can disperse through the landscape rather than being locked into fragmented nature reserves.
  4. The Government in its 25 year plan for the environment, is buying into this idea with its requirements for nature recovery networks. Betteshanger as it currently stands, would be an ideal candidate for inclusion in such a scheme.
  5. The National Planning Policy Framework ( NPPF) which provides guidance for local planning authorities on planning issues in section 7.7 ‘requires local planning authorities to enhance the natural and local environment by minimizing impacts on biodiversity and providing net gains in biodiversity and ecological networks, where possible.’ The new Environment laws currently being debated in Parliament go further ; they will force developers to deliver a biodiversity net gain of at least 10% on housing schemes. Although Quinn Estates have said they will commit to this I am at a loss to see how this can be achieved on a site like Betteshanger, with its unique characteristics, when most of its biodiversity will be destroyed by housing and associated development. How would it be possible, for example, to achieve a 10% increase in the numbers and species of wildflowers that currently grow on the site ?  Or a 10% increase in the number of butterflies ? Or will the destruction of the biodiversity on site be permitted to go ahead and a compensatory planting be established elsewhere ? Either way the loss of species on the site is totally unacceptable in this time of catastrophic declines.
  6. Also of relevance here is the fact that Kent has missed its biodiversity target for 2010 and is likely to miss the target set for 2020. There has been a gradual loss of habitats and species in the county. For example Local Wildlife sites monitored over the past 5 years or so show 30% have been damaged and 2% lost altogether. So our local and county authorities are failing us and failing wildlife when it comes to stemming the loss of our biodiversity. Giving permission to build on a site like Betteshanger only compounds that failure.

So, I maintain that the Betteshanger Grove site is a significant one locally for wildlife even though it has no conservation designation.  If ecologists can class such an area as being of low ecological value then British wildlife doesn’t stand a chance. And maybe it explains why so many wild places, that are valuable in a local context, are being destroyed by development. It also points to major weaknesses in a planning system that allows this to happen.

If local people care about the loss of biodiversity that we are currently experiencing and want to see sites like Betteshanger Grove being afforded some kind of protection then they should make their feelings known to Dover District Council, as the local planning authority, when planning permission is submitted by Quinn Estates. Both the planning submission and the ecological survey by Aspect Ecology, will be available for inspection and comment on the Dover District Council web site.

Thank you reading this and being on the side of the bats and bees and beetles.

Sue Sullivan. March 2020


Foot notes

* Betteshanger Grove   is the name given to Quinn Estates recently acquired development site adjacent to the Circle at Betteshanger, which runs up towards the A258 Deal to Sandwich Road, along Colliers Way and Betteshanger Road.

* Early Forget- me- not awaits confirmation of identification.