Valued countryside: fields at Brickfield Farm, Bridge. The historic Bridge Place can be seen in the background. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.
BridgeNature.org was conceived in 2012 with the objective of encouraging the appreciation of the wildlife and countryside in our local area. We began with a monthly newsletter, but later moved on to a website with regular articles, environmental information and picture galleries.
This is all very well meaning and, we hope, informative, but it has little value if we are not prepared to stand up and be counted when the very countryside and wildlife which we write about is under threat. So, from the outset, BridgeNature.org has campaigned zealously to protect our countryside with lobbying letters to local bodies like The Kent Downs AONB Management Unit, Kent Wildlife Trust and Natural England, as well as our own Parish Council and Canterbury City Council. We have also spoken on behalf of our countryside, hedgerows, trees and wildlife at public meetings and planning consultations.
So far, the success rate of campaigns which we have initiated or with which we have been associated has been astonishing, but it has been a team effort involving members of public bodies, action groups and of course the support of the public.
1. In 2014 we reported on an application to build a large equestrian arena and accommodation block in a field next to the hop farm in Bourne Park. This would have had a dramatic impact on the local scenery and would have brought heavy traffic into the area. In combination with Bishopsbourne Parish Council and local residents we campaigned to stop the progress of the application. The proposal was refused. Success
2. In 2015 we supported a resident in Union Road, Bridge, who was campaigning to save some of the oldest trees in the village from being felled by a local property developer. Together, and with immense public support, we achieved our aim. Only one tree (a dead one) was cut down. Success
3. In 2015 and 2016 we joined the campaign led by some residents of Lower Hardres and Nackington to stop the development of a huge solar farm between Nackington and Bridge on some of the best agricultural land in Britain. Bridge Parish Council Planning Committee voted to take a neutral stance on the issue, but, as a result of the combined protests of other local authorities, concerned environmental groups and the public, the proposal was twice withdrawn and now appears to have disappeared. Success
Sparrows in a devastated nesting site, Mill Lane, Bridge, 17 July, 2015. The result of inappropriate hedge cutting practices by Canterbury City Council. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.
4. In late Summer 2014, 2015 and again in 2016, we made formal complaints to Canterbury City Council and Natural England regarding CCC’s regular policy of cutting the hedge on Mill Lane, Bridge, during the nesting season while a number of birds were clearly nesting there. This has led to the annual devastation of active nesting sites. To date CCC have not changed their policy, claiming that the hedge cutting is to make the road safe! This is nonsense. BridgeNature.org will continue to campaign to prevent this vandalism in our parish and we are now in contact with CCC Councilor Simon Cook who is kindly working with us to resolve this issue. Pending
On 5 Jan 2017 we were informed that this issue has now been resolved and the hedge will be cut after 31 August each year in compliance with modern environmental guidelines. We thank Councilor Simon Cook for his efforts in bringing about this change. Success
5. In Spring 2016 we campaigned to save two trees on Bridge Recreation Ground from being hacked back to their stumps in the potentially terminal exercise of pollarding. Two beautiful, healthy mature trees were to be vandalised simply because they were considered to be taking up too much room and causing moss on the tennis courts which were built in a damp location long after the trees were planted. Bridge Parish Council initially approved the pollarding, but, with a BridgeNature.org campaign involving local residents, letters to the Parish Council and the rigorous lobbying of Canterbury City Council Planning Department the Parish Council were persuaded to change their policy. The trees remain under threat, but we are ever vigilant. Success
6. Since conception BridgeNature.org has campaigned to protect the green fields around Bridge from housing development. They lie within our designated Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so housing development on them is generally restricted, but that has not stopped a long list of city councilors, parish councilors, prospective MPs, landowners, confused residents and aspiring property tycoons from trying to build there in order to satisfy their own wants. BridgeNature.org has spoken out vociferously on this issue, and just this month our views were endorsed by a government inspector who ruled that a city council proposal for a housing development of 40 houses cannot go ahead on Brickfield Farm, Bridge, because it would breach planning law and damage our AONB. We thank all those who joined us in this campaign. Success
These successes in protecting our wildlife and countryside have not necessarily been brought about by some innate ability or powerful political authority, they have been achieved by the combined actions of ‘people who care’ standing up to make their voices heard, or, more practically, sitting down to write, sometimes in defiance of local political authority.
The countryside of our AONB and the trees within our Conservation Areas have been protected by law for the good of us all and the future generations who follow because they are rare assets in an increasingly urbanised national landscape. Who would seek to destroy such treasures? Only the ignorant, the arrogant and the selfish; but we have all within our midst! Whatever the ambitions, lack of awareness or political powers of such people, we must make it clear to them that we will not allow them to destroy the things that we hold dear, and the more people who join in that call the louder it will be heard.
As 2016 draws to a close BridgeNature.org thanks all those residents who have supported our campaigns to date and we hope that you will support us in the future.