A petition against the £5bn London Resort theme park planned for Swanscombe has been signed by more than 20,000 people as a united group of conservationists have called for protection for the surrounding marshland.
The Save Swanscombe Marshes campaign are pushing for the planned build site to be designated as a site of special scientific interest, and this week launched a ‘united call’ to protect the wildlife haven from theme park development.
The London Resort is an ambitious £5bn project which, if completed will become the UK’s largest theme park, built across 535 acres on the Swanscombe Marshes.
Two twinned theme parks are planned to be ready be 2024 and 2029 respectively, and the massive project took one step closer to reality last week.
The organisers behind the park, which has been dubbed the UK’s answer to Disneyland, argue than extensive research and planning has gone into making the development safe and environmentally friendly, as well as make the park net-zero emissions.
But campaigners are urging the Government’s environmental advisor Natural England to protect the ‘rich diversity of life under-threat from the plans’, in particular a rare and threatened spider species.
In a joint statement from Buglife, the RSPB and Kent Wildlife Trust released on Monday, February 8, the organisations said they were calling for the north Kent site to be declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Yesterday the groups presented a Rationale for the SSSI to Natural England, alongside a letter signed by 77 current and former senior staff from nature organisations and public bodies.
And a petition to Government ministers against the resort has so far been signed 21,240 times.
The grasslands, wetlands and brownfield site known as Swanscombe Marshes is home to more rare and threatened species than any other brownfield site in the UK.
As well as abundant bees, butterflies, beetles, cuckoos and marsh lizards, the land is one of just two places in the UK where you can find the Critically Endangered Distinguished jumping spider (Attulus distinguendus).
“But all of this is now threatened by the proposed London Resort theme park,” argues the petition, set up by Buglife.
“Hyped as the ‘UK’s Disneyland’, much of the unique habitat of Swanscombe Marshes would be destroyed and concreted. The wildlife riches of the site simply will not survive this development.”
Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive of Buglife, commented, “Biodiversity is in crisis, wildlife populations, particularly of insects, are in steep decline, many habitats and specialist species are increasingly rare and their fragmented populations are at risk of extinction.
“Too few wildlife-rich brownfield sites like Swanscombe Peninsula are protected, and this is the last chance to protect a large Thames Estuary brownfield site before it is too late.
“This is one of only 2 sites nationwide for the Distinguished jumping spider. If the development is allowed on the Swanscombe Peninsula, this will push this special spider a step closer to national extinction.”
Last week, a planning application containing over 25,000 reports and documents sent in December 2020 was judged to have met the standards required to be accepted for examination.
The purpose of an SSSI is to safeguard the diversity of habitats and species for the present and future generations, and allows Natural England to protect an area from development.
Emma Marsh, RSPB England director, added that the RSPB were “increasingly concerned” about the threat of unsustainable development across the country.
“Saving nationally-important wildlife sites like Swanscombe is surely an easy win on the road to meeting that commitment.”
Richard Bloor, Wilder Towns Manager at Kent Wildlife Trust said: “At a time where the UK is seeing a devastating loss of nature and wildlife, it is essential that we formally protect nationally important sites like the Swanscombe Peninsula for the wildlife that depends on them and for the survival of our natural world and future generations.”