Cats could be banned from 68-home Cliffe Woods development near Rochester to protect Nightingale habitats


Residents on a new rural estate could be banned from keeping cats as pets.

The RSPB and Natural England wrote to Medway Council to object to plans for 68 homes off Cliffe Woods, near Rochester, due to how close the homes will be to an important Nightingale habitat.

How the homes off View Road in Cliffe Woods could look. Picture: Esquire Developments

The site between View Road and Town Road neighbors the Chattenden Woods and Lodge Hill Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which is an important habitat for the protected species.

Longfield-based Esquire Developments were narrowly granted permission for the development which will feature homes with one to five bedrooms, 17 of which will be affordable.

Discussions were held between Medway Council and Natural England on how to mitigate the impact of the development would have on the SSSI, and these were explained to councillors during a planning meeting committee yesterday.

One of these was the possibility of ensuring residents on the new development were banned from keeping cats as pets, but some councillors were concerned about how this rule would be policed.

Nightingales nest close to ground level, making them vulnerable to predators.

A Nightingale in full song.  Picture: Roger Wilmshurst
A Nightingale in full song. Picture: Roger Wilmshurst

The RSPB were also concerned about the impact the homes could have on the birds stemming from noise and artificial lighting.

The plans had been designed to include a 30 meter “buffer” between the homes and the SSSI, and cat-proof fencing to prevent their movements into the protected site, which is also ancient woodland.

Committee vice-chairman Cllr Chris Buckwell pointed out residents living in roads surrounding the development were not subject to any such rules on cat ownership.

Head of planning Dave Harris said the site neighbors another application site where plans have been put forward for 50 retirement homes; in this case a planning inspector who allowed the plans at appeal said a no cats policy would be an acceptable mitigation.

Mr Harris said the rule could be put in place at the Esquire site, and the council and the development’s management company could work together to ensure the rules are followed.

Cats could be banned from the 68-home Cliffe Woods development.  Picture: Micheal Sum, unsplash
Cats could be banned from the 68-home Cliffe Woods development. Picture: Micheal Sum, unsplash

However, he added there could be complications with identifying which cat belonged to which house.

The application was approved with a majority of one vote.

All three ward councillors, Cliffe and Cliffe Woods Parish Council, and the area’s MP Kelly Tolhurst wrote to the authority to object to the plans over concerns for the impact on local services and the traffic on Town Road.

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