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‘At last we have a win for the environment’: Betteshanger scheme refused

David Mairs
By David Mairs
14th July 2023

Planners refuse permission for 120-bedroom hotel and spa at site rich in wildlife

Plans for a large hotel to be built on the environmentally rich Betteshanger Country Park have been rejected.

Dover District Council last night (Thursday, July 13) refused planning permission for the Quinn Estates scheme to site the 120-bed hotel and spa on the protected open space and community asset.

CPRE Kent, the countryside charity, had worked closely with Friends of Betteshanger, the RSPB, Buglife and Kent Wildlife Trust to protect this rewilded colliery site that is a striking example of how nature can recover from the impacts of industry.

The former spoil tip of Betteshanger colliery, the site was established as a country park some 20 years ago and now hosts a superb array of wildlife, some of which is nationally rare or in rapid decline.

Water voles, turtle doves, slow worms and lizard orchids are just some of the species to make Betteshanger Country Park their home, but in 2019 the site was sold on to Quinn Estates, which subsequently unveiled plans to build a surfing lagoon and luxury hotel and spa there.

The scheme, if permitted, would have destroyed priority habitat, several wildlife mitigation and translocation sites and the second largest colony of lizard orchids in the country. Accordingly, we joined a range of nature conservation charities in opposing the plans.

Thankfully, for people and wildlife alike, last night DDC’s planning committee voted overwhelmingly to refuse Quinn permission for the hotel and spa element of the scheme, six members voting against, three abstaining and one voting in favour.

With the planning officer having recommended approval, there had to be material grounds for refusal. Fortunately, CPRE Kent had championed the two grounds for refusal ultimately cited: the loss of a community asset and protected open space and the uncertain mitigation for the site’s turtle doves – Red-listed as a Bird of Conservation Concern.

CPRE Kent’s Vicky Ellis, who was heavily involved in the campaign to save the site, said: “At last we have a win for wildlife and the environment in this part of the world – we feel that finally someone is listening. This is a huge win for the local community, who never wanted this hotel, and a huge win for nature and wildlife. And that’s before we even get on to the air pollution that the resulting traffic would have brought.

“What we were seeing in this application was an attempt to mitigate for the mitigation, which was obviously a ridiculous situation.

“Further, the developer has already built a car park partly over priority habitat in what we believe is a breach of planning regulations – now this decision has been made, hopefully we can see this followed up with an enforcement notice.”

A separate application for the surfing lagoon is awaiting determination – CPRE Kent will continue to fight alongside our colleagues at Friends of Betteshanger, KWT, RSPB and Buglife for this special place.

Campaigners get their message over before last night's meeting