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Hoad’s Wood: campaigners set action deadline for clearing to begin

David Mairs
By David Mairs
26th April 2024

Secretary of State urged to approve £10 million clean-up budget at blighted site

Campaigners battling to save a wood blighted by the illegal dumping of landfill waste have set out a timetable for restoration of the site.

It is estimated that an astonishing 27,000 tonnes of processed landfill waste including sanitary products, plastic toys, household waste, rubble, Covid testing kits and food has been dumped at Hoad’s Wood, near Bethersden, and that it will take about six months to clear.

The action group Rescue Hoads Wood is demanding that Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, approve a £10 million budget for full clearance of the site and its replanting with native species.

It had already joined with CPRE Kent and other organisations including CLA South East, Kent Wildlife Trust, the RSPB, South East Rivers Trust and  Woodland Trust in writing to Mr Barclay bringing the matter to his attention and calling for an immediate clean-up.

The £10 million figure was revealed during a public meeting last week (Thursday, April 18) with the Environment Agency and other agencies.

RHW has set a community deadline for budget approval no later than Friday, May 17, with the clean-up starting no later than Friday, June 14.

After a range of public bodies chose not to get involved with the long-running and appalling situation at Hoad’s Wood from initial reports in early July 2023, it has been established that the EA and Kent Police took responsibility for the situation from August 2023 yet did not close off the site until January 16 this year.

Responsibility for restoration now lies with the EA, although funding will have to come through Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

RHW has identified three potential options for the future of Hoad’s Wood – but says only one of them, the first, is acceptable and within the law:

  • Full clean-up, including replanting with native species: This requires the necessary £10 million budget, including Landfill Tax, VAT and contingency. This is the only viable solution for Hoad’s Wood, its wildlife, local community, wider public health and the environment.
  • Retrofitting the site effectively as a regulated landfill site to contain the pollution: It is understood this would require extensive work to meet the requirements of a regulated landfill site, entailing lifting the waste and lining the ground with a semi-permeable membrane and drainage to deal with leachate run-off, then capping with almost as much waste as has already been dumped.  It would also require the placement of a ‘landfill bond’ to allow for later potential financial requirements and monitoring over a substantial period. It would be more expensive than the first option. An independent consultant has stated that attempting to cap the affected area would essentially be impossible without impacting the rest of the wood – a Site of Special Scientific Interest legally protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981
  • Do nothing: This is not a viable option as multiple environmental laws would be broken, while it would not square with public authorities’ duties under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 for a designated SSSI.

The case of Hoad’s Wood has attracted substantial media coverage, due to both its intrinsic importance and as a striking example of a wider issue across the country. Naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham has added his voice to the call for a clear-up.

A spokesman for RHW said: “Time is ticking for this approval from the government. The risk to wildlife, human health and the wider environment is already great and, with higher temperatures in the summer, there will of course also be a greater danger of fire thanks to the volume and nature of the dumped waste.”

  • Further public meetings are scheduled at 5pm on Thursday, May 16, and Friday, June 14, at Bethersden village hall.


An estimated 27,000 tonnes of landfill waste has been dumped at Hoad's Wood