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Hoad’s Wood: minister orders Environment Agency to pay for waste clean-up

David Mairs
By David Mairs
27th May 2024

‘We are thrilled to hear that the funding required to clear the 30,000 tonnes of illegally dumped landfill waste from Hoad’s Wood is now approved’

The case of Hoad’s Wood has attracted striking media coverage at both local and national level in recent weeks and now there is some genuinely good news to report.

Some four acres of the wood, near Bethersden, had been wrecked by the illegal dumping of landfill waste, causing campaigners to demand government approval for a £10 million budget for full clearance of the site and its replanting with native species.

Last month (April), Rescue Hoads Wood, CPRE Kent, Kent Wildlife Trust, the RSPB, The Woodland Trust, South East Rivers Trust and CLA South East (Country Land and Business Association) wrote to Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, asking him to sanction the release of emergency funds to begin the clean-up.

On Friday, May 3, MP Robbie Moore replied on behalf of Mr Barclay to confirm that the Environment Agency had been asked how it intended to tackle the issue, which was also raised in the House of Lords by Earl Russell.

And on Thursday last week (May 23), a ministerial direction was published on the government’s website, GOV.UK, ordering the wood be cleared of waste. Although the campaign groups had called for funds to be released from the Treasury, the order says the cost of the operation is down to the EA.

Two days previously, Phillip Duffey, EA chief executive, had written to Mr Barclay suggesting that at least some of the money would come from the floods capital programme.

A Rescue Hoads Wood spokesman said: “We are thrilled to hear that the funding required to clear the 30,000 tonnes of illegally dumped landfill waste from Hoad’s Wood is now approved.

“This marks a significant step forward in our efforts to restore the natural beauty of this ancient bluebell woodland. We eagerly anticipate the swift completion of the clean-up operation so the recovery process can commence.

“Additionally, we also look forward to a comprehensive investigation into local and national authorities’ inaction, which allowed this environmental catastrophe to occur, despite our community’s diligent reporting.  We hope this will prevent similar incidents in the future, safeguarding treasured sites like Hoad’s Wood.

“We’d like to thank the CLA, CPRE Kent, Kent Wildlife Trust, RSPB, South East Rivers Trust and The Woodland Trust for supporting and endorsing our campaign.  Also, a special thanks to Chris Packham and Paul Powlesland of Lawyers for Nature for amplifying our demands for the clean-up and the 10,000-plus people who signed our petition. It is wonderful to have your backing.”

Hoad’s Wood is a Site of Special Scientific Interest but, despite a section of it being felled illegally in 2020 and, from July last year (2023), growing reports of truckloads of waste being dumped there, a range of public bodies chose not to get involved with the developing situation.

It was established subsequently that the EA and Kent Police took responsibility for the situation from August 2023 yet did not close off the site until Tuesday, January 16, this year, when the site was blocked with concrete blocks and an enforcement order imposed.

CPRE Kent shares Rescue Hoads Wood’s delight at the positive action from Mr Barclay, as well as the group’s concern over the abject failure of so many agencies to act before the situation got out of hand. It is clear a protocol for such incidents across the country must be established.

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It is estimated some 30,000 tonnes of waste have been dumped at Hoad's Wood