Fort Horsted selected as a receptor site for protected species

Fort Horsted has been the subject of an extensive receptor site selection process following the discovery of a population of partially protected species of Slow Worms and Lizards on a construction site in Rochester, Kent that needed to be relocated.

The process required a detailed written mitigation strategy for the safeguard of protected species to be submitted to the Local Planning Authority for approval who granted us fully accredited status to receive native protected species.

The introduction and development of any habitat management plan for new receptor sites for protected species can be expensive as consideration has to be given to the existing species, habitats and their management within the site.

It was considered that Fort Horsted, with its existing vegetation and habitat management program, was ideal and needed little development in the way of further enhancement.

Fort Horsted Receptor Site Characteristics
Fort Horsted has controlled access via a drawbridge over a deep moat surrounding the entire 13.5 acre site and was described as an isolated island and a perfect receptor site to receive a number of different protected species including Slow Worms and Lizards.

The managed habitats already on site comprise a mosaic of grassland, scrub and tall ruderal. The topography of the ground is variable with grassed embankments and mounds located around the entirety of the site, including prominent south, north, east and west facing embankments. Current owners and managers of the site Avondale Environmental Services Ltd have been positively managing the site through scrub clearance and control, allowing the grassland to re-establish.

This programme of scrub clearance and grassland re-establishment has been extremely successful and is currently maintained at a tall sward height across the majority of the site over much of the year.

Habitat Suitability & Existing Status of Reptiles
The habitat enhancement works undertaken to date have proved very successful and the combination of grassed embankments and mounds, bands of scrub and varied grassland structure are such that the site is highly suitable for reptiles.

Habitats benefit by the inclusion of a wildlife management plan combined with the sites vegetation management plan to ensure reptiles and wildlife suitability is maintained over the long term so as to allow for the future expansion of populations to the full carrying capacity of the site.

Security of Receptor Sites
Security of receptor site from future development is paramount especially for approval of planning departments. Fort Horsted is a registered scheduled ancient monument and therefore receives statutory protection, under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. As such there is a statutory obligation to prevent any destruction or damage to the monument and to preserve its character and appearance in keeping with its cultural heritage. Furthermore, Policy BNE20 of the adopted Medway Local Plan 2003 states that development will not be permitted which would damage or destroy scheduled ancient monuments or be detrimental to their setting. Accordingly, the large expanse of grassed ramparts and varied topography that exist at the Fort are protected under national legislation and local planning policy and it is clear that the site owners are dedicated to the preservation of the Fort’s character as evidenced by the restoration works already undertaken to date, in consultation with English Heritage.

Management of vegetation and habitats
Avondale is a professional land management company that provides expert environmental vegetation management programmes for a variety of private and public sector organisations. As such it is well placed to manage the site for reptiles and has expressed a continued willingness to manage the site for the benefit of biodiversity.

For further information regarding the above project or the use of Fort Horsted as a wildlife receptor site for protected species, please contact Andy Back on 01634 823200.