Natural England has confirmed Swanscombe Peninsula as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in recognition of its national importance for plants, geology, birds and invertebrates – including one of the rarest spiders in the country.
The decision was taken by Natural England’s board at a public meeting and marks the last step in the designation process after the site was notified as a SSSI in March.
A valuable green space abundant in wildlife lying close to major urban areas, the 260 hectare site alongside the Thames Estuary forms a corridor of habitats connecting Ebbsfleet Valley with the southern shore of the River Thames between Dartford and Gravesend.
The site has been shaped by a number of industries including power generation, dredging, landfill and more than 150 years of chalk quarrying for cement production. These processes have left an incredible assortment of grassland, scrub, wetlands, grazing marsh and saltmarsh habitat, providing ideal conditions for a unique variety of wildlife.
The area is home to over 1,700 invertebrate species, which includes over a quarter of the UK’s water beetle species and more than 200 species that are considered of conservation importance. It is one of just two places in the UK where the critically endangered distinguished jumping spider is found, the other being West Thurrock Marshes in Essex.
With a large population living close by, Swanscombe Peninsula has enormous value as a greenspace and refuge for people as well as wildlife. The England Coast Path, due to open in early 2022, will run around the northern boundary of the site, and with existing rights of ways provide people with important places to enjoy nature.
Natural England recognises that there is interest in and consideration of potential development opportunities in the Swanscombe area. Designation of this site for its nationally important wildlife features is an important step towards ensuring that its environmental value is recognised and taken due account of in any future planning decisions.