Wildlife expert Chris Packham slams plans to turn former mine into luxury surfing resort



Wildlife expert Chris Packham has slammed “catastrophic” plans to turn a former mine into a five-star surfing resort.

The TV presenter fears for the future of threatened birds including turtle doves and skylarks if ambitious plans for the old coal mine go ahead.

Developers hope to build a 120-bed luxury hotel and inland surf lagoon on the site of Betteshanger Colliery in Kent, used as a country park since the mine closed in 1989.

Environmental activists worry the loss of green space will have a devastating impact on rare plants and birds.

Bosses dismiss these claims, saying almost 30 acres will be set aside for wildlife habitats – and insist surf therapy is good for mental health.

The Seahive, a 15 Acre Inland Surf Lagoon with luxury hotel for Betteshanger Country Park, Kent.
What the surf lagoon and hotel in Kent will look like

BBC Winterwatch star Chris, 61, blasted the proposal and urged fans to sign a petition against the development near Deal.

He said: “Please also voice your objections to what would be a ­catastrophic development affecting turtle doves, skylarks, lizard orchids and more.

“The proposal is a hotel and surf lagoon on this precious green space. I mean, in a biodiversity crisis?”

Turtle doves are the fastest declining breeding bird in the UK, he said, with numbers falling 98% since the 1970s.

he Seahive, a 15 Acre Inland Surf Lagoon with luxury hotel for Betteshanger Country Park, Kent.
A birds eye view of how the resort will look

Kent supports about a third of the population in England. Chris added: “If you have ever heard the purring of a turtle dove you would do anything in your power to save it.”

The petition, due to be presented to Dover district council, has been signed by more than 3,400 people. If plans are approved, The Seahive wave resort and luxury spa hotel could open in 2025.

The Wavegarden Cove surf lagoon on the 15-acre site would be capable of creating more than 20 wave types and rides of up to 15 seconds.

It would be the second of its kind in England and seventh in the world, following others in Australia, Brazil and Bristol.

The Seahive dismissed the BBC presenter’s claims as only part of the story and said the development would have a positive impact on users’ health.

Betteshanger Colliery, Kent. 1985.
A photo of Betteshanger Colliery, which is now a country park, in 1985 ( Mirrorpix)

A spokesman said: “Surf therapy is now being prescribed by the NHS to improve and support mental wellbeing. We will be working with charity partners to support the blue light services and veterans with PTSD as well as kids with depression.”

The developers added they were in touch with Chris about extending their ecological plans.

Stuart O’Leary, head of Betteshanger Country Park, said it was also working on further schemes to help wildlife. He added: “We have robust mitigation strategies proposed on-site for both lizard orchids and turtle doves, which includes additional habitat and foraging ground.”

Chris has announced he will take a three-month break from TV due to feeling “burnt out”.

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