Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

Cliffe Compensation Impossible

Says RSPB, But Shouldn`t Be On The Agenda Anyway?

Cliffe Compensation Would Be Impossible, Says RSPB, But Shouldn`t Be On The Agenda Anyway?Speaking at this week`s major Air Transport of Tomorrow conference tohighlight major aviation issues, the RSPB`s Director of Conservation, Dr Mark Avery, demolished the case for a new airport at Cliffe. Part of Dr Avery`s speech focused on the issue of compensation, for which the SERAS report provisionally identified the Wantsum channel in east Kent. The RSPB has extensive experience in creating and managing new habitats, Dr Avery said, But we cannot see how it would be possible to replace the complex ecosystem that would be lost at Cliffe. The replacement of tens of square kilometres of mudflats that would be required has never been attempted in the UK and even small-scale replacements have proven difficult to achieve.The RSPB emphasise, however, that Cliffe should never have been an option in the first place. Just six percent of the UK`s land area is designated under European law as a Special Protection Area (SPA) to protect internationally-important populations of migratory and rare birds. The Cliffe airport proposal would not only directly take at least 2.6 square kilometres of SPA but would devastate vast areas of SPA surrounding the airport footprint, that are a migration hub supporting over 200,000 birds. The RSPB would hope that such an important area of our natural heritage would be sacrosanct.Perry Haines, RSPB NoAirportAtCliffe Campaign Co-ordinator, explains the legal process that SPAs impose. The step-by-step process of the law with regard to SPAs is clear. Any development proposal that would have an adverse impact on an SPA must first pass two basic tests:
1) That the development has imperative reasons of overriding public interest, and
2) That there are no viable alternative sites that would have less damage on the environment.
If, and only if, these tests are met could the Government go on to the next stage of thinking about compensation. It`s not just a case of dumping a load of mud in the sea.
The RSPB don`t believe that these tests would be met, which is why the issue of compensation should not be on the agenda at his stage. But the Government must understand that compensation is not the simple fix it is being portrayed as. What they would have to create are tidal mudflats that at Cliffe have developed over millennia and are fully-functioning ecosystems full of microscopic life as well as the birds. Even if a place could be found that was socially and environmentally acceptable, it`s not just a case of dumping a load of mud into the sea, which would be difficult enough. It is getting that mud into a state where it is working for wildlife, and that could take decades if indeed it was possible at all on this scale. And that would have to be in place before the first spade was plunged into Cliffe.For all the latest information on the RSPB campaign, log onto:http://www.rspb.org.uk. there visit dedicated NA@C pages.

The Cliffe issue appears on Countryfile, BBC1, Sunday 24 November, 11.00 am

NA@C march from Rochester Castle 11am Sat 23 November - to Strood Civic Center where there will be public speaking in the carpark.

See: Telegraph and Star this weekend, the Daily Express monday the 25th November.

SE England regional Assembly decision to reject Cliffe, more information at: http://www.southeast-ra.gov.uk/reference_library/news_releases/2002/22nov02b.html

4th July 2014