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Cliffe Anti-Airport Campaign Latest?

7 June 2002 ? Director of RSPB South East & KOS President speak out?

The threatened proposal to build an airport on the North Kent Marshes could be the biggest battle the British conservation movement has ever had to tackle. The more individuals and organisations who support the No Airport @ Cliffe Campaign, the clearer the message to Government becomes. The primary objective is to make sure that any plans for an airport at Cliffe are scrapped before they even get as far as the drawing-board. Your support will be vital in achieving this goal. So said Chris Corrigan - Director RSPB South East ? today.RSPB Campaign Co-ordinator Perry Haines went on to give detailed backgound about the threat to Cliffe?In late June this year, the Government is expected to publish seven regional consultation papers on the options to meet future air-traffic demand across England. Greatest attention will focus on South East England where the Government hopes to maintain London`s role as a global aviation hub over the next 30 years. It seems likely to include an option to build a major new airport near Cliffe, north Kent. This would spell disaster for the birds and other wildlife of the Thames estuary and will be the biggest single development the RSPB has opposed since, ironically, the proposal for the 4th London airport at Maplin Sands, Essex in the early 1970s. This would have caused similar environmental damage. Plans were eventually dropped after a vigorous campaign by the RSPB and others.The Government believes that to maintain London`s position as a world city depends on keeping it as an aviation hub. In a speech on the 9 April 2002, the Transport Minister, John Spellar, set out the challenge the Government faces in meeting predicted demand for air travel.Possible options

Newspaper articles in early 2002, presumably based on leaks from Government sources, floated two main options:
1. Add new runways at each of the existing London airports; or
2. Construct a new airport, with up to four runways, near Cliffe, north Kent. It is likely that both options will feature in some form in the South East England consultation paper (SERAS).The wetlands of the Thames estuary comprise one of the top five areas in the UK for breeding, passage and wintering birds. They are also one of Europe`s most important wildlife sites. The vast estuarine and freshwater wetlands in this part of north Kent and south Essex make it a rich haven for birds and other wildlife. No less than four internationally important wetland sites could be under threat if the Cliffe scheme became a reality. These are the:
1. Thames Estuary and Marshes Special Protection Area and Ramsar site;
2. Medway Estuary and Marshes SPA/Ramsar site;
3. Benfleet and Southend Marshes SPA/Ramsar site;
4. The Swale SPA/Ramsar site.
Besides these statutory sites, the RSPB has 5 significant nature reserves in the area. Of these, Northward Hill and Cliffe Pools would effectively be destroyed if the airport plans went ahead.Over 200,000 waders and wildfowl winter in these extensive wetlands. The grazing marshes and wetland complexes of north Kent support a diverse population of breeding waders, such as avocet, redshank and lapwing, as well as many other scarce breeding birds such as marsh harrier, terns and Mediterranean gulls. Clearly, the greatest threat is in the Cliffe area. The wetlands are also important for an array of other wildlife, including water voles, scarce emerald damselflies, and the recently re-discovered Maid of Kent rove beetle, as well as many nationally rare plants. In addition, the Essex Estuaries are a candidate Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive. From a wildlife perspective, it is hard to think of anywhere worse to build an airport. Vast swathes of the wetlands around Cliffe would be destroyed or irrevocably damaged, changing the nature of north Kent forever:

The area around Cliffe would go under the concrete needed for the airport;
Demand for new houses, roads and railways would have, as yet unknown, knock-on impacts on the rest of north Kent and possibly south Essex;
The tranquillity of the north Kent marshes would be shattered by the take-off and landing of aircraft, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Such impacts would clearly damage local people as well as wildlife.The RSPB`s Chief Executive, Graham Wynne, wrote to John Spellar in March 2002 and made it clear that we would oppose vigorously any proposal for an international airport at Cliffe as it threatened internationally important wildlife assets and our own reserves in north Kent. At present, we are preparing for the Government`s consultation paper, expected in June 2002. When it is published, we will have a much clearer picture of how seriously the Government is pursuing this scheme. Our aim is to ensure the Government drops any proposal for an airport at Cliffe as soon as possible. We will also oppose any other options that threaten important bird sites. We are prepared to fight this proposal with all means available to us and will welcome the full support of others to ensure success. We have already appointed Perry Haines, to co-ordinate the No Airport @ Cliffe Campaign. If you would like to know more, please contact him directly with news, views, ideas and any expressions of support via e-mail at: NoAirportAtCliffe@rspb.org.uk or call Wildlife Enquiries on: 01767 680551The Kent Ornithological Society have swiftly pledged their support, as have many of the birding community. Jim Flegg President of the KOS was joined by leading KOS officials in making the following pledge:The Kent Ornithological Society (KOS) objects to any proposal to build a new international airport on the North Kent Marshes. The area at threat is of not only local but also international importance for its wildlife. Its value to birds and other wildlife is recognised by its protection as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area under the European Birds Directive and as a wetland of global importance under the Ramsar Convention. It is hugely significant for supporting migrating and resident bird species, many of which are already declining. But it is not only the wildlife significance of the area that makes it worth conserving; the area is one of the last truly wild areas in the South-East of the UK and is therefore of huge importance as an amenity to not only birds and birdwatchers but also those who enjoy the outdoors. The KOS gives its whole-hearted support to the RSPB NO AIRPORT @ CLIFFE campaign. With the County Bird Records on a database, we are in a position not only to provide any significant records of value, but interpretations of the data to emphasise the outstanding, environmental importance of the area. We will also be encouraging our members to support this campaign.Join the debate via the BBC… http://www.bbc.co.uk/kent/news/issue_week/airport.shtml add your feelings about this issue.


4th July 2014