Airport proposals 'catastrophic' for wildlife

Tuesday 24th January 2012

Water vole cpt Jamie HallThe water vole is just one species which lives on the Estuary cpt Jamie Hall

Any airport development in the Thames Estuary would be catastrophic for fragile ecosystems and wildlife, warns Kent Wildlife Trust which is prepared to fight any proposals.

This is in the wake of news that the Government may include options for an airport in the Thames Estuary in a draft policy framework for UK aviation, due for public consultation in March.

John Bennett, Chief Executive of Kent Wildlife Trust, said:

“The Thames and Medway estuaries are extremely rich in wildlife and are internationally important for nature conservation.  An airport here, whether coastal or offshore, will be catastrophic for wildlife communities.

“The impact on breeding, feeding and migratory birds will be huge, but there is also a wider community that includes wildflowers, bees, water voles and brown hares.  Offshore, there are important habitats for fish and seals.

“Thames Estuary Airport options must be withdrawn from the draft policy framework for UK aviation.

Ten years ago, Kent Wildlife Trust, with many others, successfully campaigned against plans for an airport at Cliffe Marshes in North Kent. However, the area is still under considerable pressure.  If necessary, we are prepared to fight once more to protect our natural heritage.”

Water voles
The Hoo Peninsula is home to important populations of this mammal, which has undergone a long decline in Britain.  A new airport on the peninsula would lead to direct habitat loss and indirect damage to the remaining habitats.

Black-tailed godwit
The Thames and Medway Estuaries are famous for their thousands of waterfowl and waders, such as the black-tailed godwit.  The coastal habitats also support majestic birds of prey, such as the marsh harrier.  A new airport in the area would render large areas uninhabitable for many species of birds.

Shrill carder bumblebee
The Hoo Peninsula supports important populations of nationally rare bumblebees such as the shrill carder bumblebee.  Building an airport over the Isle of Grain would destroy a large area of coastal grassland that these bees need.  Air pollution from aeroplanes could also harm habitats elsewhere in the area, reducing the number of wildflowers.

Short-snouted seahorse 
Seahorses have been found in the Thames and Medway Estuaries but we know very little about them as yet.  Loss of marine habitat to a new airport could be bad news for populations of this species.

Seals
Common and grey seals use the sandbanks in the Thames Estuary at low tide.  Planes using a new airport may scare them off and the loss of marine habitat from an airport would probably affect populations of the fish they feed on.

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