Cliffe`s Five Fatal Flaws
5 Flaws in Government proposals for Cliffe, highlighted by the RSPB…First a message from Perry Haines. RSPB No Airport At Cliffe Campaign Co-ordinator. Greetings to all Fatbirder subscribers, thank you for your ongoing support for the campaign. Below are the 5 fatal flaws that mean the Cliffe option must be dropped from the government consultation proposals now. Wishing Fatbirder and all, a happy campaign winning New Year - and good birding to all too.As the Government prepares to launch its revised consultation on the future of air transport in the UK, the RSPB says the option of a new airport at Cliffe is fatally flawed and it should be dropped. The Society highlights five key issues that make the Cliffe option a non-starter:Environmental importance - the outstanding international importance of the Thames estuary for birds, means that the Cliffe area is heavily protected by UK and European conservation laws [Up to 200,000 wading birds, ducks and geese winter in the areas affected by the proposal, including large numbers of Bewick`s swans, brent geese, white-fronted geese, shelducks, gadwall, teal, ringed plovers, grey plovers, knot and black-tailed godwits. Breeding birds affected would include the UK`s largest heronry (160 pairs) at Northward Hill, little egrets, avocets and marsh harriers]. EU Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallstrom has already indicated that the Cliffe option would only be allowed in the absence of alternative solutions and if the Government could demonstrate it was in the overriding public interest. Legal battles arising from a decision to pursue the Cliffe option would be likely to lead to years of delays, thereby demolishing any business case that can be made for Cliffe.Passenger safety - siting an airport where planes would take off and land through an area that supports concentrations of up to 200,000 wading birds, ducks and geese, poses a major risk of birdstrikes on a scale that could easily down aircraft, with disastrous consequences. The Government`s own Birdstrike Avoidance Team has said of Cliffe: There is a very serious potential birdstrike risk at the new airport site. Indeed, it is difficult to envisage a more problematic site anywhere else in the UK. Central Science Laboratory Birdstrike Avoidance Team - North Kent Marshes Study Phase 1 Report, Jan 2002.Funding - Government will not foot the bill for a new airport at Cliffe and there is no evidence that anyone else is willing to meet the massive costs of a new airport, plus the necessary transport, business and social infrastructure to go with it. Estimates of the final cost of the Cliffe option range from ?11.5bn to ?23bn (5). This does not include the cost of compensating for direct and indirect habitat loss - which could run into hundreds of millions of pounds. [Costs of recent major infrastructure projects (Channel Tunnel, Channel Tunnel Rail Link, Jubilee Line extension) have overrun by between 67% and 108%. If applied to the Government`s projected cost for Cliffe airport of ?11.5bn, the final cost could be anywhere between ?16bn and ?23bn].Business viability - there is no support for the Cliffe option within the aviation industry. Airlines have identified Cliffe as their least favoured option, with some suggesting they would need massive financial incentives to consider moving there. BA has said: We don`t think it is possible to build a new airport in the time scale needed for new runway capacity in the southeast of England. [In a poll of the top 33 carriers using London airports, not one was prepared to move to the proposed site at Cliffe. Only three airlines did not rate Cliffe bottom when asked which out of Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and Cliffe they would move to if they could not operate from their current preferred base. More than half declared that only a subsidy might persuade them to move to Cliffe].Technical challenges - Environment Agency staff have said that if the airport is built at Cliffe there is a real possibility of flooding in London, as well as in the Cliffe/Cooling marshes area and that in the long term a second Thames Barrier may be required in the Gravesend/Tilbury area. Dr Mark Avery, RSPB Director of Conservation, said: The case for a new airport at Cliffe is so weak that the Government should acknowledge it`s a non-starter and kick it out of the revised consultation process. An airport at Cliffe would be the single most environmentally destructive planning development the UK has ever seen. The airlines don`t want it, the City isn`t prepared to pay for it, it`s illegal and it`s dangerous.
4th July 2014