Lydd airport plans ludicrous

RSPB opposes expansion of local airport proposed in South East Plan

The idea of expanding the local airport at Lydd to two million passengers a year has been branded as ludicrous by the RSPB.

The South East Plan, which sets out a regional framework for development until 2026, has indicated support for massive expansion of Lydd Airport. Consultation on the Plan ends tomorrow (15 April). In its response, the RSPB has stated that such expansion would be completely unacceptable because of the damage it would cause to area’s internationally important wildlife1.

Chris Corrigan, RSPB regional director for South East England said, “Trying to site an international airport next to an internationally important area for birds is just ludicrous. We have already been through the arguments when ensuring that the Cliffe Airport never got off the ground.

“Birdstrike2 is just one of the issues that was well publicised in the campaign against the Cliffe Airport proposals and the same problems would arise here. Add to that the proximity of a nuclear power station, two MoD firing ranges and the almost complete lack of transport links and you really do have a complete non-starter.

“The RSPB has objected to the policy for the expansion of Lydd Airport in the South East Plan and would expect to see it removed from the final version of the plan.”

One of the RSPB’s oldest nature reserves, Dungeness3, borders the existing airport and any expansion would have a damaging impact. Wardening began at Dungeness 100 years ago and today the reserve, which is part the Dungeness to Pett Level SPA, has important populations of many different ducks, geese and other waterbirds.

The plans for Lydd Airport are another example of the increasing expansion of the aviation industry. The RSPB is very concerned about the implications of growth of air travel and associated greenhouse gas emissions, for climate change4 and the consequent adverse impacts on species, whole ecosystems and people. Greenhouse gas emissions from aviation are increasing at a rate of about 3% per year.

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For further information, contact:
Paul Outhwaite, RSPB South East Communications Manager
01273 763607, Mob: 07736 477528 paul.outhwaite@rspb.org.uk <mailto:paul.outhwaite@rspb.org.uk> 

Alison Giacomelli, RSPB Conservation Officer
01273 763606 alison.giacomelli@rspb.org.uk <mailto:alison.giacomelli@rspb.org.uk>

Notes for editors:

1.The Dungeness to Pett Levels Special Protection Area, just to the south of the airport, is internationally important because of its regular use by wintering Bewick’s swan and shoveler, and breeding common terns, little terns and Mediterranean gull in numbers of European importance.

The area is also possible a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention

Dungeness is candidate Special Area of Conservation (cSAC). It is designated for its internationally important shingle habitat and great crested newt population. Both the shingle and newt interest would be directly impacted by the proposed expansion.

2. Disturbance from aircraft, active bird scaring and bird management in order to try to reduce bird-strike risks could all threaten the wildlife for which the area is important.

If Lydd became a major airfield, the Civil Aviation Authority would require a 13km bird safeguarding zone which would allow the airport operators to object to any habitat management that could result in an increase in bird numbers.

3. Dungeness RSPB reserve supports internationally important numbers of wintering shoveler. It also holds nationally important numbers of wintering Bewick’s swan, white-fronted goose, wigeon, gadwall, pochard, ruff, little grebe, smew, coot and cormorant, and breeding garganey, gadwall, pochard and water rail. In addition to the national and international interest, approximately sixty species of bird breed each year, including around 750 pairs of waterfowl and wader.

4. The RSPB considers that human-induced climate change poses the biggest long-term threat to global biodiversity. We therefore support policies and measures that reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from human activities that cause climate change. The RSPB endorses the UK Government’s aim to cut emissions by 60% by 2050, an aim that the UK should try hard to overachieve.

In the Aviation White Paper, the Government recognises the impacts of aviation on climate change but proposes no immediate solution. They identify emissions trading as a long-term solution but this could not start before 2008 at the earliest. The RSPB has been calling on the Government to introduce its own emissions charge immediately.

The RSPB is the UK charity working to secure a healthy environment for birds and wildlife, helping to create a better world for us all.

Paul Outhwaite
Communications Manager
RSPB South East England Region
Tel: 01273 763607
Mobile: 07736 477528

The RSPB is the UK charity working to secure a healthy environment for birds and wildlife, helping to create a better world for us all.