Boris airport is a ‘Mickey Mouse’ idea

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News from Medway Matters website

Boris Johnson would have to find an area larger than the size of Disneyland Paris to home birds whose habitat would be destroyed by his airport plans.

And that would cost anywhere up to a staggering £2billion.

A new study shows at least 3,400 hectares – the equivalent of one and a half Euro Disneys – would be needed to replace habitat lost by the construction of ‘Boris Island’ on the Isle of Grain.

Johnson has himself admitted that finding a home for wildlife is one of the greatest challenges to his idea.

Now research from the British Trust for Ornithology says that a huge area would be needed to home the 300,000 birds that would be affected by an airport development, including at least 21,000 waterbirds who live there permanently.

The report says: “Coastal wetland habitat loss of this type has been widely demonstrated to have significant impacts on the bird populations that the habitat supports.

“We can therefore be confident that habitat loss due to airport development would have significant negative impacts on the bird population that depend on the areas lost.”

European Commission Habitats Directive guidance suggests that habitat lost by the construction of the proposed airport – estimated at 1,700 hectares – would require a new site of at least 3,400 hectares to be created for the birds to survive.

Finding suitable areas for such large-scale habitat creation will be challenging given the many competing demands for coastal land in the south east, the report says.

It goes on to say the cost of creating new habitat is likely to be at least £70,000 per hectare – but that could be considerably more depending on the site chosen.

The architects behind the proposed airport, Foster and Partners, predict it could cost up to half a billion pounds and a report by the Government’s Airport’s Commission estimates it could be up to £2billion.

With uncertainty over the cost, those fighting the airport plans are left baffled as to how it can go-ahead.

They believe taxpayers have the right to know exactly what they will be expected to pay.

MP for Gillingham and Rainham, Rehman Chishti MP, said: “This report clearly shows the high risks, uncertainty and costs of putting an airport into an area which is one of the most important for waterbirds in the UK.

“It would decimate these important environmental areas with any mitigation or compensation measures requiring vast areas of land to be made available at enormous cost.

“This is another showstopper report demonstrating why this absurd scheme should never be allowed to go ahead.”

Cllr Rodney Chambers, leader of Medway Council, today challenged the Mayor London to find a suitable area to home the birds.

He said: “This latest research is yet another stumbling block in these Mickey Mouse plans.

“We’d like to know where Mr Johnson plans to home these birds as we’re not aware of a spare 3,400 acres in Medway, or anywhere else on the south east coast, and, as the report points out, creating a new habitat away from the Medway Estuary is likely to lead to an increased mortality rate amongst the birds, would take years to establish and may not even be legal.

“It is clear plans for an airport in the Thames Estuary will have a devastating effect on wildlife for years to come – we don’t believe that’s a price worth paying.”

The research comes as it was estimated Boris Johnson’s airport plan could cost £148 billion – far higher than the £47.3billion originally quoted.

And a public opinion survey of 2,000 British adults, carried out by ComRes showed only one in six British adults (16%) would support the building of an Estuary Airport in the Thames at the expense of closing existing facilities at Heathrow, City and Southend.

In 2012 – three years after the Hudson plane crash in New York when geese struck the plane – it was revealed a new airport in the Thames Estuary would be the most dangerous in the UK because of the risk of a plane being brought down by a bird strike.

A report, commissioned by MPs, found the risk of an “aircraft loss” after being hit by one or more birds was higher than any of the other 10 major UK airports studied.

The grazing marshes, saltmarshes and mudflats of North Kent have been recognised at national, European and international level for their importance for wildlife.

In total, around 300,000 birds rely on the intertidal areas for food. Some are winter visitors or passage migrants like the Black-tailed Godwit and Brent Goose, birds that breed in places like Iceland, Greenland and Russia. Many species like the Avocet and Lapwing are year-round residents.

The full report can be accessed here http://www.bto.org/sites/default/files/u196/downloads/rr657.pdf

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