Picture the scene – a cosy, circular council chamber occupied by lots of legal people dressed formally in suits, others busily tapping away on laptops and everywhere you look boxes and boxes of paper all containing vital information about each side’s views about the expansion of Lydd airport.
And most encouragingly even though we are now immersed in the depths of opposing arguments and a huge amount of jargon and legalese, there are still some determined stalwarts in the public gallery watching and listening to proceedings.
Today sees the cross examination of Dr John Allen, a highly qualified and respected bird strike expert, by Mr Peter Village Q.C., the Airport’s barrister. Indeed Dr Allen is Chairman of the International Bird Strike Committee and has a long list of qualifications after his name. He is giving evidence on his opinion of the Airport’s Bird Hazard Risk Assessment and associated Bird Control Management Plan. More jargon, which in essence means he is giving his view on how well the Airport have assessed the risks of potential bird strike of the expansion proposal and how to reduce it. The Airport’s expert, Mr Deacon, has already given his evidence on bird strike risk and the proposed bird control
I expect this ‘cut and thrust’ debate will continue for the rest of the day and probably even into tomorrow!
As followers of this blog will know, the RSPB is busy right now saving many special places, from Dungeness to the Tana River Delta in Kenya.
While colleagues are immersed in the Lydd public inquiry and other forthcoming inquiries and cases around the country, we’re fighting a battle on another front. This time it’s the whole of England (and no, I’m not forgetting the rest of the UK where other important battles are going on, but that’s another story!).
I’ve reported before on the Government’s proposals for revolution in the planning system through the Localism Bill and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
Over the last few weeks the Localism Bill has been debated in a committee of the House of Commons. We’re playing a leading role in a large coalition of NGOs, lobbying MPs, officials and other bodies with an interest in the planning system. We are very pleased that the amendments we’ve been suggested have been tabled by MPs and (mostly) debated by the committee. What’s more, on some of the key issues such as the importance of sustainable development, the need for strategic planning and a statutory basis for the NPPF, the planning minister Greg Clark has said publicly he would reflect on them and report back to the committee at a later stage.
That’s a refreshing change from experience on past planning bills where ministers have resolutely refused to countenance any amendments to their proposals.
If you’ve written to your MP about this, a big thank you. We’ve been very encouraged by the response from our members, which really helps to show MPs and the committee that you care about these issues.
We’ve also just submitted our official response to the Department of Communities and Local Government about what we think should be in the NPPF, based in part on the report we commissioned on a Natural Planning Framework for England. Our ten key points are below.
There’s still a long way to go on both the Bill and the NPPF. If we get both right, this should help us to avoid the need for battles like Lydd in the future. Here’s to a wildlife-rich England that’s a very special place.
A mere blink of an eye and it’s already March - and I still don't know why posting this blog sometimes creates a line of gobbledy-gook at the top of the page!
Here’s three issues to watch.
Peat – time to
end the waste. There’s widespread
agreement that the use of peat in horticulture should be phased out – the question
is how fast? Twenty years is way too
long in our view and we are proposing a peat levy to encourage the switch to
alternatives. You can help by clicking
here where you will find how you can write to your MP. If you still have lingering doubts about the
quality of alternatives to peat – here’s an interesting read.
Lydd Airport – it’s
squeaky bum time (as Sir Alex Ferguson would say) for the RSPB as our expert
witness rises to his feet. Follow my
twitter feed and this blog to see how it goes.
High Speed 2 – I haven’t
covered HS2 recently (here’s an earlier post where we set out the tests we
would expect a high speed rail project to meet - you can read our full position here) and the consultation is now out
– here’s some coverage of the £33b project and here’s Martin Wainwright looking
at the issues around the northern extension to this ambitious project.
This is a massive scheme, with a massive array of issues and
impacts (and potential benefits) – the economics both in terms of £££s and
carbon will be crucial, as they should be, but the heart of the issue will the
impact be on communities linked now by a chain of concern from London to Birmingham.
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