So the fight against plans for new coal at Hunterson is over. It's been one of the campaigns that has been running throughout the course of this blog and it has been aimed at preventing the development of a new coal-fired power plant at Hunterston on the Clyde.
Recently the level of public and political opposition to the proposal has become clear and yesterday Peel Holdings withdrew the application. We welcome this decision - though there is still more to do protect the coastal environment so recently threatened by the unsustainable Hunterston plans.
This has been a long haul and at the beginning planning policy and political support seemed ranged against us. Here's an earlier post from two year's ago - and another highlighting one of the high points of the campaign - a massive sand sculpture.
Aedán Smith, Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland said: “This is absolutely fantastic news. This unnecessary and hugely unpopular proposal would have completely destroyed part of a nationally important wildlife site and seriously undermined Scotland’s ambitions to be a world leader on climate change.“Although it is disappointing that any developer would even consider such a damaging proposal, we are pleased that Peel have finally recognised the absurdity of these plans and made a sound decision that will save everybody the further time and expense of fighting them. Hopefully we can now focus on delivering the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions we urgently require instead of arguing about this outdated project.“We would be happy to work with Peel and others to ensure that Scotland’s energy needs can be met through developing energy sustainably and in the right places, and the important wildlife of the Hunterston site can be safeguarded in future.”The Say No to Hunterston Campaign is a coalition of organisations (listed below) and local people:
The Site of Special Scientific Interest at the heart of the campaign remains vulnerable – though the immediate threat has now been removed. We’re determined that the final piece in the jigsaw is now put in place and proper protection is given to Portencross Coast SSSI
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At last year’s World Heritage Convention (WHC) meeting the Tanzanian government’s plans for a highway across the world famous Serengeti National Park came under intense scrutiny. Here's some background on the issue.
The Park is on the route of the world’s greatest mammal migration – of 1.8 million wildebeest and other antelopes. The road could cause this migration to collapse, taking with it the economic revenues from tourists visiting the Park – a major foreign exchange earner for Tanzania.
Zebra crossing - road threat to one of the world's most dramatic migrations
Under pressure, Tanzania issued a written statement that the 53 km stretch of the road through the Park would not be paved and would continue to be controlled by the National Park Authority and used by the same level of traffic as currently ie mostly tourists, not commercial traffic. They also said they would seriously consider the southern alternative road (which avoids the Park).
We were cautiously optimistic and welcomed the statement. But since then there has been little to celebrate and alarm bells are now ringing again.
The Tanzanian authorities have been taking forward the plans for the eastern stretch of the Serengeti road (outside and to the east of the Park). There have been no clear public statements about the western stretch of the road (which includes the section through the Park). No revised Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) has been published or submitted to the WHC.
Nor has there been any public statement about an alternative southern route, despite offers of funding to study this from the World Bank and German and US Governments.
Instead, we understand that some commercial traffic is already passing through the Serengeti National Park. And although some of the Tanzanian Government communications state that the road through the Park will not be upgraded and will remain a gravel road, at present it is not a gravel road but a seasonal dirt track, so any change, including gravelling, will in fact amount to upgrading.
This is all extremely concerning. We fear this piece-meal development of the eastern stretch of the road in advance of any studies on an alternative southern route will further increase future pressure for the section of the road through the Serengeti to be upgraded.
As you’ll know from previous posts on this blog, we are not anti development and fully recognize the need for Tanzania to upgrade its transport infrastructure. But we do believe that transport solutions must be sustainable and that environmental issues should be properly taken into account in route decisions as is required by both Tanzanian and international law. We strongly believe a solution is possible through strategic planning.
This year’s World Heritage Convention meeting is in St Petersburg, Russia and starts on Sunday. In these worrying times we are asking the WHC to adopt a decision which:
It's important that the WHC take a strong stance and ensure the iconic Serengeti National Park ‘will not die’.
We will let you know the outcome.
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The energy of the wind harnessed by well planned, correctly located windfarms, is an essential part of the response to the threat of climate change. But badly located wind turbines are a real threat to wildlife.
We’ve been working closely with our Bulgarian BirdLife partner BSPB for seven years to get the European Commission to enforce breaches to EU nature laws on the Kaliakra Peninsula on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria – you can catch up with the story here.
We’ve had some great news of real progress. RSPB’s International Site Casework Officer, Dan Pullen, takes up the story:
The European Commission has announced (21 June) that it has issued a final legal warning against the Bulgarian Government over its failure fully to designate, protect, and prevent deterioration of the Kaliakra Special Protection Area and Site of Community Importance, required under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.
This latest action by the Commission is the result of a prolonged campaign by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds since 2005, supported by staff in the RSPB International Division, for the full protection of the Kaliakra peninsula. Part of the Important Bird Area has been excluded from designation on spurious grounds, and many areas of the designated and undesignated parts of the site have been damaged by windfarm and housing developments.
The Kaliakra Peninsula is internationally important, forming part of the wintering area for the globally endangered red-breasted goose, which uses the agricultural fields in the area for feeding. It also acts as a stopover for thousands of soaring birds such as white storks on the ‘Via Pontica’ migration route between Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
Its landscape includes rare grasslands – known to ecologists as ‘Ponto-Sarmatic Steppe’ which is a priority habitat for protection under the European Habitats Directive - even if its name is a bit of a mouthful!
Several large windfarm developments have destroyed areas of this most important ‘priority’ habitat, and reduced the feeding areas available to the wintering geese, potentially jeopardising their ability to survive the winter.
The Bulgarian Government will now have an opportunity to react to the final warning. However, if they fail to deal with the issues at hand (as indeed they have for the last seven years), then we fully expect the Commission to refer the case to the European Court of Justice by the end of the year.
Irina Mateeva, BSPB’s European Policy Officer who has campaigned vociferously on this case since the beginning said ‘we welcome this strong action from the Commission and hope that the Bulgarian government will finally get the message that it needs to take its European responsibilities seriously. Kaliakra should be fully designated, these damaging developments removed and the damage done to habitats rectified as soon as possible. We hope also that the recent plans for more wind farms in key sites for birds will be the subject of objective assessment and not developed’.
Dan will keep us posted of any new developments
With the news that Network Rail stands accused of destroying birds’ nests on railway land in Islington and then hiding behind a shield of Health and Safety excuses. I’m reminded of when their contractors came calling on a stretch of railway in Kent that I’ve know since childhood.
The line runs through the downs and was fringed by scrub and woodland largely untouched for decades. Then apparently out of the blue the felling and clearance began – in May. The rate of clearance was breathtaking but, at pace, I was able to assemble a rough and ready assessment of birds holding territories along the next section (lucky a public footpath ran parallel) and I made this information available to Network Rail.
I spoke to a helpful lady who assured me that a full environmental assessment had been carried out – I asked when and she went to the trouble of finding out. The answer was a surprise and I could tell by her tone that it was as much of a shock to her. The survey work had been carried out the previous November. Now it doesn’t take a fully qualified ecologist to spot that a November survey ahead of work in May might be inadequate ... as a result of the intervention the work was postponed until after the breeding season.
One not insignificant silver lining of the line-side work was the re-growth of scrub with its promise of warblers and nightingales – and this indeed came to pass, last spring a nightingale sang from the edge of the railway.
This spring, I was contacted by a neighbour to say that they (Network Rail’s contractors) were back – and the three year old scrub was razed. This time I failed to get the work postponed and it was all over for the nightingales for this spring at least.
But this wasn’t an isolated incident. Further east the residents of Whitstable were drawing a very clear line in the sand and the intransigent approach of Network Rail was to be effectively challenged.
While public safety is paramount, Network Rail’s approach is distinctly heavy handed.
In yet another case, diggers and staff cleared trees, shrubs and scrub from a stretch of trackside land near Islington’s Emirates Stadium over the weekend of 9 – 10 June.
Outraged local residents and Green Party activists moved to halt the work and have staged a sit-in at Network Rail’s HQ in Camden’s York Way.
Local residents claim active nests were destroyed, contravening the Wildlife and Countryside Act. British Transport Police are investigating the claims.
Chris Corrigan, our Regional Director for South East England says: “The RSPB was hoping Network Rail would have learned from the Whitstable experience. This case in Islington suggests that for them, the Act is meaningless and it’s back to business as usual.”
The case has angered MP’s. Jeremy Corbyn, who represents the Islington North constituency, has tabled a Parliamentary motion, supported by Green MP Caroline Lucas, describing Network Rail’s behaviour as “insensitive toward the natural environment, nesting birds, [and] the local community”.
We’re calling on Network Rail to radically overhaul their practices to ensure that necessary work is planned and scheduled so that it doesn’t leave wildlife destroyed and communities distraught.
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I remember the genuine excitement that surrounded the original Earth Summit back in 1992. It seemed a dawning realisation of the parlous state of our planet was really going to translate into action.
And to some extent it did ... do read Mark Avery’s guest blogs (here's one, do read the others) for a compelling commentary on the successes and failures.
Climate change came to the fore as the greatest long term threat to life on earth – there’s more on that here. You can step up and join the Rio Connection and ask your MP to sign the Rio Declaration, just like David Wright MP (pictured below) did at a recent event in Westminster.
Thinking globally and acting locally led to a wave of Local Agenda 21 groups across the UK (did you get involved in one?)
And for our glorious, life sustaining, awe-inspiring natural world – we got a new word; biodiversity. Don’t get me wrong – a lot of good stuff came out the original Earth Summit but re-labelling nature as biodiversity didn’t help!
This time in Rio the big idea is sustainable development. If the rhetoric of Rio isn’t to be any more than a mumble in the jungle, if it is to guide our leaders to new ways of thinking then how will it look at home here in the UK? How will it deal with the very real threats to our wildlife? How will it enable you and me – and many others to make a real difference together.
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, is leading the UK delegation in Rio and here he is blogging for us on his ambitions for Rio+20.
A few days ago I met the BBC’s Science Editor, David Shukman, at Dungeness – one of our most special places for wildlife (it’s stuffed with biodiversity). As regular readers of this blog will know it’s also threatened not least by plans to expand nearby Lydd airport – here’s his report.
Two of my colleagues are in Rio and they will be blogging from the heart of the action – here’s the first one.