We are completely against the location of an airport in the Thames Estuary.
That so much of our natural coastal environment has survived in the Thames Estuary into the 21st century is something we should celebrate. At the RSPB, we are proud of the role we have played in protecting, nurturing and sharing the wild landscapes of the Thames in Kent, Essex and Greater London. You can find several RSPB nature reserves (covering a total of over 50 square kilometres) right across the Greater Thames, an indication of how important we believe the area is for wildlife – and, of course, they give people great opportunities to see that wildlife for themselves.
A little history
Proposals to construct an airport in the Thames go back to just after World War II. Indeed the challenge of plans to build on Maplin Sands off the Essex coast over 40 years ago was the stimulus to developing an objective approach to conservation planning. It led directly to the establishment of the Birds of Estuaries enquiry, a forerunner of the modern Wetland Bird survey that underpins so much of our knowledge about the importance of our coastal wetlands for bird conservation.
A proposal to construct a four-runway airport in the same area, similar to those we’re seeing now, was rejected nearly a decade ago following our No Airport at Cliffe campaign. Since then various flights of fancy have emerged proposing estuary airports, but none of them have progressed into anything concrete.
Where we are today
Now, with the review of airport capacity in full swing, there are no less the 6 separate proposals for big airports in the Thames Estuary. Perhaps the most widely promoted option (from Lord Foster) – four runways on the Isle of Grain with linking infrastructure – has been propelled into the eye of a media storm but still exists only as architects drawings and plans.
We believe that the option of an estuary airport should be rejected outright. After several months of prevarication, the Government set up the independent Airports commission, Chaired by Sir Howard Davies, in late 2012 to assess airport capacity and the need for aviation expansion. We have submitted evidence on a variety of topics and will continue to do so as appropriate, and have also provided comments on the Commission’s approach and decision-making tools at every stage. You can download our major submissions by clicking on the links in Downloads on the right of the screen.
The Commission published an interim report at the end of 2013. This short listed options at Gatwick and Heathrow and committed to a further 6-month feasibility study on an Inner Thames Estuary airport option centred on Isle of Grain. They will consult on this more detailed work on the Thames proposals in July 2014 and their final recommendations will appear in 2015, after the next General Election.
We believe that a Thames Estuary airport should not be included as a viable option in any new Government strategy and we will be working hard to ensure that this is the case. We are opposed to these new proposals for an airport in the Thames Estuary because:
• The massive environmental impact is unjustified. It would cause an unprecedented level of damage and destruction to internationally important and legally protected wildlife habitat, which we do not believe can be adequately compensated for.
• To land planes in a foggy, bird-rich estuary makes it the most unsafe locations for an airport in the UK. Birdstrike would be up to 12 times more likely here unless draconian clearance of the flocks that make the Thames their home is undertaken, year after year.
• It would be the world's largest airport and would lead to the generation of massive carbon emissions at a time when we urgently need to reduce emissions from all sectors in order to meet the UK's short and long term climate targets.
The myth that North Kent is an unoccupied wasteland awaiting development is not reality. There are strong local communities who have banded together in the past to oppose similar schemes that threatened their homes, ways of life and precious local environment. Their deep commitment to protect this historically and environmentally important landscape for future generations to enjoy is as strong as ever.