Kent Wildlife Trust is dismayed at the proposals for an airport covering the eastern end of the Hoo peninsula.

The Thames and Medway estuaries carry substantial international designations for wildlife. It is difficult to see how the development of an airport, whether coastal or offshore, will not have a massive impact on this internationally important wildlife and on communities along the Thames.

“Quite frankly we’re flabbergasted the Government is taking this idea seriously” says John Bennett, Chief Executive of Kent Wildlife Trust.

He continued: “The Chancellor said in his budget statement that the Government would look at all options for a new airport hub, except a third runway at Heathrow. We are particularly concerned that at the same time as this announcement, the Government is making plans to reduce the level of protection given, through the EU Birds and Habitats directives, to internationally important wildlife and sites.

“We battled long and hard, with considerable public support, against the development of an airport at Cliffe, and the case against an airport in the Thames estuary is the same, wherever the airport might be sited. The highly valuable habitats of the Thames and Medway estuaries, and the wildlife that they support, are important in an international context, and we have a duty to protect them for future generations. The Government is saying that it can’t allow environmental and social considerations to fetter the re-growth of a strong economy. We believe that the well-being of the people and natural communities in the area is the responsibility of the Government now as much as it ever has been.”

In the recently published Natural Environment White Paper, the Government highlighted the fact that a healthy natural environment underpins our economic success*, and the Trust sees no reason why action for both should not go hand in hand. Faced with the need for massive recovery, the post war government made a commitment to look after the natural environment alongside re-growth, and the Trust believes it is essential to continue to make the same decision today to protect the heritage that was left to us.

John Bennett added: “Kent Wildlife Trust will continue to be robust in the defence of the Thames Estuary. There are already considerable pressures in prospect, such as the lower Thames Estuary Crossing, and we must ensure that any new infrastructure does not weaken an already damaged natural environment.”

London Wildlife Trust is also expressing concerns. Carlo Laurenzi OBE, Chief Executive, said: “We are horrified by this proposal – especially from a government that claims to aspire to be the greenest ever. The area proposed for the airport lies within areas designated of international importance to birds protected under the Habitat Regulations. These consist of highly valuable habitats that support significant proportions of the national populations of avocet, ringed plover, grey plover, black-tailed godwit, red knot, dunlin, and redshank.

Nationally important plants and invertebrates are also present in a landscape valued for its special nature. Whilst the proposed site is not within London, the impacts upon biodiversity of the estuarine Thames are likely to be deep and broad.”

Press Release from Kent Wildlife Trust