Is Boris really happy to destroy one of the most important bird habitats in Britain?

The Mayor's pet plan risks destroying an important wildlife habitat.

The Mayor’s pet plan risks destroying an important wildlife habitat

The Mayor of London has declared that the new research on his plans for a Boris Island airport contains ‘no show stoppers’ and he regards the reports as ‘hugely encouraging’.

If he really believes this, he must be happy to destroy one of the most valuable and internationally important bird habitats in Britain.

There have been two major reports in the last week which have highlighted the potentially disastrous impact on birds of building an airport in the Thames Estuary. The Davies Commission, which is looking at the issue of aviation expansion for the government, received a consultant’s report by Jacobs, which was blunt: “all the [Estuary] airport options proposed would result in a large scale direct habitat loss”.

Protected species like sandwich terns, nightingales and marsh harriers breed in the Thames Estuary and the Mayor of London wants to build the biggest Airport in Europe over where they nest, eat and raise chicks. The Jacobs report explains that it: “forms a vital staging post and wintering site for a large number of migratory waterfowl”.

It’s not just the airport itself; all the roads, railway lines and other infrastructure to service it would cause further damage.

The Mayor believes that he can cater for the needs of the birds and anyway, you have to balance that against the “needs of 8 million people living in a fast growing city”. Boris presents the argument as an either or, but I don’t agree that we need to trash our wildlife and increase the likelihood of runaway climate change in a vain attempt to secure our future prosperity.

The Thames Estuary is recognised as being internationally important and there are European rules safeguarding it.

I realise that the rules might be side-stepped if you have the money to mitigate the consequences of any development, with the taxpayer, rather than the industry, footing the bill. The report says it could cost an ‘unprecedented’ £2 billion to compensate for the loss of the bird’s breeding grounds.

The cost alone should be a show stopper, but the Mayor’s chief adviser, Daniel Moylan, is staying optimistic and says they can somehow mitigate the impacts by only spending half a billion pounds.

Jacobs also found that it would be “impossible to create this scale of new habitats in the immediate vicinity of the site”. The British Trust for Ornithology, in a separate report, point out the difficulties of finding a suitable new habitat which has to be two times the size of Disneyland Paris.

Hundreds of thousands of hungry feathered creatures descend on this corner of Britain, and idea of them mixing with hundreds of jets every day is not a good combination. Bird strike was recently blamed for bringing down a helicopter in Norfolk, but the Mayor insists on pressing ahead with the idea of flying planes in and out of one of the biggest outdoor restaurants for bird life in Europe.

The Mayor should stop spending millions of pounds researching and promoting his pet plan for a mega airport and put his energies into tackling the real threats to our future prosperity – climate change and inequality.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.