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RSPB accuses "greenest" Government of hypocrisy

Last modified: 29 November 2011

Sunset over marshes, RSPB Rainham Marshes reserve

Sunset over the ancient Thames side marshes

Image: Andy Hay

The RSPB is angered by Chancellor George Osborne's support for a new hub airport for the South East.

Two schemes are in the public domain; Boris Johnson’s island airport and Sir Norman Foster’s giant transport hub covering the Isle of Grain. Both threaten one of the UK’s most important wildlife sites. They gloss over the very real dangers of bird strike to planes and continue to fail to address the very serious environmental impacts on sensitive and legally protected habitats.

Chris Corrigan, RSPB director for South East England said, “Any development of this type, on this scale in the Thames Estuary would be an irreversible act of vandalism on a grand scale. Paving over communities and wildlife is not the way forward.  We should be investing in our environment and tackling climate change, building foundations which future generations will thank us for.”

“This U-turn simultaneously pulls the rug from under UK Government negotiators in Durban, who are trying to secure a global deal to reduce carbon emissions. It seriously weakens their ability to convince developing countries of the urgent need to curb their emissions.”

“It is a hideous act of hypocrisy by this coalition Government, which loudly declared its intention to be the greenest ever.”

Earlier this month, in a letter to Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless, the Transport Secretary, Theresa Villiers, clearly stated the Department for Transport’s position was against plans for an airport in the estuary and wrote of her Department’s desire to address the environmental impacts of flying. Today, Chancellor Osborne rode roughshod over the Transport Department.

This all comes on the same day the Government announced a review of the Habitats Regulations which are designed to protect special places, like the Thames Estuary, for wildlife and ensure any development affecting them is truly sustainable.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “The chancellor’s attack on vital environmental regulation is below the belt and shows how short sighted his policy for growth is.

“These regulations have been in place for 17 years and they have not been a brake on development. Many large scale projects have gone ahead in that time and this legislation has ensured that they have not trashed some of the most important wildlife sites in Europe.

“The Davidson report carried out in 2006 looked at the claim that the Government had goldplated European legislation, and found there was no case to answer. Clearly the chancellor believes that he can bring about a quick fix of the economy by allowing unrestrained growth to trample over our precious natural environment.”

“His failure to rule out a new airport in the Thames Estuary further undermines the Government’s commitment to a low carbon future. This marks the biggest backward step in environmental and planning policy for a generation and would simply serve as a short term economic sticking plaster on a problem which requires a long term plan for effective, sustainable growth.”

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