Its their turn to #DefendNature LAWS that defend the nature we love!
Environment Ministers from across the EU have sent a clear signal that the Nature Directives are vital and should be properly implemented, not weakened, and now we need our MEPs to do the same.
In the first week of February the whole European Parliament will vote on a key report on what still needs to be done to halt and reverse the loss of our wildlife by 2020. It’s the same topic that UK Environment Minister Rory Stewart went to discuss with other countries’ Ministers in December.
This is our MEPs’ first opportunity to stand up for the Nature Directives – legislation vital to the protection of vulnerable habitats and species – and a crucial moment to send a crystal clear political message that they will defend the laws that protect our wildlife too.
RSPB have set up a quick and straightforward action to help you e-mail your MEPs. Email your MEP here
Today I am delighted to welcome Gill Moore from the Friends of North Kent Marshes – a local campaign group – to talk about why the Nature Directives are so important to her local community, and the special places they love. Gill is pictured below (on the right) with former MP Mark Reckless and another of the driving forces behind FONKM, Joan Darwell. Together with George Crozer, Gill and Joan have formed a formidable team.
The Greater Thames Estuary is protected under local, national and international law – with the Nature Directives being the strongest laws of all. It is a spectacular wetland of global importance, extremely rich in wildlife. There are tens of thousands of birds that live here, as well as hundreds of thousands of overwintering and migratory birds that travel here annually along the East Atlantic flyway from as far away as the Arctic in the North and Africa in the South.
Set in a landscape that inspired Charles Dickens to write the opening scene of his novel ‘Great Expectations’ is RSPB Cliffe Pools. The reserve contains 10% of the UK’s saline lagoons, a very rare habitat, where you can watch huge flocks of thousands of birds such as dunlin and black-tailed godwits as they wheel in the skies. The grasslands are great places to watch marsh harriers, merlins, peregrines and owls hunting. In spring you can listen to the song of the nightingale and the call of the cuckoo. These protected habitats are vitally important for lots of other wildlife too, such as harbour porpoise, harbour seals, grey seals, bottlenose dolphins, sea horses, rare bumblebees, the scarce emerald damsel fly and the water vole.
We are passionate about the wild places on our doorstep, and determined that they will be protected for future generations. For the North Kent Marshes, and for many other internationally important wildlife sites across Europe, that protection is delivered by the Directives. We are keenly aware of the strength of the EU Nature Directives and why that strength must be upheld, because we have witnessed first-hand their ability to protect the wildlife and habitats we hold dear. These laws were instrumental in stopping an airport at Cliffe in 2003 and, more recently, in September 2014, when the UK Airports Commission ruled out building an airport anywhere in the Greater Thames Estuary or on the Hoo Peninsula.
Indeed, when Sir Howard Davies delivered the Airports Commission Final Report on the 1st July this year he said that a Thames estuary airport ‘was not a plausible option’that ‘there was a whole series of reasons why an estuary airport simply did not stack up’ and that‘there were very serious environmental obstacles to constructing an airport in the Thames estuary. There are important breeding sites for birds, you would have to provide an alternative to them. The European Directives say that you can only take away that habitat if it’s the only place you can build an airport and we don’t think we could claim that that was the case’
We were appalled when EU President Juncker said the Nature Directives were old and must be “overhauled and modernised”, because alongside many experts we felt this would simply lead to them being weakened. The fact is that the Nature Directives form the very foundation of modern nature conservation, and politicians should not be trying to weaken them. Instead, they should be celebrating what they have achieved, and focussing on what they can achieve in the future.
Any weakening of these laws could put our most important wildlife sites in the Thames, Medway and Swale estuaries in peril. The Nature Directives are in place to protect our world class natural heritage and we must not sit idly by and allow this protection to be eroded. If it were it would be an ecological catastrophe!
We urge everyone to respond to this important consultation to show massive support for these nature laws. It is imperative that we do this now, because without strong laws to protect it – your nature, our nature, our children’s nature, could all be gone in the blink of an eye.
A mini influx of black-winged stilts has brought a touch of the Mediterranean to southern England, as two pairs of these exotic-looking wading birds are attempting to nest at RSPB sites in West Sussex and Kent.
It is thought that a dry spell in southern Spain has displaced these wetland birds to southern Britain. And it is believed that a changing climate may bring these birds to Britain more regularly in future. The only times black-winged stilts have bred successfully in the UK was in Norfolk in 1987 and Nottinghamshire in 1945.
One pair is nesting on the RSPB’s newest reserve in West Sussex, Medmerry, the other pair at the RSPB reserve at Cliffe Pools on the north Kent marshes.
“This is really exciting news and the first time we have had black-winged stilts breeding on the reserve here at Cliffe Pools,” said Warden Andy Daw. “They have visited before and a pair was seen about seven years ago on the reserve but they did not produce any young.
Yet another great reason to protect this special place for wildlife and say #jeThames #noestuaryairport
With 300,000 birds visiting every year we know the Thames is amazing, but we are concerned that the Airports Commission haven’t yet had the chance to really understand how special it is. With all this focus on the Estuary as an airport location, it would be easy to lose sight of the Greater Thames as a place that’s home to six million people. A place that has been at the heart of our country’s economy for centuries, as a base for commercial shipping, intensive farming, heavy industry, power generation but yet is still one of the most important places for nature in the UK.
And a place that we want future generations to be able to enjoy too.
The Commission is currently examining all the technical evidence for and against an airport in the Estuary and they will be consulting on their conclusions later in the summer. But until then, please help us remind them of what is at stake.
The UK Airports Commission are currently calling for evidence and studying 5 inner estuary airport options on the Hoo Peninsula. These options were studied in the run up to the Airports Commission Interim Report announcement in December 2013 when they were published alongside many other documents which can be found here
The five options are
Airports Commission own airport option based on a combination of the above which has sought to minimise cost, environmental impact and avoid relocation of the existing LNG facility 67 Isle of Grain Sift 3 FINAL
We believe that the idea of a Thames estuary airport is deeply flawed on every level
It was a great pleasure for us to spend time with author Julian Hoffman when he came to visit us here on the Hoo Peninsula ~ Ours IS the marsh country down by the river and we will fight with the utmost vigour to protect it ~ No Thames estuary airport ever!
“Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.”
~ Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, 1861
“Large terminals, operational buildings, offices, roads and car parks will interrupt the broad open scale of the marsh landscape… The network of ditches and creeks running through the marshes will be severely affected or destroyed…Existing open views out over the Estuary will be lost and replaced by terminal buildings, aircraft hangers and extensive areas of paving…The low hills of the Hoo Peninsula rising out of the surrounding marshland will be lost entirely.”
~ Foster + Partners, Thames Hub AirportProposal to the Airports Commission, 2013