From the office of the Green MEPs
23 January, 2003
EU THROWS NEW KENT AIRPORT PLAN INTO DOUBT
PLANS to build a new airport the size of Gatwick on the Thames Estuary at
Cliffe in Kent have been thrown into doubt today after the European
Commission warned the Government any threat to the site's protected birds
would be illegal under EU law.
The news will come as a blow to Transport Secretary Alistair Darling, who
has already been forced to abandon consultation once on the biggest ever
expansion to UK aviation, after the High Court ruled last year that
expanding Gatwick should have been considered, despite an earlier pledge not
to expand Europe's busiest airport further.
Responding to a question from Green Euro-MP Caroline Lucas, environment
Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said the proposed development at Cliffe, which
lies within the Thames Estuary and Marshes Special Protection Area (SPA),
would be subject to an environmental assessment - and any "significant
damage" to the SPA would be allowed only in the absence of alternative
solutions. The Government would also have to demonstrate any development
would be in the "overriding public interest".
Dr Lucas, whose South East England constituency includes Cliffe, had asked
the Commission to investigate whether the Government's proposals would
contravene European laws designed to protect wild birds and endangered
"The Thames Estuary is one of the most important sites for waterfowl in the
UK and building the proposed airport at Cliffe would spell disaster for its
birds and wildlife, leading to the largest ever loss of wildlife habitat to
a single development," said Dr Lucas.
"The Commission's ruling could be the project's death knell however. Cliffe
is one of several options proposed in the Government's consultations - so it
will be impossible to argue that there is no alternative available."
The decision will be welcomed not just in Kent but by an increasing number
of campaigners and organisations across the UK who argue no airport
expansion is necessary.
Dr Lucas added: "The supposed need for a new airport is based on the
Government's own projected increase in demand for aviation, which assumes
the industry will continue to enjoy a raft of hidden subsidies and tax
breaks amounting to #180 a year from every man, woman and child in the
"The best 'alternative solution' would be to level the playing field for
transport, manage demand and build no new airports anywhere. Not in Kent's
backyard - and not in anyone's back yard."
For more information please contact Ben Duncan on 020 7407 6280 or 0776 997
Note to Editors
Copies of Dr Lucas' question to the Commission and commissioner Wallstrom's
response are available from Ben Duncan on 0207 407 6280.
Green MEPs' Press Officer
Suite 58, The Hop Exchange, 24 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TY
020 7407 6280 (tel)
0776 997 0691 (mob)
020 7234 0183 (fax)
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