Tuesday, 1 January 2013

AI's conundrum

Labels have now been assigned to categorise previous posts on this blog, and are sorted in the sidebar by frequency. Unsurprisingly the labels Exeter Airport and birdstrike are near the top.

Aggregate Industries is busily performing tests on its gravel, but what is it doing to reassure Exeter Airport that, if it quarries Straitgate, it isn't going to leave behind a large body of water directly beneath its flight path, attracting birds and increasing the risk of birdstrikes? After the wettest year on record for England, it's hard to imagine how a quarried void at Straitgate could not fill up with water, or how gulls or other birds would not be attracted to such water, as at "Seagull Pond" at Blackhill Quarry.

Gulls at Blackhill Quarry
So it may be that AI cannot provide the airport with that reassurance. After all, in order to replace the groundwater storage being removed at Straitgate, the Environment Agency (EA) would want provision made to store water run-off to prevent flooding downstream. This was the condition made by the Devon River Authority at the time of the 1967 planning application: a 49 acre lake and overflow weirs for "balancing flood flows".

The conundrum for AI is that if it were to dig a hole at Straitgate, the EA would want a body of water, the Airport would not, and the company would have difficulty stopping one forming anyway. Therefore for AI to proceed any further, it needs to know how it would overcome this seemingly insoluble predicament and give the answer to DCC, whose Minerals Plan could be found unsound if it continued to insist on Straitgate Farm being a Preferred Site when there's clearly such a big question mark hanging over its deliverability.

From the Airport's perspective, whilst last year was the safest year on record for air travel, it is understandable that it is protective of its airspace. Birdstrike incidents are recorded for each airport in the UK and the data is publicly available. DCC has been warned that "Under the Air Navigation Law, it is a criminal offence to endanger an aircraft or its occupants by any means". Birdstrike incidents can sometimes have terrible consequences.