Friday, 19 April 2013

Active bird management - is that the answer?

Ponds? Birds? Risk of birdstrike to overflying aircraft? "No trouble" - Aggregate Industries might say when contemplating the introduction of bodies of water by quarrying for sand and gravel under a safeguarded international flight path landing at Exeter Airport's Runway 26 - "we'll get ourselves a bird management plan". Think again.

According to Dr Allan, Head, Birdstrike Avoidance Team, Central Science Laboratory - now Fera:
Such bird management agreements may seem initially appealing, but they should be carefully considered. They will need to be adopted in perpetuity, or at least as long as both the wetland and the aerodrome continue to exist. They may be expensive and difficult to carry out, especially on large sites where large investments in manpower and equipment may be needed to achieve effective dispersal. They also need to be policed, so that the aerodrome can be satisfied that it is being adequately protected from birdstrike risk.
Bird management plans should thus be regarded as an additional measure to give aerodrome managers confidence that no additional risk will result after location and design modification measures have already been used to minimise any additional risk from a wetland development. They are not a means by which otherwise unacceptably hazardous developments can be transformed into acceptable ones.
On the wider issue of birdstrike risk and planning he says:
It is important for the wetland developer to understand that airports have relatively little scope for compromise in safeguarding negotiations… Once an airport has allowed a development to proceed without objection there is no other action that it can take to control a birdstrike risk if it develops at a site. Thus, unless an acceptable compromise can be found airports are left with little option other than to object if they are to remain compliant with their regulatory framework. In the event that an LPA approves an application despite an objection from an aerodrome, the CAA or MOD have the power to have a planning application ‘called in’ for determination by ministers.
So the answer, of course, is to find a "compromise" to minimise the risk. Think again. The starting position should be to assess the risk of development at Straitgate Farm.
Disregarding all other factors, the distance of a proposed wetland development from a safeguarded aerodrome can be used as one factor that will influence the risk that will be generated.
For a development "beneath approach or departure corridors" the "likely level of additional risk" is classified as "high". In any case:
Whatever the actual increase in risk, the key test that an aerodrome manager applies is one that asks the question ‘if there was an accident involving loss of life at my aerodrome could I defend allowing this development to proceed without objection when I believed that it would cause an increase in the birdstrike risk, however small?’ A planning inspector is likely to ask him/herself the same question.
So DCC and AI should think again:
Wetland creation is one of the most problematic development types in terms of birdstrike prevention at aerodromes. Wherever possible developers should seek to keep proposals as far from aerodromes as possible and outside the 13km safeguarded zone of major civil and all military aerodromes.