Wednesday, 17 April 2013

There once was a pond

Not a very big pond, but it was close to an airport. It was not a very big airport, more an aerodrome used by private aircraft and flying schools. A farmer had built the pond, the trouble was he didn't have planning permission. So he applied for permission, but it was turned down - even though "the pond [helped] contribute to the environment and wildlife in the ward". The planning authority, Bassetlaw District Council, had decided:
The pond may result in the movement of birds within and adjacent to the flight path of the aircraft approaching Gamston Airfield with the resultant danger to those aircrafts.
The applicant appealed. The planning inspector had some sympathy with the farmer, and recognised that "he has deservedly won awards for his efforts to ensure that his farming practices bring ecological benefits to flora and fauna." However the inspector was also aware that "the danger from potential bird strike is a recurring consideration in the minds of the aerodrome operators" and that the pond "sits at a critical point adjacent to the main flight path." Moreover:
I recognise that it is a small wetland feature by comparison with other more extensive areas near the aerodrome. Although visible from the air, it does not have the same visual dominance as the lakes to the south of the facility. It will not attract birds in same large numbers. Nevertheless, because of its critical location so close to the main flight path of the aerodrome at a point where aircraft are on their final approach to the runway, aircraft safety must be paramount. I consider that this development feature which has the potential to attract birds in increasing numbers at this location poses a serous risk to aircraft safety. I find this unacceptable. I conclude that the undoubted ecological benefits of the development cannot outweigh the safety needs of the aerodrome.
The appeal was dismissed and the enforcement notice upheld. The pond was to be refilled.

Could the benefits of a quarry outweigh the safety needs of an international airport and its 700,000 passengers? DCC plainly thought it might, when it proposed Straitgate Farm as a Preferred Site for sand and gravel quarrying; a process that leaves bodies of water; a site directly under the landing approach to Exeter Airport.

Surrey County Council, on the other hand, does take the risk of birdstrike seriously:
Sandwiched between Heathrow and Gatwick Airports, with a further five smaller aerodromes and an adjoining military helicopter base in its area, Surrey County Council's planning department takes the potential for bird strike very seriously.
It recognises that:
It is unlikely that most minerals companies, planning authorities or aerodrome case officers will have the necessary technical knowledge when dealing with such cases, so it is important that expertise is sought out.
More importantly, it makes the point that, as with the farmer's pond and Straitgate Farm:
The exact position of a site within the safeguarding zone is another important factor. If an extraction operation is located directly under the take-off and landing approaches, then this is going to be far more critical than a location 12km out on the runway flanks.
It also makes the point that:
With the move away from infilling sites, those within safeguarding zones worked below the water table and with wet restorations will provide a particular challenge.
So let's face it. Working below the water table on a site directly below Exeter Airport's flightpath is not going to happen, and DCC should therefore accept that the very most Straitgate could yield is 2.3Mt, before very significant deductions for stand-offs and movements in the level of the water table.

And if Aggregate Industries claims, by some miraculous feat, it can quarry Straitgate Farm without the formation of any body of water - its initial drawings show contrary - then how would wetland habitats in Ancient Woodlands be maintained? How would surface water run-off be contained?