Monday, 9 September 2013

Exeter Airport calls for meeting with Aggregate Industries

Exeter Airport has responded to Aggregate Industries' latest plans by reiterating its earlier advice:
To ensure aviation safety it is suggested that no ponds or body of water be allowed as part of this development.
This is plainly at odds with AI's hydrological report which makes clear that:
The contours along north-eastern, eastern and south-eastern boundaries of the site should encourage groundwater and surface water to pond along these boundaries to replicate the storage that has been lost due to the removal of the unsaturated and saturated zones at the site. 
The provision of water storage along the [eastern] boundaries of the site, to mitigate flooding and maintain groundwater flow, also offers the opportunity to create a priority wetland habitat and therefore enhance the ecology of the area.
This stretch of proposed ponding and wetland, along boundaries over 1300m in length, is NOT shown on AI's working or restoration drawings, NOR indicated in AI's landscape proposal, which misleadingly describes "light agricultural grazing" and only a 0.1ha "attenuation feature"/"ephemeral water body". The stretch of ponding and wetland would NOT just be during the working life of any quarry, but, in order to mitigate for the permanent loss of groundwater storage, would be for ever after - directly under Exeter's flightpath for planes landing on runway 26. As Safeguarding of Aerodromes Advice Note 6 says:
Permanent wetlands attract a variety of hazardous birds such as waterfowl, gulls, herons etc, and any surrounding trees may attract corvids pigeons or Starlings. Birds moving from one wetland site to another may cross aircraft flight paths and thus create a birdstrike risk. Even if a wetland or pond is proofed to prevent bird access, birds will continue to visit the site to check if feeding or other resources are available and then move on to another wetland when they find that they cannot reach the water.
DCC has asked AI on several occasions to make contact with Exeter Airport and explain how it proposes to overcome such a conflict. AI has not yet done so. Now Exeter Airport wishes to meet with AI "so that our concerns [can] be fully understood". As far as DCC is concerned there is no evidence yet on the table to show that the two opposing requirements - controlling flooding and maintaining groundwater flows without increasing the risk from birds - can coexist. For Devon to rely on such a site for its Minerals Plan would at this stage be foolhardy.

Why is all this so important? Exeter Airport has a duty "to ensure that the birdstrike risk is reduced to the lowest practicable level". Exeter, as at every other airport, has birdstrike incidents. Each birdstrike - beyond the issue of safety - costs airlines money, through delays, repairs or both.