Friday, 10 January 2014

Exeter Airport’s answer to the threat of birdstrike from any quarrying at Straitgate

Those responsible for airport safeguarding at Exeter Airport have now met with Aggregate Industries; this is an email we have received:
I have now had a meeting with Aggregate industries, SLR consulting and a company specializing in airport bird control and wildlife management regarding pre submission for the Straitgate quarry site. 
The purpose of the meeting was primarily to discuss the issues of a potential increased bird strike risk from quarrying operations and how best, if possible, to mitigate against the risk. The various stages of the quarrying operation were discussed at length and the risks to aviation from each stage were highlighted. The various methods of risk reduction and elimination were then discussed. 
It was agreed that prior to any planning application Aggregate Industries and SLR will produce a Wildlife Control Management Plan similar to what is currently in use at Exeter Airport, in consultation with a specialist bird control and wildlife Management Company and the Airport. 
Providing that the plan is robust, the wildlife and site are managed in an acceptable way, and the risk to aviation is no more that it is currently from the farmland, woodland and wetlands around the area then Exeter Airport will have no objections.
So Exeter Airport has moved from from saying “To ensure aviation safety it is suggested that no ponds or body of water be allowed as part of this development” to saying that with conditions it would permit this. This will disappoint many who fear that water-based restoration would create an additional risk of birdstrike to overflying aircraft.

Is it enough to buy a bird management plan and hope for the best? Many have argued that it is not. But that appears to be what is being proposed, for AI’s plan of creating "a priority wetland habitat” under an international flightpath, 6 km from the runway where planes land some 90 seconds later.

If birds are attracted to these wetlands, how would they be dispersed? Could we look forward to the sound of bird scarers or pyrotechnics at Straitgate Farm, as well as the sound of quarrying? Or would birds be culled, as commonly happens elsewhere?

Whatever action is proposed, let’s hope any plan is “robust” because it’s not as if Exeter Airport is free from bird strikes, or that the threat is not growing: 5 strikes were recorded in 2002; 22 were recorded in the first 9 months of 2012.

Who will assume responsibility for bird management once AI has moved on, for the lifetime of the airport? That’s a question Exeter Airport has yet to answer. 

Meanwhile, SLR will now be performing a series of bird surveys over the next 3 months.