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Island airport plan is an eco nightmare'

PUBLISHED: 16:08 14 January 2009 | UPDATED: 16:00 25 August 2010

Environmentalists slam new Thames estuary site proposals.

PROPOSALS to build an airport in the Thames estuary have been slammed by environmentalists as 'disastrous'.

Nick Raynsford, MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, is recruiting a team of MPs to look into building a four-runway airport on a man-made island in the estuary.

He claims the airport could mean less noise and pollution for Londoners by avoiding Heathrow expansion, but environmentalists say it would play havoc for birdlife.

George Crozer, spokesman for the 4,000-strong lobbying group Friends of North Kent Marshes, said: "The Thames estuary is like a service station on the M25 that birds use when they are migrating to and from the Arctic Circle.

"It is a fantastic place for birds and it is the green lung of London. It should be kept like that for future generations."

An estuary airport could be connected to London via a high speed transport link and eliminate the problem of taking off over densely populated areas.

However, the marshland is an internationally recognised conservation area supporting large numbers of waterfowl and diverse plants and invertebrates.

Mr Crozer said a three-year government survey conducted in 2002 found that an airport in Cliffe would cause unacceptable levels of bird strike.

He added: "For birds it's probably the most dangerous place to have an airport in the South East."

However Mr Raynsford, a former transport and environment minister, said an offshore airport like Hong Kong's would be completely different to former ideas.

He added: "We do have to take into mind the impact on human beings as well as birds. Many of our citizens are subjected to entirely intolerable noise and other pollution from Heathrow that could get much worse."

The Environment Agency said even if the airport were built on an island there would be impact on fisheries and nurseries.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said the threats and the risks to wildlife remain the same.

A spokesman for the RSPB said: "An airport in the Thames Estuary is a complete non-starter ecologically, environmentally and economically, and to talk about it is to waste everyone's time."

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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