No Estuary Airport

Black-Tailed Godwits by Kevin DuvallBlack-Tailed Godwits by Kevin Duvall

Kent Wildlife Trust is vigorously opposed to any proposals to build an airport in or near the Thames Estuary. As the voice for all wildlife in Kent, we will be ensuring that that voice is heard in any airport debate, and we are prepared to stand up for our natural heritage, together with the communities of North Kent and other environmental organisations.

On the 2nd September 2014 the Airports Commission announced it would not be including proposals for an airport in the Thames Estuary area to its shortlist of options for providing new airport capacity by 2030.

This is good news for wildlife, and not just the wildlife of Kent but the populations of animals that come from all over the world to overwinter or breed in the area. Building an airport in this area would lead to environmental destruction on an unprecedented scale. The damage caused by these proposals is totally unjustifiable, both morally and economically.

This latest rejection is just one in a series over the past few decades, but Kent Wildlife Trust hopes that this is last we'll see of this idea. The grazing marshes and estuaries of North Kent are home to internationally important numbers of birds, as well as seals, dolphins and porpoises, water voles and rare insects. To those who know the area, the idea of putting and airport here is unthinkable.

January 2014: The Davies Commission, set up by the Government to undertake an independant review of UK airport options, published an interim report in December 2013. While an Estuary Airport wasn't on the shortlist, neither was it ruled out. The Commission has instead decided to examine the matter in more detail before making a final recommendation on this option (this will be based on an Isle of Grain location, all other options being judged unfeasible).

Building an airport in this area would not only result in direct loss of irreplaceable habitats and wildlife, but the indirect and knock-on effects would damage the entire ecosystem of the Thames Estuary, to the detriment of the environment, society and the economy.

There have been many proposals for airports in and around the Thames Estuary, starting in 1940s. As recently as 2003 Kent Wildlife Trust with other environmental organisations and partners in the community successfully fought off proposals for an airport at Cliffe, on the Hoo Peninsula. The most recent ideas – an island proposed by Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) and an airport built out into the Estuary from the Hoo Peninsula proposed by Norman Foster (an architect) – are not new; islands and Peninsula locations have been proposed a number of times before. Both proposals would essentially ‘relocate’ Heathrow Airport, with extra runways, to an area of international importance for wildlife.

The grazing marshes, saltmarshes and mudflats of North Kent (and South Essex) have been recognised at the National, European and International level for their importance for wildlife. Hundreds and thousands of birds rely on the intertidal areas for food. Some are winter visitors or passage migrants like the Black-tailed Godwit and Brent Goose; birds that breed in places like Iceland, Greenland and Russia. Many species are year-round residents, breeding and wintering here, like the Avocet and Lapwing.

The mixing of the warm waters of the English Channel, the cold waters of the North Sea and the Thames produce unique conditions that can’t be found, or replicated, elsewhere. The mudflats, sands and gravels of the Thames Estuary provide a home for invertebrates that burrow below the surface. These invertebrates feed on nutrients filtered from the water, or on plants and algae, and are themselves food for larger invertebrates and fish; seahorses have even been found at Greenwich! The Thames Estuary supports important fish nurseries, and plays a major role in supporting North Sea fish stocks. These animals then provide food for larger animals; Harbour Porpoises, Bottlenose Dolphins and Seals also call the Thames Estuary home.

The grazing marshes provide important breeding habitats for birds like Lapwings, and the ditches are home to one of the last strongholds of the Water Vole; a mammal that has disappeared from 94% of its former sites. The area is also one of the last strongholds for some of our rarest bumblebees, insects dependent upon the wildflowers of the marshes and sea walls.

No Thames Estuary Logo

Local People, councils, businesses and conservation and community groups are united in their opposition to proposals to build a massive new airport in the Thames Estuary. They have agreed that it is bad for people, bad for business and bad for wildlife and must not be allowed to proceed



FilenameFile size
No Estuary Airport flier.pdf1.18 MB
Designated Areas in the Thames Estuary.pdf590.04 KB
Thames Estuary Wildlife at a glance.pdf1.9 MB
Response to the Department for Transport.pdf22.78 KB
Response to the Transport Select Committee.pdf151.07 KB