Examination of Witnesses (Questions 600
WEDNESDAY 28 MARCH 2001
600. It slows it up quite dramatically.
(Dr Avery) That is quite right in terms of the fact
that we are dealing with sites of international importance. The
United Kingdom and the United Kingdom coastline is of international
importance. We have millions of wading birds and wildfowl moving
between the Arctic and Africa. It is right that there are hurdles
and proper procedures that have to be gone through before internationally
important sites are destroyed.
601. I will give you a specific, if I may. There
is a farm that has been purchased in Kilnsea on the Humber, which
was purchased by Associated British Ports in mitigation for the
loss of habitats elsewhere and it seems that that project, on
the basis of what we have been told, has been delayed.
(Mr Morris) Firstly, I do not think that we are talking
about a deliberate delay. We are talking about a change of situation.
The regulation 16 agreement that was actually agreed over the
purchase and management of Kilnsea was some two or three years
ago. Since then, as a result of discussions with ABP, we have
undertaken a review of the special protection area boundaries
and, as a result of that, we concluded there was a need for a
change to the boundaries. That has been a factor in the advice
that we have given to DETR as to the way they handle the reconsenting
of the proposals at Immingham.
602. The farm was designated. It was agreed
something would be done and over the last three years all you
have done is redesignate the boundaries?
(Mr Morris) No. At Kilnsea, firstly, we were not required
to retreat to the line to create new habitat there. What we did
undertake to do was to create new wetland bird habitat. In that
respect, we have spent that time destroying the field drains.
The drainage is now impeded, which raises the water levels. We
have established dip wells to monitor the water levels. We have
established bird monitoring.
603. You have built some hides?
(Mr Morris) No, but we have maintained the monitoring
so that we know what is going on there. I rang our local office
this morning on that particular issue and they tell me that there
is between knee length and three-quarters of a metre of water
on the site at the moment. They also say that the site is used
regularly by all bar one of the species for which it was originally
designed. The one species that is not represented is the ringed
plover. The highest bird counts have exceeded 2,500 birds.
604. You are quite happy with the development?
(Mr Morris) We think at this stage that it is doing
the job that it was originally set out to do, but it has a number
of provisos. It is identified as an area which could be retreated
over to create a new habitat.
605. You do not believe that you require additional
(Mr Morris) If you revisited that agreement, there
must be a very serious question as to whether we should be doing
the monitoring and environmental enhancement work on a piece of
land to offset the detrimental impacts
606. You signed an agreement that is not workable?
(Mr Morris) No, it is perfectly workable. It is a
growing development and situation for us; it is a new experience,
but should a government agency find itself in the position of
actually doing the work to offset this development.
607. Why did you agree to it in the first place?
(Mr Morris) At that time, it was an attempt to try
and find a solution.
608. What do you do now when you have a similar
(Mr Morris) In a similar situation today, we would
require the developer to do it.
609. Have you any other schemes?
(Mr Morris) There are a number of other schemes that
have been put into place. A very good example is on the Stour
and Orwell estuaries where Harwich Haven Authority were required
to create a new area of intertidal to offset the impacts of the
Harwich capital dredge. That has been managed entirely by Harwich
Haven Authority, all at their own expense. It has been a very
expensive process and it comes back to one of the crucial issues
about government guidance and strategic guidance. What we are
saying is that, if you want to have port development that is absolutely
essential to the wellbeing of our economy, there needs to be the
strategic guidance to make it possible to streamline the consents
processes. We are ready and willing to help but we can only do
so much. We are tied to certain points where, if we go into discussions
with the port, we cannot make cast iron guarantees to that port
that what we say will be accepted by the consenting authority,
which is the Secretary of State.
610. In fact, you would expect the port to enter
into an agreement which you probably could not keep?
(Mr Morris) That is the whole point. We cannot guarantee
to make an agreement. Therefore, we need a degree of higher government
involvement and strategic guidance so that, if we are required
to actually undertake the negotiations, we can do so with the
good faith that what we say to a developer will be accepted.
611. Forgive me, Mr Morris. I can see one or
two holes in this argument. What you are really saying is that
I own a port; I have a problem. I say to you, "Well, all
right, there will be loss of habitat here but I offer you somewhere
else and it will be done." You are then saying, "Only
if you pay for it, mate", or do I paraphrase too roughly?
(Mr Morris) It is not just us saying, "Only if
you pay for it."
Chairman: There may be a chorus of voices saying
that but is this the attitude that has come to you because you
did an agreement which you cannot maintain? In this particular
instance, you have flooded the land; you have monitored the birds.
What else have you done? You have grown some reeds.
612. You pinched the site off Yorkshire Wildlife
(Mr Morris) I do not believe that is the case. The
land is owned by ABP. The land is leased to English Nature.
613. On the basis that you were going to create
a new wetland habitat.
(Mr Morris) Yes, and we have undertaken to create
fresh water wetland habitat which is meeting the requirements.
614. I understood that the original suggestion
was that Yorkshire Wildlife would do it and presumably as a charity
they would have a bit more money to spend than you have.
(Mr Morris) I think that is a reason why we ultimately
agreed that we would do it because we felt that the costs involved
were so high that they could not be met.
615. How much have you paid?
(Mr Morris) I cannot give you quotes on that.
616. But you can give us a note, Mr Morris,
explaining to us what you have actually done, how much it has
cost you, why it does not appear to be part of the agreement that
you originally entered into and why you do not intend to do this
(Dr Brown) Yes, we can.
617. We have talked about the Habitats Directive;
what about the Ports Directive coming from Europe? Is it a good
idea or not?
(Dr Huggett) I have had a look at the proposed Port
Services Directive. I have heard what the ports industry says
with respect to it potentially reducing the efficiency of their
operations. I have yet to see any evidence in support of that
but if indeed the Directive did reduce their efficiency that would
be a concern to us. I have also heard what the shipping lines
have to say about it. They are broadly in favour of the Directive
because they say it will make short sea shipping in particular
a more attractive proposition. Again, if it does, we would be
in favour of it for the very reason that you have mentioned, it
being an environmentally friendlier form of transport. At the
moment, we have heard plenty of arguments for and against but
have not seen any hard evidence to support those arguments and
we have seen nothing to form a firm opinion on the Directive.
618. Has English Nature got a view?
(Mr Morris) At the moment, I do not think we can offer
a view other than, if the Directive has a detrimental impact on
the efficiency of the port industry that means that there will
be a demand for more port capacity for the same level of service,
then we would have concerns, but we cannot make any more comment.
619. This is for the RSPB. You have a choice.
You can campaign to make life difficult to develop ports by arguing
is it necessary? Is it the right place? Or, you can try and discourage
the amount of trade that goes on in this country. When the Committee
went up to Humberside, we saw a substantial number of cars being
brought in from Europe and parked in one part of the port and
a substantial number of cars that were being produced in this
country parked in another part of the port. These two lots of
cars were going past each other amid empty transport carriers.
Ought we to be encouraging that sort of trade? The other example
is the large quantities of Danish lager which were coming into
Goole. Is this a good idea or would it be better to encourage
people to buy locally? If people bought locally, that might reduce
the demand for extra ports. Would it not be fair as a campaigning
organisation to try and change public opinion, rather than merely
to make life difficult for the port operators?
(Dr Avery) It would and that is what we in the RSPB
do. I would agree with you that quite a lot of international trade
is pretty low grade stuff, probably not contributing hugely to
the quality of anybody's life, but in the medium term an awful
lot of that international trade will continue. We would agree
with your earlier point that if we are going to go in for international
trade sea routes have a lot to offer in environmental terms. That
is a reason for supporting ports, but when it comes down to an
actual site there are still questions about how should a development
occur, should it occur and what is the best way that it could
occur. Our general support for using the seas more is at a strategic
level which we think government has missed out on. You still have
to ask really difficult questions if you are risking losing habitats
of international importance that cannot be replaced. We would
like to see government looking more at the existing capacity and
the future capacity of ports. That is a strategic question which
ought to be looked at. Assuming that there is future demand, which
we think is the most likely case, then government ought to be
looking at the best way of meeting that demand and it ought to
be taking a view of the strategic overview: is short sea shipping,
for example, a good way of reducing CO2 emissions through transport
in this country? The answer is quite probably yes, but that work
needs to be done rather than us all assuming that we know the