Ribble Link Trust Chairman Counts Some Birds - is this the best Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed Ribble Barrage we can expect?
Mr Cliff Fazackerley, the Chairman of the Ribble Link Trust, supports the building of a barrage across the River Ribble. He believes that the issue of installing a barrage is ‘causing unnecessary concern’ (Lancashire Evening Post 28/4/06 Letters) and has completed an “assessment” of bird species on the River to prove it.
Mr Fazackerley, who has previously described mudflats on the Ribble as ‘horrid’, (LEP letters 28/2/06) wrote in his letter (28/4/06) that on a recent walk from the dock to Savick Brook he counted just 17 birds, apparently suggesting that they are too few to really matter. And of those that he did count, all but one were swimming to and fro in the middle of the River and so, by implication, have no need of the “horrid” mudflats here anyway!
Mud, mud, glorious mud. Pity we scared the birds away. But we are nowhere near as scary as a barrage.
Mr Fazackerley also states that the barrage (or weir as he prefers to call it) ‘will not affect the Ramsar site at the mouth of the river, and… will have very little effect, if any, on the wildlife that feeds on the banks’ (28/4/06).
Yet, the fact is that the River Ribble supports more bird species in internationally important numbers than any other site in the UK, and is one of the top 3 UK wetland sites, alongside the Wash and Morecambe Bay.
It is the tidal nature of the River which is crucial in maintaining the ecosystem of the Ribble corridor and estuary.
Mr Fazackerley appears to believe that if some of the incoming tide is allowed to ‘top the weir’ this sea water will ‘bring with it the new food supply for all the wading birds’ (28/4/06).
In fact, one effect of the barrage would be to stop the silt and therefore the essential nutrients being washed down the river and feeding the estuary upon which thousands (literally) of birds depend.
The mudflats also support birdlife in other, less obvious ways – for example we recently witnessed dozens of House Martins taking mud from the mudflats in Broadgate and near Avenham Park to build their nests.
And, just for the record we took a walk with the RSPB on the marshes adjacent to the Ribble at Freckleton (not far from Savick Brook, just upriver from the Douglas where Preston City Council would prefer to locate the barrage) and saw significantly more than 17 birds, hundreds in fact, including numerous wading birds such as Icelandic Godwit, Oyster Catcher, Red Shank, and Lapwing, as well as Shelduck, Wheatear, Sky Larks, Swallows, Swifts, Geese, Herons, Swans……….
The Save the Ribble Campaign will continue to campaign, not only for a full environmental impact assessment of the Riverworks proposals to be undertaken sooner rather than later, but also for that assessment to be taken seriously by Preston City Council and other organisations which promote the construction of a barrage on the Ribble.
WHOSE PUBLIC INTEREST IS IT ANYWAY?
The Save the Ribble Campaign has been arguing for some time that Preston City Council are pursuing their Riverworks plans without any public consultation and that they have already made a decision to go ahead with building their barrage and developing our green belt (see The Story So Far on this blog).
This view appears to be confirmed by comments made by Mr Fazackerley, Chairman of the Ribble Link Trust.
For Mr Fazackerley (Lancashire Evening Post letters 28/4/06) the issue is not whether but where the barrage will be built.
And he even seems to have some idea of how high the barrage (or weir as he prefers to call it) will be – 7.9 metres.
Mr Fazackerley believes the barrage will profit the general public (28/4/06).
Obviously, the Ribble Link Trust has an interest in promoting the barrage as they want the River Ribble kept at an artificially high level so that they can navigate their boats from the canal onto the River without having to wait for high tide.
But they should not assume that that a minority of boat owners, who can’t be bothered to wait for the tide to change, are representative of the general public interest.
Local residents value the Ribble and its adjoining green belt area as a community amenity, which include open countryside, a nature reserve, local league football fields, and allotments (all of which Preston City Council has proposals to develop on with houses and businesses as part of Riverworks) and our interests would be best served by abandoning the Riverworks plans.
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RSPB ON THE RIBBLE
The RSPB understand that the Ribble estuary ‘is the UK’s most important river estuary for wintering birds such as Whooper and Bewick’s Swans, Pink-footed Geese, Wigeons, Knots, Dunlins, Sanderlings, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits’.
According to the RSPB, ‘An incredible 250,000 birds make the estuary their winter home every year’.
The Ribble is also ‘home to the UK’s pilot project for delivery of the EU’s Water Framework Directive, the most significant piece of European water legislation for over 20 years, which aims to enhance the ecology of our lakes, rivers, groundwater, estuaries and coastal waters’.
The RSPB also claim ‘This is an important time for the Ribble. The RSPB is working with a range of partners and communities to protect and restore this wonderful area through the creation of a new reserve and innovative projects for people and wildlife’.
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