When I blogged about the Tyne Kittiwakes a couple of days ago I hadn't seen the 'consultation report' that was commissioned by 1NG and Newcastle City Council and was the spark that launched the media interest. Thanks to the chaps at Wikileaks I can reveal a little more about the report.
Produced by an Edinburgh based firm of consultants Yellow Book it took it's findings from field work to examine conditions in the study area and briefings and consultations with politicians, businesses, officials and other experts; it is possibly safe to assume there weren't any ornithologists consulted.
They wrote that "Our consultations have revealed growing concern about the environmental impact of Kitttiwake nesting sites including the Guildhall and Tyne Bridge. The breeding Kittiwake population has been in sharp decline, so the successes over the past 10-15 years of the NewcastleGateshead's urban colonies is a cause for celebration. However in the spring and summer of 2010 it was clear that the mess and smell caused by the birds is simply not compatible with the aspiration to create an outstanding urban waterfront. The fact that the birds congregate in the historic core, right at the heart of the Quayside, adds to the problem. Some creative thinking will be required to encourage the Kittiwakes to move to a less sensitive site."
The final recommendations included the "low cost improvement" to " plan for re-homing the Kittiwake colony, perhaps to Spillers Mill"
It strikes me that what is really being said here is that in the aspirations to have the 'outstanding urban waterfront' that politicians, officials, businesses and other experts are so keen to see, there is obviously no room for anything natural to get in the way and spoil the decor. This seems to reflect the huge disconnect we have generally with nature these days, a lack of tolerance towards it and the mantra of economic concerns overriding all. Whoever expressed these concerns appears to have completely missed the fact that it is the birds breeding at the heart of the Quayside that in many ways, visually and aurally, add atmosphere and a connection with the river's past and natural origins. They are a unique asset to be celebrated and protected in the same way as say the Ravens at the Tower of London.
One of the biggest ironies is that one of the key players in Yellow Book a chap called Jon Lord has been quite vocal up in Scotland over Donald Trump's proposed golf course over which he wrote " These days, the most mundane development proposals (for shopping centres, office developments and housing schemes) are routinely described as “unique” – a claim which is then relayed back in press releases from development agencies and local councils. Not the least of the ironies in this case is that while there is nothing remotely unique about the Trump proposals (golf course, hotel, lots of houses) the dune system that will be destroyed is genuinely unique and absolutely irreplaceable."
Mr Lord, 1NG and Newcastle City Council should reflect on that statement as it could equally be applied to the Kittiwake colony and when they start telling us and the local media about the outstanding urban waterfront they wish to create we should ensure that it has a place at it's heart for that which is genuinely unique and absolutely irreplaceable.