Monday, 24 August 2009

Business Park to trash bird habitats

A few weeks ago a report by George Monbiot in The Guardian newspaper detailed subsidies of over £80 million over the last ten years for airport expansion in the UK, channelled via many government agencies including bodies controlled by the Scottish and Welsh national assemblies and EU funding via unelected Regional Development Authorities (RDAs). A considerable proportion of this is freight related including a truck park and warehousing at Kent Airport, maintenance hangars at Glasgow Prestwick Airport and a business park at Newcastle Airport. Yet many subsidies for aviation expansion all over the UK were not captured by Monbiot’s information request. I’ll gradually get around to blogging some of these.

For starters, there was European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Highland Council funding a for link road, which opened in 2006, to provide access for Inverness Airport Business Park. In the Inverness Airport Masterplan it is stated that the area designated for the business park ‘earmarked for aviation related development such as hangars; maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and cargo/freight interchange’ and it is explicit that the business park will help the airport expand as it is described as an ‘important catalyst for growth at the airport’.

The outline planning application for Inverness Airport Business Park was submitted in February 2008. The development site is 250 hectares of land adjacent to the airfield on the west and south.
View Larger MapIt is being built on green space, 34 per cent of the site is prime agricultural land used for arable crops and 25 per cent is a coniferous plantation. The Masterplan up to 2010 includes development of a 3,000 m² building with landside access road and rear side access area. The business park is part of the A96 Growth Corridor Development Framework for a multimodal transport gateway of road, rail and air links and will incorporate business premises and light industry.

As the development area is substantial and some of it will not be built on there is scope for mitigating habitat loss for some species like bats, badgers and red squirrels on other areas of the site as detailed in the Environmental Statement. The ‘Woodland Zone’ is to be a mix of business and light industrial uses set partly within Dulcross Wood, following the tradition of naming developments after the natural habitats that have been, to a certain extent, trashed to accommodate them. But some of the environmental impacts that cannot be mitigated will affect the breeding habitats of endangered wild and farmland bird species. This includes goshawks (pictured), of which there are only about 100 pairs in the whole of Scotland. They are only found in a few sites as they nest in large, undisturbed forests, preferring to return to the same site year after year.

The business park is a more serious threat to skylarks and grey partridges, with the irrevocable loss of breeding habitat. Skylarks are highlighted by the RSPB as needing urgent action is needed to secure the future of the species. In 2007 it was reported that the population of grey partridges, iconic farmland species with a distinctive orange face, had crashed from about 145,000 by over 80 per cent in 25 years due to pesticides, predators plus loss of habitats hedgerows and grasslands.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Chicken tikka tussle

The Glaswegian MP Mohammed Sarwar is calling for fellow parliamentarians to back his campaign for EU (Protected Designation of Origin) PDO status for chicken tikka, which he is claiming originated in Scotland. If his campaign is successful this would effectively patent the name ‘chicken tikka’ so it could only be used when produced in specified standards within a defined geographical area. As Dervinder Sharma writes about on his blog, the development of dishes are complex and impossible to attribute to a single person or geographical area. But the story goes that a Glaswegian chef spontaneously made up the sauce for chicken tikka after a customer complained their meal was too dry, throwing together a can of tomato soup and some spices that were close to hand. The claim is contested by a restaurant chain in Peshawar which claims to have been cooking chicken tikka since before the partition of India in 1947.

This follows similar PDO battles in the UK. British cheese producers resisted calls from Greece for PDO status for the term ‘feta cheese’ but Leicestershire pie makers wanted the boot on the other foot when they applied for PDO status for Melton Mowbray pork pies. Both these applications were eventually approved by the EU.

India has already had to contend with a US Patent Office application for the healing properties of turmeric, which has been used widely as communal knowledge for hundreds of years. India’s campaigners against biopiracy also have intellectual property applications coming at them from within their own country. The Agricultural and Processed Food Export Development Authority (APEDA) applied for a patent on basmati rice. This was eventually granted, vesting APEDA with power over registration and enforcement of Intellectual Property Right (IPR), even though rice was listed by the government as protected from IPR. As Dervinder Sharma points out, opponents to the patent had amassed some 50,000 pages of evidence that basmati rice is a ‘prior art’, known to exist earlier than the patent applicants are claiming.

Meanwhile, the real treasure of biological diversity is increasingly at risk with rare breeds including poultry in diminishing numbers on small farms. This photo is, I think, a White Dorking chicken. The Dorking breed comes in many colours including silver grey, red and dark. Dorkings were first introduced to Britain in AD30 by the Romans and later used to develop the successful Sussex and Faverolles breeds. According to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust this is one of many vulnerable breeds of poultry on its watchlist, which have been carefully bred to suit local conditions and give good quality meat and eggs. There used to be flocks all over the Southern counties of England.

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