21 November 1997

Killer geese hijack new reservoir plans

FARMERS seeking planning permission for new reservoirs, to alleviate the problems of drought, are facing a new handicap – the Ministry of Defence.

The MoD has become so alarmed by the growing numbers of Canada geese attracted to reservoirs close to RAF bases that it is has started opposing planning applications.

Landowner Peter Shropshire, who farms near Southery, Norfolk, recently obtained planning permission for a 40m gallon reservoir but was surprised to find the MoD objecting to the scheme. It claimed that geese could cause problems to planes taking off and landing at nearby RAF Coltishaw.

An MoD spokesman said reservoirs proved an ideal habitat for the geese, which, when close to airfields, represented significant hazards to planes.

"We make great efforts to control birds on airfields but, unfortunately, bird strike is a fact of life. There is a major problem of Canada Geese at RAF Kinloss in Scotland and specific warnings are put out at certain times of the year, alerting pilots to the dangers.

"Canada Geese can kill. We lost a Nimrod on take-off in Scotland 18 years ago when two pilots were killed. And, more recently, a US airforce AWAX aircraft was hit by geese in Alaska," he added.

Airport approach

Mark Underhill, Wildfowl and Wetlands Advisory Trust spokesman, said both the MoD and the Civil Aviation Authority had a blanket approach to bird habitats close to airports, which was often based on ignorance rather than reality.

He said the last census in 1991 had recorded 61,000 Canada geese, but that number may have risen since then. "We believe numbers of geese are stable in some areas or even declining, but increasing in others," he added.n

Canada geese could prevent farm reservoirs being built near RAF base.