Castle owner says Gatwick expansion would be '˜completely disastrous' to countryside re-wilding

Expansion of Gatwick Airport would be '˜completely disastrous' for a major countryside '˜rewilding' project near Horsham, it has been claimed.

Monday, 11th April 2016, 2:53 pm
Updated Monday, 11th April 2016, 2:57 pm
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Sir Charles Burrell said this week that the building of a second runway at Gatwick and an increase in passing jets would drown out birdsong and the thrum of insects at Knepp Castle, West Grinstead.

Sir Charles and his family have owned the Knepp estate for more than 200 years and have been restoring the land to its natural state - rewilding it - for the past 15 years.

“Gatwick 2 would be completely disastrous from Knepp Castle Estate’s point of view,” said Sir Charles. “We are the largest lowland rewilding project in Britain, funded by government, and have become hugely influential in the conservation world both here and in Europe, renowned for our astonishing success in attracting rare and endangered species like turtle doves, nightingales, ravens, peregrine falcons, lesser spotted woodpeckers, woodlarks, cuckoos, lapwing, and Bechstein’s and barbastelle bats to our 3,500 acres.”

Knepp now has the largest breeding population of purple emperor butterflies in the UK. The estate’s numerous ecosystems also help improve air and water quality and help flood defence.

The estate runs a glamping and camping site in the heart of the rewilding area and organises guided wildlife safaris.

Said Sir Charles: “Traffic noise both from roads and the sky is increasingly impacting on that peaceful enjoyment of nature. A year or two ago, the BBC’s Springwatch came here, wanting to base three years of filming at Knepp but the noise of aircraft meant this was impossible.

“Additional planes in the air and traffic on the roads from Gatwick 2 would be an unsustainable burden. We face losing our customer base who will be unable to hear birdsong, let alone the lovely thrum of insects, above the sound of passing engines.

“Increased pollution will most likely adversely affect the other ecosystems services we provide, including the quality of our water. We have no idea what impact increased noise and pollution will have on our fauna but it is bound to be significant. Already nitrogen falling from the air as pollutant from planes affects our flora, favouring nitrogen-loving plants over native wildflowers.”