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Environment Secretary John Gummer today announced the designation of the Medway Estuary and Marshes as a Special Pr...
Environment Secretary John Gummer today announced the designation of the Medway Estuary and Marshes as a Special Protection Area for Birds (SPA) and as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.

Mr Gummer said: 'Both the Medway Estuary and the Swale Estuary - where I have today decided to extend the existing SPA/Ramsar site - include mudflats, salt marshes and extensive grazing marshes. These habitats are internationally important for many species of waterfowl which use them in large numbers, both for wintering and breeding, and as a staging post during migration.

'After careful consideration I have decided to exclude an area of inter-tidal mudflats at Lappel Bank from the Medway Estuary SPA. This area is subject to a planning permission for reclamation granted by Swale BC in August 1989. I am aware that Lappel Bank is an important component of the Medway estuarine system but it represents less than 1% of the total area of the Medway SPA.

I also recognise that further reclamation at Lappel Bank is essential to the continued viability of the Port of Sheerness. The Port is a significant contributor to the economy of the Isle of Sheppey, the South East Region and the UK, several hundred jobs are dependent on its operations. Unemployment in the area has reached double the national average - and the island is now an Intermediate Assisted Area and forms part of the East Thames corridor, where economic growth and development is to be encouraged, as well as nature conservation assets conserved.

'I have concluded that the need not to inhibit the commercial viability of the port, and the contribution that expansion into this area will play outweighs its nature conservation value. I must stress that my decision is an exceptional one taken to help secure the economic future of Sheerness and the Isle of Sheppey.

'I also wish to make clear that the decision on the Swale SPA does not mean that the Government has abandoned the proposal for a second Swale road crossing which is part of the roads programme. The Government intends to proceed with the consideration of the case for the road scheme'.

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