Able Logistics Park

Tagged with: Casework status: Closed Casework type: Industry Casework type: Transport Megasites: The Humber Estuary Site designations: Ramsar site Site designations: SPA Site designations: SSSI
David Douglas (Conservation Scientist) heads up a team looking into the effects of a wind farm on Golden plover Pluvialis apricaria, Sutherland, Scotland


If these developments continue it is likely that birds such as black-tailed godwits will cease using their favoured feeding grounds.

The Humber estuary is one of the six most important places for birds in the UK. During the winter, it is home to thousands and serves as an important refuelling point for many more on their way from Northern Europe to sunnier climes.

The mudflats are stuffed with creepy crawlies, offering a banquet at low tide for many wading species including curlews, golden plovers and black-tailed godwits. It is estimated that more than 170,000 birds use the Humber area during the winter. What's more, the Humber is also a hive of bird activity in the summer with the RSPB's Read's Island boasting an avocet breeding colony and marsh harriers.

The south bank of the Humber is not only popular with birds but also with industry and has become a hotspot of port-related activity. Known as the South Humber Gateway, there are aspirations to make the site a globally important hub for port-related industry including energy production and chemical manufacture. If not managed properly, this could lead to the loss of roosting and foraging habitat for birds at high tide.

Rising sea levels associated with climate change, meanwhile, are causing the loss of intertidal habitat particularly mudflats, saltmarsh and lagoons.

If the Humber estuary is going to retain its importance for wintering birds, we need to replace areas of intertidal habitat lost to rising sea levels and ensure that any development proposals make adequate provision for waterbirds.

Our objections and concerns

One of our concerns was a proposal by Able UK for a massive 3 square kilometres port-related storage facility on a site on Halton Marshes.

The site of the proposal is currently open farmland where many birds roost and forage at high tide when their mudflat feeding grounds are underwater.

We recognise the aspirations to create a world-class economy around the South Humber Bank but we also strongly support the need to sustain a worldclass environment. We argued that Able UK's original proposal, which was submitted to and accepted by North Lincolnshire Council last year, did not make adequate provision for the foraging and roosting waterbirds.

We worked hard to find a resolution with the applicant, Able UK, North Lincolnshire Council and Natural England, the Government's nature conservation adviser. We agreed a way forward, which addressed our outstanding concerns around impacts on the waterbirds affected by this proposal. We also identified a way forward which would allow this application to be re-considered by the Council and avoid any unnecessary delays.

Some of the other objections were less simple to resolve but we are confident we can find a way forward which meets the aspirations of Able UK and safeguards the amazing wildlife of this estuary.  


 Humber estuary. Saltmarsh at Pyewipe, Grimsby.

Why is it worth fighting for?

The Humber estuary is vital for thousands of wintering and migrating birds.

As such, it is designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the European Birds Directive and is also a Ramsar site, designated under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.

Curlew Numenius arquata, bathing in shallow pool, Geltsdale RSPB reserve, Cumbria, England

Our position

We do not oppose sustainable economic development in the South Humber Gateway but we do not support any development which could damage or destroy an important part of the natural environment. Sustainable economic development must not come at the expense of the environment.

Our original objection to Able UK's proposal was founded on our concern that it risked harming the protected areas of the Humber estuary and the birds for which it is designated. We believed the mitigation measures which were proposed were not adequate and which would have meant the proposal, as it stood, could have damaged the SPA and Ramsar site.

What action we took

We believed the proposed mitigation measures were inadequate in both size and location and would not minimise the potential impacts of the proposed development to an acceptable level. We suggested a potential resolution, which involved increasing the overall size of the area of mitigation and relocating it to the fields nearest to the estuary. These suggestions were largely ignored by Able UK. We also lobbied North Lincolnshire Council to help safeguard the future of the birds which rely on this area.

In August 2010, we wrote to members of the Council's Planning Committee, urging them to reject the proposal in its current form. This was on the grounds that it did not contain appropriate or adequate mitigation nor demonstrate there would be no adverse effect on the populations of waterbirds which are features of the Humber Estuary Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar site.

In October 2010, we met with Able UK, North Lincolnshire Council and Nic Dakin, MP for Scunthorpe County in an attempt to resolve our concerns about the submitted proposal. Although there was some constructive discussion, a full agreement was not reached.

A few days later, at a hastily convened special meeting of the Planning Committee, North Lincolnshire Council voted to support Able UK's application. This decision was made in spite the fact that a number of issues remained unresolved and the necessary financial and legal agreements needed to secure a robust decision are not yet in place. There was a distinct lack of clarity around what measures were included in the plan to safeguard the local environment.

As a result, we requested that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to intervene to ensure a robust and well-considered was made.

We also wrote to the Council directly and the Environment Agency seeking clarification on a number of issues which were unclear at the Special Planning Committee.

Following a series of regular meetings with Able UK, Natural England and North Lincolnshire Council, we eventually reached an agreement over the necessary mitigation for the development and on a delivery plan to achieve this aim. 

North Lincolnshire Council made a commitment to put a revised application, securing the agreed mitigation before a second planning committee should the application be returned to them from the Secretary of State for determination.

A revised application was put before a second planning committee in June 2011. This application included a revised proposal to mitigate the impacts of the development on waterbirds. We are supportive of the revised proposal which was approved. We remain concerned however about how this has been legally secured in the long term, but are optimistic the waterbird habitat will be put in place and managed well. We hope that the endeavours of all parties will be rewarded with a positive outcome for both the wildlife and the local economy of the Humber. We will continue to monitor the progress of this development and associated mitigation and will continue to provide support and advise regarding the management of the mitigation areas as appropriate.

Avocet turning eggs in nest.


  • July 2013
    The Able Logistics Park was given planning permission. 

  • June 2011
    Revised planning application is put before a second planning committee in North Lincolnshire Council. The application includes improved waterbird mitigation proposals which were much more robust than those previously submitted. The application is approved
  • February 2011
    An agreement is signed between Able UK, the RSPB and Natural England, which sets out what mitigation is required for waterbirds and how it will be delivered. Commitments are also made by North Lincolnshire Council to put a revised application which secures the agreed mitigation before a second planning committee if the application is returned to them from the Secretary of State for determination.

  • January 2011
    Agreement is reached regarding what mitigation is required but there is a lack of clarity on how this can be secured at this stage in the planning process

  • November-December 2010
    A series of regular meetings to discuss potential resolutions to our outstanding objections were held with Able UK, North Lincolnshire Council and Natural England

  • October 2010
    We meet with Able UK, North Lincolnshire Council and Nic Dakin MP in an attempt to resolve our outstanding issues surrounding the submitted proposal. At a special meeting, North Lincolnshire Planning Committee vote to support Able UK's submitted proposal. We write to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, requesting the application to be called in. We issue a media release about this
  • August 2010
    We write to councillors on the North Lincolnshire planning committee urging them to reject Able UK's proposal when they consider the application in September. We issue a media release highlighting this action.
  • May 2010
    We submit comments to North Lincolnshire Council regarding Able's Conservation Management Plan which outlines the proposed management of three mitigation areas within the application site. We strongly object to the proposed mitigation identified for SPA and Ramsar waterbirds on the grounds that it is not adequate in terms of design, location, overall size and shape.
  • February 2010
    North Lincolnshire Council conclude that Able's proposal would have an adverse effect on the Humber Estuary SPA, SAC and Ramsar site on account of the proposed land drainage and flood defence measures. However, the Council also concludes that the habitat loss in the proposal would not have an adverse effect on the SPA and Ramsar waterbirds as the proposed mitigation is sufficient. We disagree, arguing that the proposed mitigation is not adequate.
  • October 2009
    North Lincolnshire Council consider the submitted planning application. We await consultation from the Council on the assessment of potential impacts of the proposal required by European law protecting the estuaries important wildlife.
  • Autumn 2009
    Ongoing consultation between all key stakeholders. Limited changes to the proposed mitigation, which involve some tweaking of design. The overall size and scale of the proposed mitigation areas for birds is still not addressed. No attempt is made by Able UK to address the potential disturbance issue at North Killingholme Haven Pits despite identifying this impact themselves in the original Environmental Statement submitted with the planning application. 
  • Summer 2009
    Able UK submit the planning application to North Lincolnshire Council for consideration with no change to the proposed mitigation that we had already raised serious concerns over. As a result, we lodge an objection on nature conservation grounds.
  • Spring 2009
    We meet with Able UK and other stakeholders to discuss the proposal prior to submission of the planning application. We express our concern regarding the proposed mitigation being inadequate to cater for the affected SPA/Ramsar waterbirds.


The Able Logistics Park was given planning permission in July 2013, with the condition that Able UK must provide considerable areas of new habitat to replace that which will be lost to the development. We will continue to work with Able UK to ensure that the new habitat is designed, created and managed to give the best possible result for wildlife.