NIOO: noise from expanding the campus thwarts bird research

NIOO-KNAW asks the Council of State to intervene.
‘Noise may disrupt the birds’ natural behaviour and undermine the research’ Photo Luuk Zegers

Significant research on the breeding behaviour of birds is imperilled if WUR erects business buildings and student housing on the east side of the campus without a proper noise standard. The Netherlands Institute for Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) has asked the Council of State to intervene.

WUR is growing and aims to expand the campus towards the east, across the Mansholtlaan and towards the city boundaries of Bennekom. The NIOO-KNAW and Aeres buildings are already established there.

WUR plans to construct some 80 thousand square metres of room for businesses, and Idealis has been given permission to build 250 student accommodations. The colourful brochure with which WUR hopes to entice businesses to establish on campus envisions a large parking lot behind the NIOO-KNAW building.

Sensitive research

All the bustle these developments are expected to generate is detrimental to scientific research, NIOO fears. The ecology institute studies the impact of human activity and climate change on animals, plants and ecosystems. Part of this research takes place on the terrain surrounding the Mansholtlaan. Researchers fear that major changes in the immediate vicinity will thwart their study.

‘The research in our greenhouses, testing fields and ponds is particularly sensitive to disruptions in light and shadow’, a representative of NIOO told Wageningen municipality earlier.

Noise plan

Despite these and other objections, Wageningen municipality adopted a change in the zoning plan that is required for the campus’ expansion. This is enough to enable the construction work to commence.
The NIOO disagrees. A spokesperson for the institute explains that an agreement was made with the municipality that a noise plan was to be drawn up to match the zoning plan. However, due to a shortage of personnel, the municipality has failed to do so. As a result, the zoning plan was ratified, while the noise plan is still lacking.

‘Unacceptable;’, says NIOO. The spokesperson explains that this endangers a decades-long study on bird breeding behaviour. ‘We study birds in the area and on our premises. We have nesting boxes all over the place to register when birds are brooding, how many eggs are produced and how many of these hatchlings reach maturity. This information is offset agains historical data to provide insight into the impact of climate change.’

Not a party

Noise may disrupt the birds’ natural behaviour and render the research moot, she explains. Hence, the ecology institute now petitions the Council of State to suspend the zoning plan as a temporary measure. The case will take place on Thursday.

A WUR spokesperson declines to indicate how this may affect the construction. ‘Legally, we are not a party since it is the municipality that ratified the zoning plan. These procedures are in place for a reason, and NIOO has exercised its right to object. We will await the court case and its outcome. Whether or not there will be a delay depends on what further steps are taken.’

This article was previously published in De Gelderlander/Saskia Wassenaar

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