I attended this debate at Cliffe Memorial Hall on 30 October. The panellists were:
- Daniel Moylan, the Mayor of London’s Aviation Advisor
- Councillor Alan Jarrett, Deputy Leader of Medway Council
- John Grant, Executive Vice President of aviation experts, OAG
- Charles Buchanan, Chief Executive, Manston Airport
- Sue Armstrong-Brown, Head of Conservation Science at the RSPB
- Clive Lawrence from Demand Regeneration in North Kent (DRINK)
And it was all chaired admirably by John a Radio Kent presenter whose surname I didn’t get. Following is a brief summary of my impressions.
There was a small demonstration outside the hall by various bodies including the Friends of North Kent Marshes and the RSPB. Other organisations were represented in the hall. The mood of the majority in the hall was anti any airport in the Thames Estuary but there were a minority there who clearly would support such a project as it would bring jobs to Kent.
It was all fairly predictable with Boris Johnson’s adviser putting forward plans which are well known and emphasising the need nationally for a 4 runway hub airport otherwise we will lose out to our international competitors, and the advantages such a scheme would bring to North Kent with jobs and improved infrastructure. Medway council are opposed, they have various initiatives in place to bring employment to the area without destroying the environment.
DRINK recognised that there were good and bad aspects of an airport in the area which needed to be considered but pleaded for a speedy resolution of the situation as indecision was blighting the area.
Expansion of Manston airport was not seen as an answer mainly because it lacked hi-speed access to London and a viable catchment area for customers. There was discussion of expansion of Heathrow and Gatwick which would need to be considered before any final decision was made.
Sue Armstrong-Brown put the RSPB’s case and a copy is attached here:
There have been a number of plans since the 1980s for an estuary airport and all have been rejected. The area is too important internationally for birds and it remains a bad idea now. The RSPB view is that climate change is the most important threat we face and any need for further airport capacity should take into account carbon emissions.New airliners and a reduction in business travel plus better use of existing facilities would reduce the need for further capacity.
There were no conclusions to the debate and the Government’s commission looking into this will have much to look at including funding, bird strikes, air traffic control and compensation for loss of housing/businesses and environment.
Will it happen in the Thames Estuary? Sue for the RSPB is certain it will not as the area is heavily protected with both domestic and international agreements that are legally binding.Lets us hope she is right!
You can read a fuller report of this debate here.
Further information can be found at http://www.stopestuaryairport.co.uk/ – a campaign backed by Medway Council.