Anger that Inspector’s decision on Lydd airport will not be publicised yet
Government inspector Ken Barton chaired the 7-month inquiry into Lydd Airport’s expansion plans in 2011. This probably cost the tax payer up to £250,000. The decision has to be made by 14th March. However, it has been announced that this will not be made public until after ministers Eric Pickles and Justine Greening have made their decision. And there is no deadline by which they have to do so. There is speculation that they may not decide until next year, perhaps because the national aviation policy consultation starts by the end of this month, and this will have a bearing on whether expansion on Lydd is acceptable. There is local anger and frustration that the decision is being kept secret.
Anger at secrecy of airport report
LYDD Airport supporters and opponents have united in criticising the “hush hush” secrecy barring them from finding out the result of the fiercely contested public inquiry.
Government inspector Ken Barton chaired the seven-month inquiry – a process one critic said cost the taxpayer up to £250,000 – last year and his recommendation to two secretaries of state is due to be made this week.
But his report, which will state if he believes the airport’s two planning applications should be given the go-ahead or not, will not be made public until after ministers Eric Pickles and Justine Greening have made their decision.
The pair, who are secretaries of state for local government and transport respectively, have no time limit or deadline to deliver their verdict and fears have now been raised the airport’s fate may not be discovered until next year.
None of the key parties – including the airport – who spent months slugging it out at the public inquiry will find out Mr Barton’s decision beforehand.
He must make his recommendation by March 14 and the Herald understands it may be made a few days ahead of schedule.
Both airport supporters and opponents have revealed their frustrations at the silence.
Michael Walsh, a leading member of Friends of Lydd Airport Group who attended most days of the inquiry, said: “The airport is on tenterhooks, we all are.
“I heard a rumour the recommendation was favouring the airport, but it’s only a rumour.
“I’m confident but we all just want to find out now.”
Louise Barton, who has passionately fought the case of Lydd Airport Action Group against the airport’s plans, expressed surprise at the private nature of the recommendation.
She said: “It seems very hush hush and is frustrating.
” I was looking forward to hearing it.
“It could be months and months now.
“It’s totally unpredictable as there’s no date on it.”
The airport’s Hani Mutlaq said: “It would be nice to know. The other frustration is that it could stay on a desk for six months.
“We are very excited to see the result.”
Paul Bennett, from the planning inspectorate, said the recommendation was “confidential”.
He said: “There is no statutory timetable for decisions to be issued but they are aware of the need to make it promptly.”
The LAAG (Lydd Airport Action Group) say:
Following the completion of the public inquiry (September 16th, 2011) the Inspector submitted his report and recommendation to the government on March 9th, 2012. His report is not made public until the government has made its decision. The Inspector’s report accompanies this decision. The two relevant Secretaries of State (SOSs) are Eric Pickles, SOS for Communities and Local Government and Justine Greening, SOS for Transport. The date of the decision is unknown. However, history indicates that the period between the government’s receipt of the Inspector’s report and the date of its decision is 1-6 months. Given that more than one SOS is involved, we believe the period is likely to be greater than 1month.