Ballot for all residents on the Hoo Peninsula to gauge opinion on Thames estuary airport
More than 20,000 people who would be affected by the building of a Thames Estuary airport in north Kent are being asked for their opinion on the proposals. Volunteers for Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless are delivering ballot papers to 6,000 homes on the Hoo Peninsula. Mark Reckless said “This is a chance for people across the Hoo Peninsula to have their voices heard and help me get the Davies Commission to rule out an estuary airport once and for all.” Residents will be able to choose a “yes” or “no” answer and return it to the MP. The ballots will be collected and presented in one of three ways: as a petition in Parliament, to the Commission or to Boris Johnson, who supports the idea. Meanwhile John Olsen has been pushing his plan for a Cliffe airport again, ten years after it was rejected last time. A ballot is also being held in Richmond, against Heathrow expansion.
Thousands quizzed over future of airport
The Hoo Peninsula, where homes will be balloted
More than 20,000 people in the path of a planned international airport are being asked for their opinion as opponents ramp up their fight.
Volunteers for Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless are delivering ballot papers tomorrow to all 6,000 homes on the Hoo Peninsula.
Major architects including Lord Foster, who designed London’s Gherkin building, have eyed up the area for a Thames estuary airport.
Mr Reckless said: “This is a chance for people across the Hoo Peninsula to have their voices heard and help me get the Davies Commission to rule out an estuary airport once and for all.”
Mark Reckless, MP
The commission will rule after 2015 on several ideas to solve Britain’s air capacity problems, including airports in Cliffe and the Isle of Grain.
Residents will be able to choose a “yes” or “no” answer and return it to the MP, who has declined to say if he will resign if the government decides to build an estuary airport.
These will be collected and presented in one of three ways: as a petition in Parliament, to the commission or to London mayor Boris Johnson, who supports the idea.
George Crozer from Friends of the North Kent Marshes, who have backed the ballot, said: “It’s really important we keep the message alive that they’re talking about an airport on the peninsula.”
Opponents like Mr Crozer argue among other things that an airport would cause untold environmental damage and cost too much money.
Those in favour claim it could create thousands of jobs and attract investment to the area.
The push from campaigners comes at the same time as a 16-page special report on the issues in today’s Medway Messenger.
The supplement explains how homeowners could win back the full price of their houses, but with no price on sentimental value.
It also reveals how almost 90% of the local jobs at an airport could end up being low-grade and low-paid.
Among other exclusives are the story of the £20,000 robotic birds which it’s claimed could clear the estuary of wildlife – despite doubts by the RSPB.
John Olsen, the man behind a new Cliffe plan, laid down the gauntlet to Medway Council in an exclusive interview. He said: “Do you want malnourished and ill-educated children growing up?
A plane flies over rooftops. Library picture
“The politicians have been watching 40 years of collapse in Medway. Are they going to wake up and see something needs to be done?”
Yet Medway Council’s leader Rodney Chambers, who is firmly against the idea, threatened to force a planning inquiry on the scale of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 if the government pushes ahead.
In an in-depth interview, he said the council could easily trigger the legal hearing – which for Heathrow took four years.
Behind the headlines: Thames Estuary airport special report from Kent Online
Airport: House prices ‘would rise dramatically’ in Medway but thousands would be blighted
A plane flies low over a house in Feltham, near Heathrow Airport. (Picture courtesy Trinity Mirror Southern Ltd)
by Dan Bloom
House prices would rise dramatically if an airport was built – despite thousands of lives being ruined by noise and fumes.
That is according to a Medway estate agent who has helped scores of homeowners claim compensation over other developments.
Alan Machin owns half of Machin Lane in Rochester High Street, which helped Borstal residents win compensation when the M2 was widened in 2000.
Many of them gained back 100% of their home’s value by serving “blight notices” on the government, even if they didn’t have to move out.
The 64-year-old said: “Let’s say the motorway was 30 metres away, you could say justifiably ‘you’ve made my property almost unsellable’, in which case you would get the full market value.”
The blight laws are not generous in terms of distance from the site, he said – but they are powerful.
Unlike compulsory purchases for the airport site itself, homeowners get to decide if their house has lost value, not the government.
One could argue the whole Hoo peninsula would be blighted. Yet Mr Machin said house prices outside the worst-affected zone could go up almost immediately, no matter how angry villagers were in Cliffe and Grain.
He said: “It’s very difficult to predict but you could take a model from Ebbsfleet. You will always get speculators rushing into an area, thinking in the long term it’s going to go up.”
But the legal difficulties would be the biggest of any UK project ever built.
If the airport was on land, including Lord Foster’s plan for Grain, the government would have to issue thousands of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) to buy up the area immediately used for the runway and terminal.
Each order would have to pay for a property, the cost of moving, possible compensation and legal fees which can include a public inquiry.
They would include every house in Grain village, which has 1,700 residents, and could feature historic sites like St James’ Church in Cooling which inspired Charles Dickens.
Then there is Grain’s industry, worth well over £1.5 billion. The most costly to move could well be the Grain LNG gas terminal, which supplies a fifth of the nation’s natural gas.
Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless claims he’s been told it would cost £3 billion to move – and Grain LNG is showing no signs of upping sticks. It is expanding all the time and last year was linked up to a £500m new power plant.
Alan Sanderson, who was the plant manager from 2006 to 2008, claims it would take up to 3,000 people five years of constant work to move – and that’s only after a suitable new site was found.
Mr Machin’s comments came as part of a 16-page special on airport plans which will be published in the Medway Messenger this Friday.
Exclusive interview with the man behind the new Cliffe Airport, John Olsen
John Olsen gives evidence to the Transport Select Committee
by Alan McGuinness
Ten years ago, champagne corks popped as campaigners cheered the demise of Cliffe Airport.
Now the plan for Europe’s biggest airport is back – and we have spoken in-depth to the man behind it.
Ambitious John Olsen claims he can cure many of the ills he has diagnosed as afflicting the area – low educational standards, high unemployment and people emigrating.
“Do you want malnourished and ill-educated children growing up?” – John Olsen
The head of the Independent Aviation Advisory Group [seems to just be a group he has set up to promote the Cliffe idea, has no website etc] is a former executive at the airline Cathay Pacific.
He lived in Hong Kong for 28 years and said he wants to take the “experience” of the airport there and bring it to Kent.
He said Cliffe village would not disappear under his proposal and no one would lose their home.
He would build a range of facilities around the airport for the local community, including swimming pools, running tracks and a velodrome. The airport would be built on 4,500 acres, take just under a decade to build and cost £12bn. It would be powered by geothermal, solar and tide energy.
Up to 35,000 jobs would be created. Transport links would be extended and Gravesend would become a “rail and road hub” for the airport.
Hong Kong, known as Chek Lap Kok, was rated as the third best airport in the world last year. He insisted his group simply wants what is best for the area and the country’s aviation industry.
Campaigners Joan Darwell, Gill Moore and George Crozer
Mr Olsen said: “I’m a huge supporter of the environment. I don’t want people to think we’re just here to trample on them.”
Critics argue the public would end up footing a large proportion of the bill for the project. A report published last month said a Thames Estuary airport would not be commercially viable, and estimated a public subsidy of £10 to £30bn would be needed to get it off the ground.
Supporters – Mr Olsen included – claim private investors will be more than happy to stump up the cash. Mr Olsen told a House of Commons Transport Select Committee he had already had discussions with one investor about the Cliffe proposal.
He said: “It’s amazing what can be done to enhance a community at practically no cost to that community. The great thing about an airport is that people of all denominations and social status work together to get the job done.
“Do you want malnourished and ill-educated children growing up? Here is a project that will really help these people.
“The politicians have been watching 40 years of collapse in Medway. Are they going to wake up and see something needs to be done?”
[The full interview with Mr Olsen is part of a 16-page special report in tomorrow’s Medway Messenger.]
Our comprehensive guide includes what the public are itching to know about jobs, house prices, the politics and how the system works.
There are also interviews with die-hard campaigners who have fought the plans since day one (pictured above).
From the Aviation Environment Federation:
Lobby group tries to resurrect airport at Cliffe
Jan 4 2011
An ‘independent’ lobby group is trying to resurrect the idea of a new London airport at Cliffe in Kent. This option was rejected in 2003 in the government’s airports White Paper. Article from the Financial Times follow.
Bob Sherwood, London and South-East Correspondent, 27 Dec 2010.
Calls for Kent airport given fresh wings
The chaos at London airports in the run-up to Christmas has proved that the capital needs a modern hub, according to a group of former aviation industry executives who are attempting to resurrect a plan for an airport at Cliffe, in north Kent.
An independent aviation advisory group, led by John Olsen, former commercial director of Cathay Pacific and ex-head of the failed airline Dan-Air, is urging the government to look again at proposals for a £14bn three-runway, 24-hour-a-day hub airport on the Hoo peninsula.
They claim recent infrastructure developments – such as the high-speed Channel tunnel rail link from St Pancras through north Kent and the development of London Gateway, the deep-sea container port and Europe’s largest logistics park being built just across the Thames – now make a more compelling case for the airport. In addition, the scheme would provide a catalyst to unlock the stalled Thames Gateway regeneration project, bringing thousands of jobs to deprived areas in north Kent and south Essex.
The Cliffe airport plan is a scheme that refuses to die. Identified as the best potential site for a new airport by the Labour government in 2002, the proposal was abandoned in December 2003 on the grounds that the costs of the coastal site were too high and the airport would not be well used.
The decision was welcomed by local residents in the village of Cliffe and beyond in the Medway area as well as by environmental campaigners, who claimed the salt marshes of the Hoo peninsula were an important bird habitat.
But Mr Olsen’s group, which has spent three years researching the project, believes those arguments are no longer valid and that the project would be far more practical and cheaper than London mayor Boris Johnson’s idea of an island airport in the Thames estuary.
Mr Olsen told the Financial Times: “I think Boris is right that we need a new airport in the UK, but he’s got the wrong location.
An independent group believes there is a compelling case for an airport in Cliffe. Environmentalists disagree
“This is not just a way of drastically improving aviation in the UK. It’s part of a much bigger plan of regeneration in the Thames Gateway area. And with the high-speed rail link, it’s already better connected than Heathrow. This is all about using what we’ve got already.”
Daniel Moylan, deputy chairman of Transport for London who is working on a review of airport capacity for the mayor, recently called on the government to include a “new hub airport” serving London and the south-east in its new national aviation policy.
But gaining traction with a government that has opposed airport expansion for a scheme with the political baggage of the Cliffe proposal will be difficult.
Already local MPs, council leaders and environmental campaigners have lined up to attack the plan.
Nevertheless, Mr Olsen said the almost uninhabited salt marshes of the Hoo peninsula had so many advantages that the site could not be ignored.
“It’s the best piece of undeveloped land anywhere near any major city in Europe,” he said.
The group claims the bird populations on the peninsula’s west and north are “meagre” and that the risk of bird strike is lower than at other locations.
The group also believes the plan is economically viable because the government already owns much of the land; it would be far cheaper than an island scheme, which has attracted estimates of £40bn; and one of the sovereign wealth funds from the Gulf would be keen to fund the scheme on a lease of up to 100 years.
Mr Olsen denied any financial involvement in the plan.
”We have not been paid a penny and we have not asked anyone to pay us,” he said.