Southend Airport expansion plan could be in jeopardy

25.5.2009   (Southend Echo)

Expansion plans for Southend Airport could be in jeopardy, as council bosses
are set to abandon its support for the scheme.

Informed sources say there have been thousands of objections to the Joint Area
Action Plan consultation, which proposes a major expansion of the airport, together
with the runway extension across Eastwoodbury Lane.

Protest meetings in Eastwood and Leigh have been packed with objectors worried
about noise levels and night flying if the airport is allowed to expand.

Bosses at Southend and Rochford Councils backed the airport’s expansion plans,
but now following a second consultation, sources are claiming it would be "political
suicide" to support it.

A source at Southend Council said: "There is a massive strength of feeling against
the expansion. It looks like political suicide for a lot of people in the west
of the town if they are to go for major expansion.

"Opposition parties are almost certain to oppose the extension, which would leave
the Tories isolated.

"A lot of the objectors are coming from the Conservative heartlands, like West
Leigh and Belfairs."

There appears to be less opposition to the proposals in the Rochford district
because very few homes would be affected by perceived noise from the expansion.

It is understood senior Southend and Rochford councillors have met to discuss
a possible response to the growing number of objections.

Airport managing director Alastair Welch said he was not aware of the consultation
results as this had been done by the local authorities.

However, he added: "Now the councils’ consultation is over, we will be putting
out details of our own in the area.

"We have comparisons of the noise contours between 1967, two years ago and how
it would be like in 2020 with the runway extension.

"These show the levels would be dramatically lower than in 1967 when it was using
old and noisy planes like the Bristol Freighter and the Carvair.

"In fact, the levels for 2020 with the runway extension and two million passengers
per year would be the same as in 1997."

The airport was bought last year for £21million by the Stobart Group, which is
famed for its Eddie Stobart lorries brand.