John's Jottings for August/September 2002

John Ward

Please note: these Jottings are purely personal comment, and do not necessarily or directly represent the policy of either the Conservative Party or the Conservative Group on Medway Council.

Peninsula Airport Threat

I have delayed this Jottings because of this huge issue that is now upon us.

Not for many years—if ever—has such a big issue hit the Medway Towns, and it impacts everyone living here, not just those in the Cliffe and Allhallows areas. Although there has been a lot of discussion in the local media, especially in the Medway newspapers' editorial and letters pages, I suspect that many of those living in, say, the Chatham, Gillingham and Rainham areas believe they would be unaffected by an airport on the peninsula.
Not so!
For one thing, aircraft flight paths could be drawn up over any and all parts of our Towns. Now we already hear occasional airliners passing overhead, but these are at a reasonable altitude. If they were to be approaching or taking off from an airport at Cliffe/Allhallows, they would be much lower, and we'd get it every couple of minutes, including at least part of the nights. Despite official claims made about flight paths and flying hours, we all know what will happen in practice—if not straight away, then a little further down the road.
Interestingly, the presence of our dear little Rochester Airport is something of a safeguard against this possible scenario, as its own flight paths dominate much of the low-altitude flying space over our Towns.
I have to wonder whether this is one of the main reasons why the Labour Group on Medway Council are still so keen to have it closed: perhaps they are under instruction to do so from their head office? It does make more sense now that we have this latest piece of the puzzle in place...
Another major issue for the Towns is the number of jobs it will supposedly create. Figures quoted are far higher than the total unemployed of the Medway Towns, so this means importing more people. Guess what? They will need homes built for them (yes, even higher than the quotas we already have from central government for house-building) plus roads, schools, medical facilities, recreation—the lot.
Once again we see how our part of the country is being treated as a kind of dumping ground for others' problems and aspirations. We've seen it with the cement works issue, we've seen the way the Thames Gateway partnership favours other areas at the expense of Medway, we've seen it all many times before. Others' attitude to Medway is undoubtedly the greatest enemy we have.
Originally it was thought by some that the so-called Cliffe proposal was merely a stalking-horse to get the environmentalists so up in arms about it that they would accept just about any alternative, in particular whatever the Government's true intentions are (even more expansion of Heathrow, perhaps). More recently the word-on-the-street is that the Cliffe proposal is the Minister's preferred option. This is of course entirely consistent with the attitude problem I mentioned just now.
Okay, I have no (easy) way of finding out what is really being planned by Tony Blair's people, so my speculations could well be off the mark. Even so, it is worth having explored these possibilities so that our community is not complacent and continues to fight as strongly as we have being doing in these early weeks.
One recent bit of news that certainly is not cause for complacency is the European Commission's apparent statement that it will block this proposal because of the international environmental importance of parts of the site. All our government needs to do is persuade the Commission that they have no alternative (i.e. put together a team of creative Civil Servants to put forward a suitably convincing case) and it will be allowed despite the environmental impact.

Don't let it happen! If our campaign should falter and fail, I feel sure there will be no end of other major projects to follow, and all our lives will be complete and utter miseries.

Next time: More on the Cliffe Airport threat