Councillor on Medway Council: Letter to Medway News

John Ward

Medway News
12 New Road

16th June 2001

Dear Sir

Rochester Airport

I have been interested to read all the correspondence about Rochester Airport, most of which has accorded with the overall public opinion, both local to the airport and across the Medway Towns.

As has been the case throughout the period since the threat to this facility came to public notice, there is still an overwhelming majority whose desire is to keep the airport. This includes many who live under the flight path. I find this from personal contact, correspondence, through our local (i.e. Davis Estate) Residents Association, via other interest groups of various types, and from numerous other directions.

Inevitably, there will be a minority (in this case a very small one) who oppose the retention of the airport; and we saw an example of this in last week’s Letters page, in the form of Mrs Busbridge’s contribution to this ongoing debate.

While I have some sympathy for those who find the noise from the (small!) aircraft a problem, I have to admit to being puzzled as to why anyone who does find this problematic would have moved to that location in the first place. The airport has been there for decades, and was far busier (and noisier) in years gone by than it is now, so only someone who has lived in the “wrong place” from before the airport was opened in the 1930s could conceivably have any real grievance. Even then, why would such a person still be there, more than 60 years later? It’s nonsense, isn’t it?

My estate agent made it very clear to me what there was in my new home area before I made any decision, even supplying a map of the whole area and marking useful places (such as supermarkets) on that map. Admittedly this was the excellent Linda Matthews, who also helped me in many other ways, so perhaps others have moved into the area blind, so to speak, if the service they received was less exemplary. Even so, I’d have thought they would have done some research before buying a property in this area.

I do find it interesting that it is only now that there is a threat to the airport that we suddenly get a few of these “anti-airport” letters, but nothing seems to have been aired in years (decades?) before. This, along with the experiences I have had ever since this matter first cam to the attention of our Residents Association here on the Davis Estate, leads me to at least wonder—if not openly suspect—whether there is little if any more than a political motivation to some of the negative contributions we have seen recently. I am not pointing the finger at Mrs Busbridge here, as my gut feeling is that this one at least is genuine (although I still can’t fathom why anyone would move there in the first place, but perhaps that’s just me) but a few of the letters I have seen recently do make me suspicious of their true motives.

Anyway, it has been apparent that the overriding concern of a large proportion of local residents has been to ensure that—whatever happens to the airport—the site is not built on, in the sense of housing, factories or distribution centres, especially that last option as the resultant heavy goods vehicle traffic would be truly horrendous. Comgestion, pollution and noise would be far worse than most people who have never lived near such a facility can probably imagine.

Not everyone is so passionate about keeping the airport, though those that are strongly in favour of its retention appear to form a sizeable chunk of the Medway population. However, just about everyone is passionate about keeping the site green and not built upon.

Whatever one’s interest (or lack of it) in Rochester Airport itself, probably the most important outcome of this whole business has been whose interests are being served by Medway Council, or at least by particular political groups on the Council. The airport question has become a kind of litmus test of both the individual Councillors and their political groups, especially when one really listens to the arguments put forward on both sides of the debate. Who is making sense, and who isn’t?

The difference in attitude between the only political group that supports the local residents’ wishes and the other groups is one of the most telling features of the political aspect of Medway Council, not only in regard to this issue but a number of others too. It is all so obvious, and explains very clearly why I stood for the party that I did in last year’s local elections.

I really do hope that everyone living in the Medway Towns will remember all of this when the next local elections are held in 2003.

Yours faithfully

John M Ward — Councillor for Horsted, and Secretary of the Davis Estate Residents Association (DERAC)