17th March 2001
I was interested to see the anonymous letter about Rochester Airport in Friday’s edition of Medway Today, in which it was claimed that there was majority support for closing the airport.
Funny this: when the topic blew up in August 1999, the Davis Estate Residents Association in Chatham (DERAC) — of which I was the Secretary at the time — put out a very simple, non-slanted polling-type of form about /their/ wishes. If the Association’s remit and resources had stretched far enough, the poll could have been extended much further. Indeed, a number of responses did come in from all over the Medway Towns in addition to those from the Estate.
The overwhelming response was in favour of *keeping* the airport: out of well over a thousand replies, barely half a dozen respondees (mostly from one road!) wanted the airport closed — a result of over 99% wanting no change. Ongoing discussions with local residents and the various interest groups clearly indicate that nothing has changed since then.
All the original papers are kept in secure storage for inspection should the need arise, I do not need to hide behind anonymity (indeed, if last Friday’s letter had been genuine — and I believe it was not — there can be no need to make it anonymous: it just isn’t that kind of topic that might prompt anyone to feel the need) and I can even provide a breakdown by road if necessary. I at least remain up-front and honest, as always.
So why did this strange letter suddenly appear on Friday?
There is to be a meeting of Medway Council’s Economic Development and Europe Committee this coming Tuesday, at which the airport’s future is to be discussed and a decision could well be taken. It does not take that much thought to realise that — just as with the deliberately misleading story about apparent “evictions” of elderly people from homes (a myth that is still being propounded in Medway Today, I notice) — this is an attempt to twist public opinion in the direction being taken by this paper’s favourite political party.
Truth? Honesty? Impartiality? What are those? They are things that once upon a time were present within those pages, but sadly no more. That is why I am copying this letter to at least one other local newspaper, as I have grave doubts that it would be printed there.
I became a local Councillor (much to my surprise: it had never been my wish to go down this path) largely because of the Rochester Airport threat, and I am thankful that there is still one political group here in Medway that can be trusted, despite the slur campaign being run by those little people who can make themselves feel good only by belittling and trying to destroy the truly good.
No-one with an ounce of integrity ever needs to stoop to that low a level.
Whatever happens on Tuesday evening, I shall be there, standing with those who support the residents’ true wishes and thus trying to protect one of the remaining assets of these towns.
John M Ward — Councillor for Horsted, and Secretary of the Davis Estate Residents Association (DERAC)