28th May 2001
I have been following with a lot of interest the correspondence in these pages about Rochester Airport. It has become clear that this topic has become a kind of crucible in which to force out the truth about how this Council of ours operates.
Whether or not the airport is, of itself, of interest to readers of this newspaper (and there will be many for whom it is of little or no direct interest) it has certainly shown us all the attitudes of certain Councillors toward the wishes of their electorate, as have other issues, if not as clearly.
The same has applied -- initially to a lesser extent -- to the local sitting MPs, and now to the candidates in the forthcoming General Election. I see from letters our constituents have started getting that at least one of the existing MPs has finally cottoned on to the significance of the airport issue: he now appears to be supportive of residents' wishes regarding its future. However the fact that this apparent change of tack has come only now that we have an election in progress, rather than from when this issue first impacted all of us well over a year ago, strongly suggests that it is merely an election ploy -- nothing more.
After all, it is the current government's intention to turn the garden of England into a vast concrete patio, stretching from London all the way to the coast, that is at the back of this. Their obsession with cramming more and more people into the south-east and forcing a huge increase in housing to accommodate them is the real danger here, with many open spaces (of the limited number we have left) already under threat. Again, these are not necessarily public knowledge.
One example that has recently come to light is the Horsted Farm fields, just opposite the airport, whose protected status has (very quietly) been removed so that houses can be built on that land. That's another battle for the local residents and their elected Councillors, and there are many more examples of such threats to green spaces throughout the Medway Towns.
And all this is just one of the biggest local issues.
When it comes to Polling Day, it seems to me that we need to ensure that those we elect really will represent what we want, and will carry the messages that we need taken to the government we get next week. We must be certain that whoever will be running the country is made well aware of the issues that are sensitive to us.
Who knows: with the right MPs representing the Medway Towns we might even be able to halt the destruction of our remaining green spaces. We must at least try.
John M Ward — One of the two Councillors for Horsted Ward, Chatham.