Whitehall chiefs unclear on a date for the review and consultation

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Confusion is sweeping the corridors of power at Westminster this week over the date of the upcoming aviation review.

Vague mutterings of a potential time were given to KoS, but it seems the Department for Transport is unable to give a definitive answer.

A DfT spokesman said it would be this summer – which could mean in a matter of weeks.

But when pressed on whether it would be held before Parliament breaks for summer recess in July – which runs until September – he declined to say, stating he could not be “specific” on dates.

Today, this newspaper calls on the Government to be clear on its plans for a review, to put an end to the uncertainty felt by people living in north Kent.

This significant review – feared at first by those who thought it could pave the way for a Thames estuary airport – was due to be published at the end of March, according to Chancellor George Osborne in his pre-budget announcement earlier this year.

It will look at the south east’s aviation capacity as a whole and is supported by anti-airport campaigners and the county’s MPs.

They believe it will throw up other options to tackle the growing capacity problem and kill off any estuary airport plan.

But the review and subsequent consultation have been delayed.

Hopes are it will happen quickly, to remove any estuary plan from the table and allow the Government to push forward with other proposals, such as expansion at existing airports, like Heathrow or Gatwick.

MP for Rochester and Strood Mark Reckless, an ardent anti-airport campaigner, said there were a range of other options that made more sense than the estuary airport plan.

“We should make use of this consultation to kill off the Thames estuary airport idea,” he said.

Mr Reckless said not only did the economics of such a plan “not stand up” but the environmental impacts would be devastating.

He added: “I have put questions to the Mayor of London, but people are just not coming up with credible answers.

“There are London airports that with investment could reap benefits and help the aviation situation.

“Better transport connections with other existing airports in the UK would also boost capacity.

“There’s a basket of options that make more sense than an airport in the Thames estuary.”

Mr Reckless met with the Prime Minister at Downing Street last week after he agreed to face-to-face talks with the county’s representatives.

“What was said in the meeting was private, but I can say it was good to have been given time with him to discuss the matter,” said Mr Reckless.

Earlier this month, this newspaper launched an anti-airport campaign, joining the ranks of those opposed to the estuary plans.

Proposals – including one championed by London Mayor Boris Johnson and the other drawn up by leading architect Lord Norman Foster – have been put forward.

Mr Johnson is pushing for an airport on reclaimed land in the estuary off north Kent and Lord Foster has proposed a huge international hub, with an airport and rail links, on Grain.

Both would cost in the region of £50m-£70m.

While campaigners understand the problem with aviation capacity in the south east, they argue the Thames estuary – an internationally important environmental site – is the wrong place.

Economic experts, airline heads and conservationists have all spoken out against the plans, with the National Air Traffic Service (NATS) calling it the “worst place” to locate an airport.

- What are your views on the airport proposals? Share your opinion by writing to Airport Campaign, Apple Barn, Hythe Road, Smeeth, Ashford, Kent TN25 6SS. Sign the online petition at www.stopestuaryairport.co.uk or email editorial@kosmedia.co.uk and put ‘airport’ in the subject line.



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