18 November 2002

Councils back plan for airport in Kent

By Charles Arthur

Local councils are calling for the Government to build an airport as big as Heathrow in Kent to cope with the growing demand for flights.

A report published today by 70 local authorities says Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Transport, "must be bold" when deciding how to accommodate the expected rise in the number of British air passengers – from 180 million now to 500 million by 2030.

James Bailey, author of the report for the Strategic Aviation Special Interest Group (Sasig) at the Local Government Association, said he had been contacted by commercial organisations keen to begin building at Cliffe in north Kent. "They are ready to submit their
proposals before the Government's deadline ... at the end of the month," he said.

Ministers are considering a new airport in Kent or new runways at Heathrow and Stansted. Building at Cliffe would bring them into conflict with residents and environmentalists, who would probably appeal to the EU under the Habitats Directive because protected bird
species are living on the marshland.

Sasig says it would be cheaper to make a new protected habitat in north Kent than to make a "compulsory purchase of many thousands of homes around Heathrow".