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Newsletter 1 - November 2004

Background

Lydd Airport Action Group (LAAG) was revived in September 2004 to represent the interests of residents of Romney Marsh affected by the proposed large scale development at Lydd Airport. LAAG is not against Lydd Airport but is strongly opposed to the planned ~ 300m extension of the runway as this will enable large commercial jets to operate from the airport, degrading the living standards of local residents through increased noise and air pollution and depleting the green tourist credentials of the area as a result of increased urbanisation due to the scale of the supporting airport infrastructure. 

Lydd Airport’s Ambitions

Lydd Airport’s Management is investing to accommodate 2million passengers by 2011 and 6million by 2021 (compared to less than 5000 in 2003). These were the projections given at the Kent County Council Investigation in Public (EIP) on September 24th 2004. How quickly the 2million passenger projection is achieved depends, it appears, on which audience Lydd Airport’s management is addressing - 2million by 2011 to the KCC’s EIP, 2million by 2010 on Lydd Airport’s website and 2million by 2014 in slides presented to the Wind Farm Public Inquiry.  According to the latter version, passenger numbers will be 25,000 in 2005 and rise steeply to 1.95million by 2014 with the significant build up in passengers beginning in 2009 when holiday charter operations commence. The charter operation will operate 100-140 seat aircraft, and although it is not stated, this implies the use of Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 series, the workhorses of the low cost tour/schedule operators. Management has appointed Parsons Brinckerhoff, one of the world’s leading transport engineering consultants to design and manage the project.  

Planning Considerations

Significant construction work is already underway at the airport. This work - resurfacing the runways and aprons - is being carried out under the existing planning remit.  This is Phase One of a larger project which includes building a new terminal and extending the runway for which planning permission is required. Given the scale of the operation and the sensitive area in which the airport is located, the management must undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before making a planning application. The parameters for this study have recently been determined by Shepway Council. The EIA will take some time to complete; hence we believe the planning application will be published during the first quarter of 2005. When this occurs many organisations, who are currently actively involved behind the scenes, will become more visible - for example, British Energy (Dungeness B), British Nuclear Group (Dungeness A), English Nature, The RSPB and the MOD -  we are already seeking their support in rejecting the runway extension planning application. Since the development of Lydd Airport has ramifications way beyond the Shepway District, LAAG will be lobbying to have the planning application for the extension of the runway called in by the Secretary of State for a full scale Public Inquiry.

What has LAAG achieved?

The two main thrusts of our campaign have been to (a) raise awareness as many people locally are unaware of the scale of development at Lydd Airport, and (b) tone down the pro-development stance of the Kent & Medway Structure plan. With regard to (a) this has involved petitioning and leafleting (10,000 leaflets distributed), speaking at council meetings/residence associations, letter writing to politicians, prospective parliamentary candidates, councillors - parish, Shepway and Kent County - conservation bodies such as the RSPB, English Nature, The Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust and the Rye Nature Reserve and companies directly affected by the Airport such as British Energy and British Nuclear Group. As for (b), the Kent & Medway Structure Plan (KMSP) is the framework for permitted development for the whole of Kent and is therefore more important than the Shepway Local Plan. The latest KMSP is currently being updated which is a long process. Currently, the policy for Lydd Airport (TP25) is a general statement that permits development at Lydd Airport subject to certain conditions. The management of Lydd Airport want TP25 to be more specific and they argued at the Examination in Public on September 24th that TP25 should contain specific passenger numbers - 2million by 2011 and 6million by 2021. We have voiced our strong opposition to the inclusion of passenger numbers, arguing that this presumes need which clearly may not be the case and we will continue to object to this inclusion in the finalisation of this important document.

What next for LAAG?

In the period before the formal planning application is made we will continue to canvas for membership and raise awareness both on and outside Romney Marsh through leafleting, letter writing and public speaking and hold members meetings preferably with speakers in 2005. We will continue to lobby for the application to extend the runway to be called in by the Secretary Of State for a full scale Public Inquiry.

What can members do now?

Do not underestimate the power of a letter. Write to Michael Howard, prospective parliamentary candidates, and to councillors (see website for names and addresses or ring Louise 01797 361548 if you do not). The letter does not need to be sophisticated. Voice your opposition to the scale of the development. Point out that your quality of life will be eroded by the increase in noise and air pollution as a result of the build up in traffic both in the air and on the ground. When the planning application is lodged a more structured approach is required and we will assist with responses. In the meantime help us canvas for new members/ leaflet/petition - ring Louise, 01797 361548.

LAAG’s web site

We have an excellent website (www.lyddairportaction.co.uk) thanks to Peter Faulkner. The site contains the contact details of many relevant people, a selection of our correspondence (we cannot publish everything as disclosure is not always appropriate) and background information which will help in understanding the issues. Peter welcomes comments about the website (01797 361445).

Louise Barto
The Hook, Madeira Road, Littlestone TN28 8QX
01797 361 548
blmbarton@aol.com