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John's Jottings for December 2002

John Ward

Please note: these Jottings are purely personal comment, and do not necessarily or directly represent the policy of either the Conservative Party or the Conservative Group on Medway Council.

Airports: the consultation ends—or does it?

This past week saw the deadlines for submission of both Rochester and Cliffe Airports representations—Rochester (actually objections to modifications to the Medway Local Plan) on Wednesday 27th November and Cliffe (the SERAS consultation) on Saturday 30th November. Altogether I submitted no fewer than sixteen representations: that should cover just about everything!

Airliner

Meanwhile, the Judicial Review on the exclusion of any Gatwick options in SERAS was completed, and the decision was very firmly in favour of the two Councils bringing the action. As the Senior Judge said, not only was the SERAS consultation "unfair and undemocratic", the government's QC was "attempting to defend the indefensible".
Although the government department had pre-booked the Appeal Court, in the end they obviously realised the futility of proceeding with an appeal (for which leave had been granted) as it would only generate further embarrassment and humiliation for the government. Instead they have decided to re-do the consultation, starting in January and now including Gatwick among the options for consideration.
Of course this isn't a solution, and the next issue to be tackled is the huge mis-scoring of the Cliffe proposal that put it into the first SERAS consultation document. It seems almost inconceivable that the government, knowing full well that their manipulation of this exercise has been found out, would continue to include Cliffe in the consultation, but we shall have to wait and see.
Interestingly, there are still some local people who—even when told the indisputable facts of this whole sorry business—continue to support the idea of an international hub airport at Cliffe. The local newsgroup uk.local.kent (whose archives can be accessed easily via oogle) has two, if not three, such individuals, stridently denouncing all the campaigners as NIMBYs and attempting to discredit all those involved in the fight against this monstrosity.
Small aeroplane

In the meantime, on the Rochester Airport front, the somewhat complex business of opposing the proposed modifications to the emerging Medway Local Plan had to be done by experts, owing to its technical nature. The Council's instructions required that all representations were to be made on a form they supplied for the purpose, also that every representation had to be on a separate form.
As there were around a dozen distinct modifications affecting the Rochester Airfield aspects alone, this made the whole process rather daunting for the average man in the street. The cynical among us would no doubt say that this was deliberate, in order to reduce the number of representations counted, as anything not meeting the Council's strict criteria could be discounted.
For what it might eventually turn out to be worth, I submitted a separate form for each and every modification, and handed them in at the Council's offices so that they couldn't claim to have not been received.
During the latter half of November, the Rochester Airport operators and the statutory Consultative Committee gained some media coverage, backed up by several letters printed in local newspapers. Now, admittedly what was printed in the editorial was in one notable example "a travesty of what we told them" to use Brian Kingsley-Smith's words to me, but it still helped to remind people that we have two airport issues on the go in Medway.
Neither is this issue over—far from it! There is a strong possibility that Medway Council could be taken to court over its handling of the Public Inquiry Inspector's recommendations, and this could even force another Inquiry—so even that issue could involve re-consultation a litle way further down the road...
Next time: Council Chamber conduct: what's really going on?