Friday, 9 January 2015

Rochester Airport Improvements

I notice that the council's Planning Committee has decided to defer a decision on the application for a paved runway and a number of other improvements at Rochester Airport, so that a site visit can be held.

I am not surprised by this, nor do I think it is a negative move: it is important that no allegations of riding roughshod over concerns and suchlike should be able to be levelled against the planning authority (the council) and this is the right way to proceed. The minimal additional delay will be negligible.

I say additional delay because this whole plan for the airport should have been implemented at least five years earlier, and perhaps even ten. There has been no material change in circumstances during the past decade, except that the airport itself has deteriorated and now needs a considerably higher investment to put right – by my reckoning, three times as much as it would have cost a decade ago, though I cannot be certain of the figures as I have been 'out of the loop' for nearly three-quarters of that period.

I have in the past covered the falsity of the fears aroused by scaremongers – and all the intelligent observer needs to do is check what the consequences of the other eight (or perhaps nine by now) small airports that have already been down this path, years ago, have been. I think anyone doing so will find that there has been no problem, and indeed there has if anything been an improvement in (for example) noise levels and safety records as a result of modernisation – which is exactly the same as is being proposed for Rochester.

Is there something odd about our little airport that doesn't apply to those others? I can't find anything...

I notice that the local media are, as usual, putting their own slant on how they are reporting what is currently happening. Here's a good example...

"Councillors dither over plan to use taxpayer cash to expand airport"

Three errors (spin?) in so few words:

  1. it's not a question of dithering, any more than any other site visit the Planning Committee holds is ever labelled 'dithering' – it's a standard procedure to ensure those taking the decision have on-the-spot knowledge of the site and how what is being proposed will be in practice;
  2. it's capital reap ongoing returns – another standard practice in business, government and anyone else with an asset that needs something done in order to be able to generate a return – slanting it in the above manner is not only incomplete, but is a hundred percent biased in the message it conveys; and
  3. the airport is not expanding – indeed, it is contracting slightly, while the site remains exactly the same size but with new facilities added in one corner.

How's that for being (and it looks to be deliberately) misleading?

Nothing new in that, of course, as I have noted – and recorded in my files, and occasionally in public forums such as this over the years. Never mind: we press onward regardless.

Although I do not know what the committee will decide in due course, I expect the application to be approved – though possibly with changes or additions to its conditions as a result of the site visit. I don't those, if they are imposed, to be big or difficult to manage for the airport.

As far as the scaremongers are concerned, and their buddies in the local media: longer-term residents of this area will no doubt be well aware of the previous (Labour, with Lib Dem collusion to achieve majority voting) council administration's plans to close the airport altogether and have it concreted over, so that 'crinkly shed' automated warehouses could ply HGVs by the hundred up and down the adjoining roads and beyond.

That plan was sneakily inserted into a planning policy document that went to central government as the council's official position, even though it was not the version that the elected representatives of the people here had voted upon. There were another couple of 'new' items sneaked into that version that also had not been included in the version approved by the elected Council. The whole thing was underhand, and still reeks to this day of a corrupt agenda that is being pursued even now.

As long as this decision is made, and is effectively legally binding, before the May elections then the future of the airport will be more-or-less assured, even if there should then be a change of political control. That, as people will soon enough discover – some to their surprise, I imagine – will be the best possible outcome, and set things up for a much brighter future around those parts than any of the alternatives.

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