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Are we heading for worst case scenario?

Whilst we wait for the decision on a judicial review of the decision to grant planning consent for the extended runway the clock ticks closer to the Olympics and the need for Southend airport to start offering flights and make a name for itself. Stobarts have continued to invest, a new control tower, a new station, plans for a hotel etc. When will Stobarts cut their losses, decide to abandon the extended runway and just make the best of what they have? And what will that mean for the residents of Southend.

Well, as it stands there are precious little controls on night flights, the existing runway can only handle older, noisier, more polluting planes and their range is more limited. So are we going to see all the benefits negotiated with the airport and agreed within the planning consent for the extended runway lost? The restriction on night flights, the restriction on approach and take off over built up Southend, the controls to restrict noise and the provision of assistance for those that might experience an increase in disturbance etc. would all be lost. Instead are we going to get night flights, more smaller, noisier and more polluting planes flying to closer airports than is realistically viable with the ensuing need for more freight (also controlled under the planning consent) and constant road closures every time a plane takes off with the ensuing congestion and queuing. Well I sincerely hope not, but given the deliberate delaying tactic of SAEN and the delay in Judicial Review I think this worst case scenario is day by day becoming a real possibility.

Let’s be quite clear- even if the judicial review gets the go ahead and even if following that judicial review the runway extension was not allowed Southend Airport could still operate an airport using the existing runway and without the many controls imposed by the planning consent. It would be a truly pyrrhic victory that saw SAEN successful in the courts.

Southend has two main economic drivers that could produce a real improvement in the economic standing of the town and its residents – the Airport and the Seafront with its Pier.

An airport, fully functioning as a passenger airport, a world class maintenance facility and a logistics hub would create significant employment both on and off airport. Much needed jobs from the basic to the really advanced would be generated for residents and the kudos of a fully functioning airport would have considerable knock benefit for local firms, the town and wider area. So not only can we expect jobs at the airport but also within the supply chains across the area and within existing local firms that get a boost from Southend having an Airport.

I want Southend to flourish; I believe that for this to happen Southend has to move forward, to use its assets carefully and to best effect. The opportunities on the seafront and Pier are enormous, but more of this another time. The runway extension planning consent wrote in more controls than currently exist, Southend will be a quieter, safer, more pleasant place and will be more economically self sufficient with better prospects with the runway extension than without it.

SAEN are causing more damage to Southend than many realise, sooner or later Stobarts will take the decision to cut their losses, to abandon, at least in the short term the runway extension, to use what they can and to get on with running an airport and ironically  it is the very residents under the flight path that we sought to protect via the planning consent that will suffer the most, as and when the airport and Stobart decide to go ahead on the existing runway and under the existing lease terms.

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