Thursday, 19 January 2012

Lib Dems sink Boris Island

The Wreck of SS Richard Montgomery
I usually find political point scoring distasteful - When all the major parties are in agreement locally and yet "political Football" is still going on about who is right and wrong I just shudder and think of the electorate who may lose out and cease to wonder why people are no longer interested in politics anymore - I mean really?!

Any way, that aside, and seeing as everyone else is doing it I might as well hop on the band waggon and blow the Lib Dem trumpet on this.

Yes! It is true, the Libdem branch of the Coalition is doing the right thing and sticking to our guns, pledges from our manifesto and listening to the people of North Kent and Southern Essex by blocking this move as best we can and pointing at the Coalition agreement. (page 17 of the Agreement - On protection of rural areas.)

Dr Julian Huppert MP was interviewed by Paxman last night (18th January) and said;

I am against expansion in the South East of Britain as I don't think it makes a lot of environmental sense from an environmental perspective.

Indeed it doesn't. The Isle of Grain and the estuary is a reserve for many types of protected wading birds that live on the individualistic marsh lands. This whole area is protected.
there is no economic argument for destroying a vital habitat for thousands of wetland birds. We would be horrified if this act of environmental vandalism goes ahead simply to suit short-termist approach to the economic mess we are in. Says Martin Harper, director of Conservation RSPB

Nine out of Ten aircraft service providers from Heathrow have refused to use an island or Grain based airport due to the fears of bird strikes on aircraft and the concerns of having to ditch in the plane in the Estuary. Pilot Unions have also stressed concern for their members.
From my work on German Aerial operations over England I can confirm that during the Battle of Britain German Bombers wouldn't fly low over the estuary because of the dangers of bird strike - They either flew at high level or along the coast.
(If you're in any doubt imagine a bird striking the glass panels at the front of a Heinkel He 111 bomber travelling at 250mph, or worse a flock being disturbed by the noise and flying up into the propellers.)
Other concerns include the SS Richard Montgomery which lays, full explosives just off Sheppey and is a possible hazard to any construction in the estuary.
There is also the problem of shipping within the estuary which will suffer major disruptions to the oil and gas trade, also with rough weather there are dangers to the airport's surface.

This is not a NIMBY argument. Any idiot can look down these points and see that these are bad ideas.

Tracey Crouch MP stated on Twitter that any consultation would be a waste of money and time and I completely agree with her. Any consultation on just the Estuary and Boris Island projects are indeed a waste of time and money.

However, lets look at the bigger picture. Nationally we need to look at a greater Aviation policy - after all Heathrow is at 98% capacity and Gatwick, Heathrow and Stanstead Airport expansion has been ruled out. Boris is right when he says;
You can't go on expecting Britain to compete with France and Germany and other European countries when we simply can't supply the flights to these growth destinations - China, Latin America. We are now being left behind.


A spokesman for Nick Clegg said;

Nick does not favour the building of an estuary airport. He believes that the environmental and cost implications in any case mean it is unlikely to be viable.
Wow... Nick agrees with me - and most of Medway.
he has said that he is prepared for the issue to be considered as part of a wider consultation on aviation policy that had to be discussed through the proper channels of government. But the consultation must take the views of stakeholders, including local communities and environmental groups into account. (I've highlighted the last bit)

The Conservative position in parliament (indeed even Labour's as some opposition MPs have supported the project) is tricky as although Tracey Crouch, Mark Reckless and Rehman Chishti have done all they can to over throw this move they are nought but back benchers and the National need is greater than the perceived Local NIMBYism. It isn't a case of "Two faced Tories" it is a case of;
"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one."
The country needs a new aviation strategy and it would give great boost to the economy and offers great opportunites for British industry.

However, going back to Dr Huppert's interview:

I'm delighted to say that in this case it seems the Department of transport isn't supporting it, we're not supporting it, the local MPs who are Conservative are not supporting it. I think John said earlier on that there are very few people supporting it at all. We're not supporting it and we're going to stick to that.

If anything, I think that media speculation and indeed local opposition has stirred up some of the flights of fancy. After all, the newspapers in London (Metro and Evening Standard) have run articles about how wonderful this new hub would be - supported by the Telegrah and Times which immediately creates a knee jerk reaction with the local press who know the people's concerns and duly report it.
Then there is a local furor about how local Conservatives aren't taking the threat seriously.

Take for example the "Foster plans". They detailed a wonderful new facility on the Isle of Grain but were actually part of a much wider national scheme and can not be taken as a Green light for the air port actually going ahead.

The Chancellor said in his Autumn Statement that the Government would be looking at Aviation strategy - HOLY CRAP THEY'RE BUILDING BORIS ISLAND! came the cry...
No... they're just looking into the fact that we need to expand our aviation stratedgy Nationally.

My money, and probably the smart money is on Birmingham airport. With the proposed building of HS2 to Birmingham, and the wish of Birmingham Airport to expand it would make sense to do this. Also experts have said that the facilities need to be done quickly not in a decade - which is how long a new airport would need to be completed.

I'm sure this is not the end of the tale... but I'm hoping that the future is a bit brighter and am pleased that the Lib dems are fighting for what's right enviromentally, locally and economically in Parliament.


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