Sunday, 25 March 2012

Do DRINK have a leg to stand on?

As the Boris Island debate rolls on between the Medway towns and London a Pro- Airport group is making it's voice heard within the towns, DRINK (Demand Regeneration In North Kent.).

The group, formed of local business personalities argue that the airport would kick start regeneration and bring money and prosperity to the region.

It is true that since the closure of the Dockyards in Gillingham and Chatham, money has slowly leached out of the area effecting wards like Gillingham North, Gillingham South and Chatham Central which have become severely run down. Gillingham High street, which I remember as a boy was diverse and teaming, has died an agonising death and businesses have struggled financially. Even the Wimpy burger has closed down.

(On paper) A large venture, such as the airport would indeed provide a wealth of jobs for the Medway town's population, whose levels of unemployment have risen during the financial crisis. More houses will need to be built for people coming to the area, hotels, rail connections, roads and money will return to the towns.

Gillingham F.C Chairman, Paul Scally wrote in Friday's Messenger;

Anything that creates tens of thousands of jobs has to be looked at, and we would be failing ourselves and our children if we didn't.
I don't know where the best place for it is. If it can be in Medway and benefit Medway, then all the better for Medway.

Chairman of the group, Neville Gaunt, similarly said;
We have been inundated by business owners who are angry that the politicians are passing up what could be the best thing to happen to North Kent in years- something that could create jobs and bring hope to the unemployed and poorly paid as well as reduce the real poverty we have in parts of the area.

Believing that there should be more of a debate and are concerned by the Political unity (Unity of parties? really?) in their opposition. They claim that local politicos and Councillors will inadvertently hurt the people they claim to represent.

They wrote an Open Letter on the subject. (View Here)

I've thought about this before, but last year when the first rumblings began to happen I asked Socialist party member Jac Berry if the airport, in her opinion, would bring affordable housing, jobs and money to the region and that could this be a good thing?
I completely agree with her answer, which ran something like this: Money and jobs is all well and good but we've only got one planet and we need to protect the environment.

After all the vast areas of green space around the Medway towns, and especially the unique Thames marshlands in Grain are areas of outstanding beauty. Also how many home owners now want to live in the flight path of one of the (hoped to be) busiest airports in the world. Its bad enough I am kept awake by my next door neighbours dance music let alone a the 3.15am flight in from Dubai! My house value would drop even more.

The estuary itself is not safe for flight with such a high chance of bird impact. During the Second World War, when large green areas were converted to Military airfields, North Kent was left alone,l (other than Gravesend - but a couple of squadrons of Single-seat fighters aren't the same as bombers or transports.) and the Luftwaffe did not operate out over the estuary in large numbers either for the same reason.

Also there is the other economic concern, that of the bottom falling out of air travel. With increasing taxation on travel and with people running out of disposable income for expensive holidays and travel as well as the fossil fuels crisis whose to say what the state of Air transport will by the time the Hub is finished?

More importantly, I can speak for Medway Libdems who have spoken to their constituents, as have local Conservatives and Labour, they're not convinced and don't want it. I take DRINK's point but I don't think anyone else agrees.

My Granddad said recently, Why trust businessmen advice? At the end of the day they want to line their own pockets rather than what's best for the people. - Indeed.

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