Friday, 4 May 2012

Foster's Airport plan good idea? bad idea?

Local politicians are quick condemn Lord Foster's plans for the Grain HUB and there appears to be an epic battle for the high ground waiting for someone to slip and no one dares say anything positive for fear of being Politically crucified and losing votes!

Its happened once, someone broke ranks and made clear an opinion and the opposition had a field day...

A few weeks ago there was a meeting on Grain to discuss the plan but no one from Lord Foster's office, nor Boris Johnson's office or even anyone from DRINK were invited. I was informed it was a one sided Propaganda style attack upon the plans and lots of back slapping with everyone agreeing that this airport was nothing but evil and should not happen.

I always thought politics was about open debate and viewing all of the facts as well as talking to people and giving them the facts before deciding and yet anyone who dares to put forward an alternate view (much the same with city status) they are wrong, Medway knockers or out to line their own pocket.

So I thought I'd play devils advocate, push my head out into no-mans-land and advance a pro argument for Lord Foster's designs with the cons and see what people thought.

Before I start I'm going to be quite specific;

This is not necessarily my PERSONAL opinion on the matter and NOT that of the Libdem group. I'm just playing Devil's advocate and providing Pros and Cons for people to reach their own conclusions.

The creation of a HUB airport just outside Medway offers fantastic opportunities and regeneration in the Medway area and if the right deal is struck then the Towns can benefit massively.

The HUB itself is going to take about ten-twenty years to complete and is going to require a lot of labour and construction. Medway has lots of unemployed as well as graduates from academies learning construction and indeed the proposed Technical college at Brompton. Local building companies who are struggling for work in these depressed times would, if given the right opportunities, flourish as contractors/subcontractors on such a massive project.

Should Medway Council come out in favour of the scheme they could get an agreement to improve our road connection and infrastructure replacing our potholed and much neglected roads. After all a good connection to a vast array of businesses and a pool of workers will be vital for the HUBs creation and maintenance. Also the Medway towns would become vital as an overflow or cheaper alternative for hotels and we're only twenty minutes away.

Transport connections to the rest of the Country (and the World!) would once again put the Medway towns on the map. Replacing the economic void that was left for the closing of the Dockyards some thirty years ago and could bring serious cash and restructuring to our tired and weary towns. Such wealth and status could even bring Councillor Jarrett his beloved City status too.

There are other considerations too including Tidal energy generators that would go across the estuary and a new flood defence that will aid the ageing Thames barrier and help control the tidal nature of the estuary from London all the way down to the Medway towns. If handled correctly this water could even be desalinated (so I've been told by an architect friend!!!) providing the nation with a greater reservoir of fresh water meaning that droughts and hose pipe bans in the County would be a thing of the past.

The HUB would also be beneficial to the whole country providing commerce and the stopping over point for Europe. We're an hour by train from Paris, two hours to Brussels, Amsterdam, maybe three hours by train to Berlin.

There are of course the cons and these are serious cons that stop any local support in its tracks.

There is the destruction of the Hoo peninsula. Not just the environmental damage to the famous and beautiful marsh land - a vital habitat for many protected birds and the muse for Dickens, but also the villages of Stoke and Grain, their communities will be scattered and moved on in the name of progress. Should a desalinisation process occur it would ruin salt marshes and the local ecosystems which have evolved over time around the salt water. The Estuary wildlife would be forced to move on or die out causing irreparable damage.

The Medway towns would likewise change and grow, eliminating green space and rural areas beyond Hempsted and Walderslade as new housing is created. Roads will become choked with more traffic if the infrastructure is not handled correctly - and looking at the Bus station lets be honest it probably won't be- with more air pollution. There's also the pollution from the Aircraft themselves.

Ultimately is this a price the people are willing to pay?

In a Springer style "Jerry's final thought" I'm going to forward this notion for debate.

Local Politicians and politicos are fighting back the "No" campaign pretty strongly and whether they think this is the right thing is ultimately immaterial. What is more important is what the people of Medway think.
They've been told why the airport is a bad thing, the story is saturated in the local news and they have the council and all the political parties saying "No" but where is the other side of the coin?
Honesty and debate of ideas is what politics is about and it is something I truly believe should be at the heart of everything we do but I'm starting to really believe that I'm quite Niaive about that and that Spin and party bluster is the order of the day.

If the No campaign is the right course of action then it will get the backing of the people. Lets be fair to them and let the Yes Campaign also get a say and let those who believe it is a good idea champion it without fear of persecution.

Thanks for reading... Take care of yourselves, and each other ;-)


  1. Very well written.........although I know not necessarily your views or that of lib deb, it still is nice to read that someone from a political backround has actually considered (looked into for the sake of this argument) the pros and the cons. I live in Grain, was not invited to any meeting regarding discussions of 'say no' to an airport...and I dont think they are 'discussions' or 'debates' or 'lets discuss all points of view', they are simply 'WE DONT WANT IT'. To me, looking at this from a logical point of view is win win whether you are for or against. If you havent looked at all points thoroughly, looked at benefits it may bring to the country as well as the negatives (from an open minded point of view) how can those against the airport/hub be truly ready and prepared to fight against it? Give people the FACTS...this is what central government will be looking at to make an informed choice....if the FACTS look like this could be the best thing for the UK, and the aviataion industry decide they want it etc etc (all out of local cllrs control) I think it will go ahead. Will I be standing to fight it? Can t say yes yet, or will the majority of people I know will stand to fight it? Not sure? Why? There is the question of - 'whats the alternative'. For us in industry that is slowly taking over village and the threat of toxic waste tip. Not nice. For most of we drive though the towns, boarded up shop windows, see families upon families out of work and struggling to find any sort of employment......again - they will ask - 'whats the alternative'. Dont get me wrong - if it becomes apparant (from actually fact finding, not propagander) that the hub WONT benefit the UK, that it will be bad for us...I wont be for it.....but then, wont central government also say no - if this is the case? Its an interesting topic, yet it affects so many of us in different ways. For those who are settled, retired, lived all their life in the villages, why would they want change? For those with a good, secure job in the area. Why would they want change. Very interesting debates would be had by all. :-)

  2. Ordinarily I'd almost certainly go along with the idea of a fresh debate on the topic; but on this occasion I really cannot see much point.

    We know (mainly from the 2002 attempt to do the same thing, with only some details changed this time) that it cannot be made to work here anyway, and we already went through the pro's and con's, the impacts and the (im)practicalities.

    The world hasn't suddenly changed shape, or the laws of physics and biology taken a sudden sideways turn. It is still too dangerous, too expensive and too long-term to build a 'hub' airport here, and that's the end to it.

    Perhaps it might still have been worth a debate and an update for those who have come into the decision-making age range since 2002, when the idea was first proposed a couple or so years ago. We'd need a solidly-argued alternative case (if that is what some want, such as DRINK) already debated and finalised before the now-imminent review of aviation needs/provision opens.

    It's too late to be taken notice of by national officialdom now, and any such attempt from here would come across as very slaspdash and unprofessional, perhaps even last-minute, hurried and hardly worthy of serious considerations.

    That's how the system works; and all professional people who have dealings with national government (or similar) should have realised that and acted accordingly and appropriately.

    Anyway, the bottom line is that it really can't happen, regardless, and is in the review mainly to put a lid on it once and for all, I'm certain, as I have explained on my own 'blog in recent weeks.

  3. I want it all and I want it now