THE future leader of Southend’s Tories has attacked Boris Johnson’s plan for an airport bigger than Heathrow in the Thames Estuary.
John Lamb, who will lead Southend Council’s Conservatives when council leader Nigel Holdcroft retires in May, has warned a four-runway replacement for Heathrow Airport on the Isle of Grain, Kent, would close Southend Airport and decimate the town’s economy.
The outspoken deputy leader warned his fellow Tory London Mayor: “Here we are talking about a large change to the estuary, which would alter tidal flows and impact on fish, birds and animals.
“Tell Boris Johnson: ‘Keep your airport in the west and put another runway there if you need it’.”
The council’s Conservative leadership pledged to continue fighting plans for the new airport, drawn up by Wembley Stadium designer Lord Norman Foster and backed by the London mayor, which are being considered by a Government commission on increasing airport capacity in the South East.
Mr Lamb, who has special responsibilities for regeneration and coastal matters, warned the scheme would do “tremendous” damage to Southend, without any benefit.
He said: “While people think it has all gone quiet on the Thames Estuary Airport, it has not and there are many people in the west of London, including the mayor, who if they had their way would damage the whole of Essex and Kent with what theywant to build in the Thames.
“It’s not Heathrow – it would be much larger than Heathrow. If Heathrow can’t cope now, they need a bigger area.
“It would not only damage Southend Airport and business, the damage to tourism would be tremendous.”
Planning officers have warned the Airports Commission, which is considering whether to add an estuary airport to a short list of proposals to meet future demand for flights, has ignored the effect of the closure of Southend Airport on the town.
Paul Mathieson, the council’s group manager for strategic transport and planning policy, said: “The effect of the closure of London Southend Airporthas been more or less ignored in terms of social and economic impact.
“The relationship between planned growth in employment in Southend in proximity to the airport and closure must be examined.”
Evidence for and against the estuary airport must be submitted to the commission by May 23. The commission is expected to publish a report on the estuary airport plan in July and decide whether to include it on the final shortlist by September.
Its final report detailing recommendations to Government is expected in the summer of 2015.