MORE than 250 worried residents packed a public meeting organised by the campaign against plans to expand Southend Airport.

Interest in the meeting was so strong, about 50 people had to be turned away from Wednesday’s Stop Airport Extension Now campaign meeting, at Eastwood Community Centre.

The Stobart Group, which took over the the airport in December, wants to extend the runway across Eastwoodbury Lane to allow more flights and bigger planes to carry two million passengers a year.

The campaign group opposes this, because of the extra noise and pollution expansion would generate.

Group chairman Kiti Theobald said a lack of publicity about the current consultation about the runway extension meant many people didn’t know about the proposals.

With less than three weeks left for residents to make their feelings known, she urged them to write to councillors and MPs.

She told the meeting: “More than 60,000 people will be affected by jets going off from the airport. There is no such thing as a quiet aeroplane.

“We will have a 24/7 airport next to all these people. They say there will be a flight every 40 minutes, but when do people go on holiday? It is concentrated in the summer and during those months, it could mean a flight every ten minutes at peak times.”

She added: “We don’t mind the airport as it is. We have lived with it for 50 years but we don’t want change and we don’t want more night flights.”

The meeting was told expansion would also increase night freight flights and would not generate the 7,000 new jobs promised by the new leaseholder.

Denis Walker, from Friends of the Earth, said: “They say there will be these wonderful new jobs, but a lot of them won’t be new jobs.

“The plan talks about how much money this is going to bring to the area, but a study has shown the industry causes £18billion a year to leave our country when people fly abroad and spend their money overseas.”

Leigh Lib Dem Southend councillor Peter Wexham was the only elected member at the meeting.

He said: “Southend is a different place to how it was 40 years ago.

“If you were going to build an airport now, you wouldn’t build in the middle of a busy town.

“That is the best argument against it. There is plenty of room at Stansted and no need for an extension to Southend Airport.”

No one from the Airport attended the meeting but speaking yesterday, Daniel Hayman, spokesman for the Airport, said: "We have been listening intently to the comments made throughout the Joint Area Action Plan consultation process and will continue to do so.

"We strongly believe that improvements to the airport will catalyse a wide range of new job opportunities and allow quieter, more modern and fuel efficient aircraft to use the airport."

Mr Hayman added: "Many people across Southend have shown their support for the improvements to the airport which we believe will attract carriers serving a range of holiday and business destinations."

Objectors have until April 9 to make their views known to the council. The airport has a special information line to answer queries about the expansion – 0800 0938100.