THE man in charge of Southend Airport has dismissed claims its expansion will lead to more cargo plane flights.

Airport managing director Alastair Welch waved away concerns raised by logistics expert Giles Markwell.

Mr Markwell, from Chalkwell, said the Stobart Group, which bought the airport for £21million late last year, would use it to improve its air freight facilities.

Mr Markwell, who said he had been in logistics and shipping for 40 years, said: “Almost certainly the airport acquisition is to enable Stobart to add a locally-based air freight facility to the provision of railfreight, warehousing and road distribution it intends to provide for importers using the London Gateway port at Coryton.”

He said air freight was mainly handled at night when road transfers would not clash with rush-hour traffic.

He added “All-night air freight flights using ageing aircraft retired from passeneger service would not play well with the Southend area public.”

In December the Stobart Group, which run Eddie Stobart lorries, said it would look at attracting other airlines to provide passenger flights.

But chief executive, Andrew Tinkler, said it would also consider extending the runway which could lead to more cargo flights.

However, Mr Welch said despite Southend playing a niche role in specialist cargos, it would not become the main activity at the airport.

He said: “We anticipate this will continue to play a small, but important part of the airport’s activities.

“The vast majority of air freight is imported in wide-bodied big load aircraft which Southend has never been able to handle.

“This situation would not change in any way even if the runway were extended and we do not anticipate it doing so at any time.”