For those who are persuaded that Eddie Stobart has purchased Southend Airport for a passenger-driven revival of this facility, the statement made by the company’s chief executive Andrew Tinkler, speaking in October, 2008, is, to say the least, alarmingly revealing.

He said the firm is evaluating the possibility of replicating its Widnes 3MG (Mersey Multi-Modal Gateway) distribution complex at the new London Gateway container port at Shellhaven.

Once finished, the site will be one of the UK’s largest container ports, with Europe’s largest distribution park alongside.

Tinkler says Stobart is “keen to get involved” with the project. He adds: “It’s a great opportunity and it will take a lot of waste out (of the supply chain) and we want to be part of that.”

Stobart would look to take a sizeable part of the 10 million square feet of warehousing being developed at Shellhaven and would also look to open its own depot in the South- East.

He describes the 3MG site – a road, rail and container interchange, plus a massive warehousing development – as a “good starting place” and “a blueprint”

for what the firm wants to achieve.

Therefore the evidential link connecting the purchase of Southend Airport to almost certainly being a Stobart airfreight hub to serve the new London Gateway Port is practically undeniable.

This is further underlined by the absence of evidence in the media that Stobart is taking steps to re-invent itself as a passenger airport operator.

It is terrifying to wonder what private assurances Southend and Rochford Councils have given Stobart, especially on airfreight operations, for them to part with £16m-£20m before the conclusions of a supposedly uncertain public consultation process has been concluded.

G D Markwell