THE major expansion of Southend Airport, including a runway extension, will allow more controls over night flights and stop the prospect of uncontrolled use of the facility, according to Rochford District Council.

A joint statement by council leader Terry Cutmore and councillor responsible for planning, Keith Hudson, has also attacked Southend councillors who are worried about public reaction to the plan, which could damage their electoral chances.

The statement said: “The airport operators are encumbered by very few controls and limitations at present, including their ability to operate 30 flights every night, all year long, for whatever purpose they deem for their business.

“The new owners confirm they are in favour of building and operating a proper passenger airport, with up to two million passengers a year, similar to Southampton.

“To enable this, and to attract appropriate airlines, they need to extend the runway to accommodate more modern, efficient, and quieter aircraft.”

The statement said this could only be done through a planning application for a runway extension, when new controls and conditions on night flights could be imposed.

“It is better to gain significant control now by this method so as to replace the insidious circumstance of no control at all,” the statement added.

The two councillors went on to warn that the airport’s new owners, the Stobart Group, would expect an appropriate return for its shareholders.

This would either be done through the proposed extension of the airport as a passenger operation with new jobs, or expanding the existing facilities.

In a swipe at worried Southend councillors, the statement said: “Any politician of whatever hue, who chooses his or her electorate to an uncontrolled and unguided major expansion of a commercial facility such as Southend Airport, in favour of their own political survival, deserves political oblivion.

“There will be an expansion of airport operations, one way or another. It is better there should be appropriate and stringent controls in operation before it happens.”