CONTROVERSIAL plans to extend the runway at Southend Airport are to be opposed by Lib Dem councillors, group leader Graham Longley has announced.

Mr Longley said the 11-strong Lib Dem group had considered its position in the light of the party’s national policy to oppose any new runways in the south east.

He was also critical of the joint area action plan consultation process, launched by the airport with Southend and Rochford councils, to test public reaction to the expansion plans.

Mr Longley added: “To date, the airport has failed to answer the questions which could, subject to serious conditions and restrictions, allow us to consider improved runway access to benefit residents, and night flying.

“The recent consultations have been a farce – non delivery of consultations documents, inaccessible and difficult online consultations and finally an extension of time to cover all the blunders.”

Mr Longley said there were too many unanswered questions on the issue, including the possible night flying problems, the number of extra vehicles on the roads in the area, the number of flights and their timing and the effect on traffic management. He said: “The Liberal Democrat group is calling for the airport to withdraw from the consultation process, until it is in a position to produce a full proposition which can be discussed and looked at without rancour or emotional and unfounded accusations being made.”

Nigel Holdcroft, Tory leader of Southend Council, said: “I think this is a premature move by the Liberal Democrats.

“We are closely scrutinising the results of the public consultation before making any further comment on the situation.”

However, Mr Longley said: “While all these questions remain unanswered, the Liberal Democrat group will not support any joint area action plan proposals in the near future.

“Any planning application will be considered on its merits following a fresh look at the details of the application.”