A LEADING Liberal Democrat has broken ranks with the party and given “100 per cent backing” to the planned expansion of Southend Airport.

Former Southend mayor Nora Goodman said: “I have come to the conclusion that I have to speak out to give my backing to the expansion of Southend Airport.

“I know the national Liberal Democrats are against any more airport capacity and this is the line which is being pursued in Southend. I think this is entirely wrong and the vast majority of people in the town are in favour of the sensible extension of the airport.”

Mrs Goodman, who was the mayor of Southend in the late Nineties and represented East-wood ward on the council, said many people would welcome the resumption of commercial flights to the continent for holidays and business trips.

She said: “While the opposition to the aiport is very vocal, there is a large silent majority around the town who are in favour of it and I think we should be taking note of that.”

She also criticised Peter Welch, the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Southend West, who has said he is strongly opposed to any expansion of the airport.

“I think he has just talked to one or two people who are against the airport and made up his mind from that.

“I do not think that he has really taken everything into consideration before making up his mind.”

Mr Welch said: “I am aware of Nora’s views and she is entitled to disagree with me. I have formed my own views on the airport after hearing both sides of the case and speaking to thousands of local residents.”

He added there were three issues which caused him concern, one of which was the limited number of jobs and the extra road congestion which was likely to be caused by the planned expansion.

Other worries were the disturbance to homes and schools which were under the flightpath, which would make Southend a worse place in which to live and bring up children.

Mr Welch added he also had concerns about safety.