RESIDENTS and campaigners have claimed the consultation for Southend Airport’s expansion plans are unfair and secretive.

An action plan for the airport looks at four options of growth, varying from doing nothing to either extending the business park or the airport runway.

Consultation started on June 24, but environmental group Friends of the Earth and people living in Southend and Rochford are worried not everyone is aware of the chance to have a say on the future of the area due to a lack of information.

Denis Walker, co-ordinator of South East Essex Friends of the Earth, which is against the proposals, is concerned people may miss the deadline for their say, which is two weeks away.

He said: “It’s not a particularly good sign of how they plan to carry the consultation out, and I’m concerned it won’t be fair. People don’t know about it and it’s unreasonable to think people can go online or even download the document which is about 100 pages long. We need more time.”

Residents have also contacted the Echo worried about the plans going ahead without local people having their say. Audrey Freeman, from Hockley, spotted a leaflet about the consultation among information on the new recycling bins for Rochford. However her neighbours missed it and her friends in Southend were not aware of it.

She said: “I’m not in favour of the expansion and I know others aren’t, but I’m worried people will miss it and our views will not be put across. I had to phone up and have the document sent to me because I don’t have the internet and time is running out.”

Southend Council leader Nigel Holdcroft defended the consultation and said there will also be further opportunities for residents to have their say.

He said: “The airport expansion plans have been pretty high profile for quite some time. It is an issue that is going to run and is not as though people who haven’t expressed a view won’t get a chance.

“The potential expansion of the airport is a very big issue for the town and there are very strong reasons in favour and against it. It is a balancing act and no one is going to try to rush through anything without a full and proper consultation.”

For a copy of the consultation write to Debee Skinner, Southend Council, PO Box 5557, Civic Centre, Victoria Avenue, Southend SS2 6ZF or call 01702 215408. The deadline is Friday, August 8, at 5pm.