A VICAR has spoken of his concern over proposals to demolish part of the churchyard wall to make way for the airport expansion plans.

The Rev Nigel Ransom of St Laurence and All Saints’ Church, in Eastwoodbury Lane, has spoken out after the runaway extension plans took another step forward.

Airport bosses have put forward a pre-planning application asking for Southend Council’s views on its plans before a formal application is submitted.

As part of the plans Eastwoodbury Lane would be diverted and part of the churchyard wall at St Laurence Church as well as six cottages would be demolished.

Mr Ransom said he wanted to protect the whole of the churchyard and said he had not received clear information from either the airport or the council over what was happening.

He added: “It would be of great concern to us if any part of the church’s property were to be compromised because of the expansion plans at the airport.”

When proposals to extend the runway were put forward originally in 2002, it was planned to move the whole of the 1,000-year- old church on rollers, using a technique which has been successfully carried out with historic buildings in other parts of the country.

This plan met with massive opposition from the church and local community and was dropped following negotiations with the Civil Aviation Authority.

As a result Southend Council used money from an Airport Reserve Fund, which came from selling off council-owned land, to install a new landing system and improved barriers across Eastwoodbury Lane.

This meant the church would not have to be moved as part of the expansion plans.

Jan Chambers, 53, has rented one of the cottages off Eastwoodbury Lane which has been earmarked for demolition for 11 years.

She said: “This is a very nice place to live.

“It is very good for walking my dogs and has fields nearby.

“If they decide to go ahead and knock the houses down I will have to find somewhere else to live. It would be difficult finding somewhere like this which lets me have my dogs.

“I would be very disappointed if they decide to go ahead and demolish the houses.

“The planes aren’t that much of a problem, most of the time you don’t hear them.”

Airport managing director Alastair Welch said: “Many detailed questions have been asked about the airport and the impact it may have in the future, especially if the runway were to be extended.

“To ensure we can give people the answers to questions they are understandably asking, we have brought forward work planned for an environmental impact assessment.

“We are keen to ensure it will provide answers to those areas around which some people have raised concerns.

“We anticipate completing this piece of work in September.”

No decision on expansion

NO decisions will be made about the airport expansion, until the results of the joint area action plan are known, council leader Nigel Holdcroft has said. The pre-application submission would give a clear indication about whether the proposals would be win favour with the development control committee or not. Mr Holdcroft said: “You could suggest the airport is anxious to keep the pressure on the council to make some decision on its proposals. However, we have not yet fully analysed the results of the Joint Area Action Plan consultation which has put forward options for the airport’s future. “It is an extremely complex issue and we cannot take a decision quickly without looking closely at all the issues involved.” Graham Longley, leader of the Lib Dem group on the council, said: “Our policy is quite clear. We will continue to oppose the airport’s expansion proposals unless we get answers to the questions we have asked and the concerns we have raised.”