The publication and announcement by the Local Enterprize Partnership that they would not be backing the Estuary Airport proposal in the 'short' and 'medium term' was very welcome indeed.
“It confirms the need for new capacity in the long term but the immediate need is for better utilisation of the capacity we have. We do not believe that a hub airport in the Thames Estuary is a viable short or medium term solution."
The LEP report which seemed to contain some very similar, almost word-for-word, statements from other reports on the airport was a useful addition to the debate and certainly sets the tone for our regional response to the airport should it be proposed.
The publication of the report also coincides with the Evening Standard Estuary Airport debate which was a useful exercise, if only to promote the apparent contribution of the audience over 5 pages in yesterdays paper, and also after the Justine Greening interview on looking at future potential for aviation over the 10,20 or 30 years on Monday.
There is a real London media-driven agenda on the Estuary Airport which seems unstoppable.
It is clear that the Murdoch media and the Evening Standard editorial team have a pro-Estuary airport agenda. The articles from Simon Jenkins - a contributor to Times - clearly set the tone of debate in the Comment columns which is that Heathrow is a beast, noisy, dirty and indeed unwanted despite all the jobs. Simon seems to ignore the fact that the Estuary is also inhabited and that situating this on the Hoo Peninsula will subject 280,000 people to the same issues he waxes lyrical about causing distress in leafy Western London.
The pro-Estuary airport lobby have tried to change the debate in the last week - and by reading of the LEP report - there looks to be an opportunity to exploit unless our MPs and Medway Councillor's take note.
That opportunity is for both Heathrow and the Estuary Airport - a position alluded to by Boris Johnson prior to the London elections - would see an additional runway at Heathrow with a cast iron commitment of no more. The commitment would also agree to either a positive scoping of the Estuary Airport which would kick it into long grass (2015/2020) or indeed an endorsement that it is in the long term interests of the UK. The last option would seek a funding solution from private investors; primarily Chinese or Middle Eastern this blog suspects.
The LEP report sadly has a crack exactly where we don’t want one; and that is they have only ruled out the airport over the short to medium term. A point I challenged them on to no avail.
Could the Tories be trying to sneak in the airport via the back door? The LEP report findings coupled with the mutterings from Justine and Boris lend me no confidence that the Estuary Airport is now off the agenda. Indeed this week it could be argued the opportunity is there for those against our interests to exploit.
Our Medway MPs need to get a grip and start being open and transparent on this.