Politics [1] | Howards Way [2]

Politics: Howard reaches agreement with Lydd airport over compensation to householders

Contributed by editor on Mar 11, 2010 - 08:35 AM

Howards Way [3]

Howard's Way.... a weekly column from the Rt. Hon. Michael Howard QC. MP.

11 March 2010

Last week’s marathon meeting of Shepway District Council was a triumph for local democracy.

Under the good-humoured chairmanship of Councillor Susan Carey, who presided over proceedings with a fair but firm touch, councillors spent nearly seven hours in a serious, thorough and utterly conscientious examination of the issues. Searching questions were asked and answered. And those members of the public who addressed the council did so with moderation and restraint.

The vote, when it came, reflected the seriousness which councillors brought to the occasion.

Votes were not cast in strict party lines. The Leader of the Council and the Chairman of the Conservative Association voted on different sides. So did councillors who were father and son. But the result was a convincing majority in favour of granting planning permission for the extension of the runway and the construction of a new terminal at Lydd Airport.

Naturally, not everyone was pleased by this outcome. This has been a very controversial campaign, arousing strong feelings on both sides. And there are, in truth powerful arguments on both sides.

The first issues that councillors had to decide was whether they were satisfied beyond reasonable doubt, that no damage would be done to the various specially designated areas in the vicinity of the airport. They were presented with conflicting sets of expert evidence and had to make up their minds which to accept.

Only after deciding those questions in the affirmative, which they did, were they able to move on to consider whether they approved the two planning applications, balancing factors such as extra noise against the economic advantages of the proposals.

Shortly before the meeting I was able to reach an agreement with the operators of the airport to compensate householders who may suffer increased noise levels. This does not mean that I expect this to cause a serious nuisance. It does mean that those who are understandably concerned that extra noise might affect the value of their property have a degree of reassurance that this Five Communities Scheme, as it is to be called, will give them a degree of protection.

Taken as a package it is a more effective scheme than those put in place at other UK airports and although it is far from perfect I was glad to be able to negotiate it.

I agree with the decision of the council. I believe the limited expansion of the airport will be a key element in the regeneration of Romney Marsh and the wider Shepway community. I hope that over time the benefits will become so clear that even the doubters will be won over. 

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