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Medway Mayor Josie Iles leaves hostile Rochester Airport debate TWICE but £4.4m plan nearer reality

26 January 2014
by Rebecca Hughes

A controversial plan to redevelop Rochester Airport at a cost of £4.4 million to the taxpayer has moved a step closer to reality.

A full council meeting agreed to approve the project, which is expected to create up to 1,000 jobs, despite hundreds of objections.

More than 700 residents – nearly 80% of those who responded to a consultation – contacted the council to say they were against the idea, citing concerns about noise, safety and the effect on house prices.

An aerial shot of Rochester Airport

An aerial shot of Rochester Airport

A number of those residents turned up to the crammed council meeting to ask questions about the proposals, but some missed their chance after the dedicated time slot ended.

In response, angry members in the public gallery started a slow clapping protest and drowned out the sound of councillors speaking.

After refusing to stop, Mayor of Medway Cllr Josie Iles, pictured, left the meeting. She later returned and recommenced the meeting, before shortly halting it again for the same reason.

Cllr Josie Iles

Those in the public gallery were asked to leave, but many refused.

Cllr Vince Maple, leader of the Medway Labour group, called for the council to make time for their questions. He said: “We are here to listen to residents and build a better Medway. You are stopping democracy by not allowing nine further questions to be asked. That is a disgrace.”

He proposed to adjourn the discussion to allow a special council meeting to be held where the public can discuss their concerns.

But Cllr Jane Chitty, the portfolio holder for strategic development and economic growth, said their concerns – including noise and safety - would be properly looked into during the planning process.

She said: “Once this masterplan has been adopted, it then falls within the rigors of planning issues which have to be scrutinised.”

Work cannot begin until planning permission is granted. Under the proposals a concrete runway will be created, improving facilities and freeing up land to be sold or leased to businesses at the Maidstone Road site in Chatham.

It is claimed a concrete runway is safer and quieter than a grass one because planes need less runway space to take off and land.

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