Airport: Exclusive interview with the man behind the new Cliffe Airport, John Olsen
John Olsen gives evidence
to the Transport Select Committee
EXCLUSIVE by Alan McGuinness
Ten years ago, champagne corks popped as campaigners cheered the
demise of Cliffe Airport.
Now the plan for Europe's biggest airport is back - and we have
spoken in-depth to the man behind it.
Ambitious John Olsen claims he can cure many of the ills he has
diagnosed as afflicting the area – low educational standards, high
unemployment and people emigrating.
"Do you want malnourished and ill-educated children growing up?” – John Olsen
The head of the
Independent Aviation Advisory Group is a former executive at the
airline Cathay Pacific.
He lived in Hong Kong for 28 years and said he wants to take the
"experience" of the airport there and bring it to Kent.
He said Cliffe village would not disappear under his proposal
and no one would lose their home.
He would build a range of facilities around the airport for the
local community, including swimming pools, running tracks and a
velodrome. The airport would be built on 4,500 acres, take just
under a decade to build and cost £12bn. It would be powered by
geothermal, solar and tide energy.
Up to 35,000 jobs would be created. Transport links would be
extended and Gravesend would become a "rail and road hub" for the
Hong Kong, known as Chek Lap Kok, was rated as the third best
airport in the world last year. He insisted his group simply wants
what is best for the area and the country’s aviation industry.
Darwell, Gill Moore and George Crozer
Mr Olsen said: "I’m a huge supporter of the environment. I don’t
want people to think we’re just here to trample on them."
Critics argue the public would end up footing a large proportion
of the bill for the project. A report published last month said a
Thames Estuary airport would not be commercially viable, and
estimated a public subsidy of £10 to £30bn would be needed to get
it off the ground.
Supporters – Mr Olsen included – claim private investors will be
more than happy to stump up the cash. Mr Olsen told a House of
Commons Transport Select Committee he had already had discussions
with one investor about the Cliffe proposal.
He said: "It’s
amazing what can be done to enhance a community at practically no
cost to that community. The great thing about an airport is that
people of all denominations and social status work together to get
the job done.
"Do you want malnourished and ill-educated children growing up?
Here is a project that will really help these people.
"The politicians have been watching 40 years of collapse in
Medway. Are they going to wake up and see something needs to be
The full interview with Mr Olsen is part of a 16-page special
report in tomorrow's Medway Messenger.
Our comprehensive guide includes what the public are itching to
know about jobs, house prices, the politics and how the system
There are also interviews with die-hard campaigners who have
fought the plans since day one (pictured above).
Only in the Medway Messenger - out
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