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Shadow minister Maria Eagle 'dubious' about airport plans

Shadow Transport Minister Maria Eagle on a visit to the Isle of Grain.
Shadow Transport Minister Maria Eagle on a visit to the Isle of Grain.

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle on a visit to the Isle of Grain

by Alan McGuinness

The shadow transport secretary said she is "very dubious" about the idea of building an airport in the Thames Estuary.

Speaking on a visit to Medway, Maria Eagle (Lab) claimed the idea was a "distraction" from addressing the need for something to do be done about aviation capacity in the short term.

She made the comments during a visit to the Isle of Grain, which would cease to exist under one plan put forward for an airport in north Kent.

The architect Lord Foster wants to build the world’s biggest airport there, while London Mayor Boris Johnson has put forward the idea of a floating airport on man-made islands in the estuary.

The government is expected to announce a consultation into aviation capacity in the south east this month after years of speculation. Although a firm date has yet to be announced, the KM Group has been told it could be Tuesday, March 13.

What do you think? Join the debate by adding your comments below
What do you think? Join the debate by adding your comments below

An airport in the Thames Estuary is said to be one of the options that will be considered.

Eagle said other options should be looked at.

She said: "I don’t think it’s what we should be considering in terms of the short-term problems we’ve got. We need to be maximising the capacity that’s already there."

She said the party had a number of concerns about the proposal, including the Liquefied Natural Gas plant at Grain and the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery, which sank in the estuary in 1944 and is full of explosives.

Eagle repeated her calls for a cross-party consensus on the issue, and said she was still waiting for a reply to a letter sent to Transport Secretary Justine Greening calling for talks.

She said: "We understand that aviation is a tremendously important part of economic growth and development, but what we’ve said to the government is that we need to have a cross-party consensus on how to deal with the issue of aviation capacity in the South East and anywhere else."

The Labour Party accepted the government’s decision not to build a third runway at Heathrow, she added.

She said: "We’ve accepted that because it’s the practical reality."

In a letter to a national newspaper this week, more than 70 top business leaders called on the government to reverse that decision, but did not rule out building an airport in the Thames Estuary.

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