Twenty years ago the county was facing perhaps the greatest threat to its reputation as a green and pleasant land.
In a bid to ensure the UK was able to cope with an expected on-going boom in air travel, Tony Blair's Labour government put forward hugely ambitious proposals to build a sprawling international airport at Cliffe, on the Hoo Peninsula.
It would spark a battle which united local groups of all political persuasions in a David versus Goliath battle with Whitehall.
"We were just dumbfounded when we heard," remembers George Crozer who, at the time, was chairman of neighbouring High Halstow Parish Council.
"We just couldn't believe that was what was going to happen."
Estimated to cost some £9billion, Cliffe was selected from 400 sites considered by a government-commissioned inspection team.
Placed on a shortlist of three schemes - which included plans to upgrade Heathrow or Stansted (Gatwick was belatedly added after Medway Council and Kent County Council took its omission to the High Court and won) - they were officially unveiled in what was known as the South East and East of England Regional Air Service consultation of 2002.
The Cliffe plans were certainly the most ambitious.
Proposals suggested it could accommodate four runways and the potential for a fifth. By way of comparison, Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport, has just two.
To the untrained eye, it made plenty of sense. The area was sparsely populated, it was close to London, and flights would be able to take off and approach over water, reducing the impact of flight paths for those living nearby. It offered the potential of 24-hour flights too.
But it would come at an enormous cost - and not just financially.
To create the huge multi-billion pound airport would require building over two wildlife-rich nature reserves. The proposed area also formed the coastal wetland which was an important stopping off route for hundreds of thousands of migrating birds heading down from their Arctic breeding grounds to go further south.
There they would feed on the nutrient-rich mud flats and salt-marshes. Such was its importance, it had been declared a Ramsar site - a wetland of international importance, named after the city in Iran in which the Convention on Wetlands was held.
They may not have been as 'sexy' as a state-of-the-art airport allowing us to spread our wings around the world, but they were no less important.
In addition, the infrastructure required to service the building and operating of the airport would be colossal, paving over huge swathes of north west Kent and requiring an enormous influx of people, traffic and homes to cater for both passengers using it and the thousands of workers needed to operate it.
"The actual proposal was quite horrendous," recalls Rodney Chambers - then leader of Medway Council. "This wasn't just about building an airport. We were asking who was going to use it and how many staff were they going to have. When we actually got those details it was even more concerning.
"It became clear we would need to build 50,000 new homes to accommodate the workers.
"In the end we came to the conclusion that the whole peninsula would be concreted from one end to the other."
It didn't take long for interested parties opposed to the plans to unite - spearheaded by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
George Crozer at High Halstow Parish Council and whose home borders the Northward Hill nature reserve which was ear-marked for the airport, remembers:"The RSPB were looking for people around whom they could build a campaign and they approached me.
"There were subsequent meetings and we started working together. That's how the campaign got under way.
"But a few weeks later there was also Gill Moore and Joan Darwell joining our ranks.
"Gill became the lasting stalwart of that campaign and went on to really cement it in history."
Gill Moore remained committed to protecting the area for the rest of her life - up to her death in 2017.
With the RSPB having strong links inside Whitehall, it quickly became apparent the ambitious airport scheme was no outsider and was gathering considerable support.
Adds Rodney Chambers, who continues to serve on the unitary authority: "It was a very real threat. They were quite specific in the consultation what they wanted to see - they wanted a hub airport, twice the size of Heathrow as the government was expecting passenger numbers to grow at the rate at which it had previously done and therefore they were looking ahead."
"One of the first things we did," explains Mr Crozer, "was charter a small light aircraft and we flew over the peninsula and you get that view of London like the opening credits of EastEnders. From the air, it looks like the ideal place - you fly in off the sea and are close to London.
"When people walk along the sea wall and see those mud flats they just see it as waste ground but it's the most organically rich piece of ground - richer in nutrients for wildlife than any agricultural land.
"There are five global migration routes from the Arctic and one is down the North Sea and it's been there for millions of years. To destroy something on the path of that? That's got to be something we need to save."
Proposals to build an airport in the Thames Estuary were certainly not new - they had been touted at various times in the post-war period; primarily by MPs and influencers in London - keen to endear themselves to those to the west of the capital who sat under the flight path of the constant drone of aircraft heading to and from Heathrow.
"People used to say it was just a red herring," says George Crozer, "but the RSPB had real connections in government and it was definitely a real threat."
The campaigners against the scheme were not short of support. Both Medway Council and Kent County Council stood united in opposition as did the area's MPs.
"We looked at the consultation," remembers Cllr Chambers, "and there was mounting public anger. There was a very powerful community group centred around High Halstow, because that was nearly going to disappear.
"It just exploded into one huge opposition.
"I can remember going out to address about 2,000 residents on a lovely summer's evening out on the peninsula at Allhallows School on their playing field and I said: 'We will fight this with every bone of our body and we'll fight it tooth and nail' and people took exception to the language I was using. But I was so angry."
A road-show highlighting the dangers toured the South East - from Norfolk to the north down to Southampton.
During its journey some 150,000 signatures were collected against the proposals.
"When we attended the Dickens Festival in Rochester," Mr Crozer remembers, "we had a queue of people waiting to add their names."
The petition was handed to Parliament as part of the well-orchestrated, and noisy, campaign.
Adds Cllr Chambers: "We gave this such high profile at all levels of government. We were all in this together pushing against every door we could.
"They'd not done their homework so we did it for them. We wrote to all the international airlines and asked if they'd use the airport - and I think two said they might but they'd have to consider it at the time, but the big boys like British Airways said they'd never use it.
"We had marches through the towns with all these community groups - they went from the Great Lines through the middle of Chatham and I remember them walking up to me and it almost brought tears to my eyes to think how the community could get together just to show its disapproval."
He admits he'd only seen such cross-party support when the government announced it was to close Chatham Dockyard in 1984.
And by the end of 2003 its hard work paid off.
In December, the long awaited white paper The Future of Air Transport was published by then Secretary of State for Transport Alistair Darling.
Council chiefs and campaigners had gathered at the visitor centre at Northward Hill to watch the politician make his announcement.
The white paper said: "Our analysis shows that in the right conditions, an airport at Cliffe could attract a substantial number of passengers and generate large economic benefits. However, it also showed that, because of high capital costs, the net benefits of Cliffe were lower than for any of the combinations of additional capacity at existing airports involving more than one new runway.
"The high up-front construction costs also presented a risk that the financial viability of the project would be threatened if demand proved to be less strong than forecast, or if airlines and passengers simply did not use the airport.
"Taking all factors into consideration, the government does not support the option of a new airport at Cliffe."
Champagne corks popped on Hoo. "It was a huge relief," said George Crozer, "but we expected it to come back."
And, sure enough, it did.
Cllr Chambers adds: "We hadn't accounted for the Mayor of London.
"When he came out with his proposals, I said 'right dust everything down, here we go again'."
Uxbridge MP and Mayor of London in 2008, Boris Johnson, keen to curry favour with those blighted by Heathrow started to publicly declare an airport in the Thames Estuary was the only real option to airport expansion in the South East and the way to ensure the UK didn't lose its importance on the world air travel map.
It didn't take long for his campaign to gather pace - and a nickname. 'Boris Island' became the popular reference point of the proposals - of which there were a variety of options.
Key was that a multi-runway complex in the estuary would mean Heathrow could close. Boris, no stranger to being able to generate headlines, initiated feasibility studies and a number of schemes - each with futuristic computer generated images of how they could look - captured the imagination.
Although not in Kent. Once again, MPs, county, unitary and local councils united in opposition.
For the Friends of North Kent Marshes - formerly the No Airport at Cliffe Campaign group - they were not only ready, but had already prepared for such an eventuality.
"The RSPB were aware of it," recalls George Crozer, "and they notified the three of us and we dug out the old banners."
There were a variety of suggestions which lived under the Boris Island umbrella concept - all would have changed the face of the county - and the peace of our skies for many if it had been given the official seal of approval.
"At least with Cliffe," Rodney Chambers, who was still the Tory leader of Medway Council when Boris championed the idea, says "we were able to meet with the government from time to time to show our disquiet. Boris would never meet with me.
"I made a number of requests for him and I to meet and he wouldn't. I led a deputation up to the City Hall in London - Gill and Joan had their placards - and we wanted to see Boris. They knew we were coming, but he sent Kit Malthouse. I gave him a really hard time.
"The thing Boris would never accept was that he was the Mayor of London - not the Mayor of Medway. He had no jurisdiction here but he never seemed to accept that. I think he thought the government was going to run with his idea and impose it upon us.
"So you can rest assured I'm delighted at what's happened at Westminster recently."
The threat hung over the estuary until 2014 when the Airports Commission - an independent commission set up to look at airport capacity - finally dismissed the idea on grounds of cost and environment damage.
Its chairman, Sir Howard Davies reporting: "The economic disruption would be huge and there are environmental hurdles which it may prove impossible, or very time‑consuming to surmount.
"Even the least ambitious version of the scheme would cost £70bn to £90bn, with much greater public expenditure involved than in other options – probably some £30bn to £60bn in total."
Instead, it ultimately recommended an additional runway at Heathrow Airport - the very scheme Boris Johnson had set out to thwart.
Johnson, in typical style, responded to the end of the estuary airport dream by saying: "In one myopic stroke the Airports Commission has set the debate back by half a century and consigned their work to the long list of vertically filed reports on aviation expansion that are gathering dust on a shelf in Whitehall.
"Howard Davies must explain to the people of London how he can possibly envisage that an expansion of Heathrow, which would create unbelievable levels of noise, blight and pollution, is a better idea than a new airport to the east of London that he himself admits is visionary."
Ultimately, of course, the passing of time has ushered in heightened concerns about the polluting aspect of air travel - not to mention the pandemic shattering the business model of many flight operators.
It's hard to imagine the government now backing any such project. When Boris Johnson finally achieved his short-lived dream of being Prime Minister, he vowed he would not seek to resurrect the plans.
Which begs the question - has the threat of an estuary airport gone for good?
"Times have changed. We've had Covid, Airports are no longer doing the business," says Rodney Chambers.
"I can't see it rearing its head again - and why should it? Because, economically, it doesn't make sense. Who puts an airport to serve a metropolis right out on the edge of the Thames Estuary?"
"It's gone for the medium term," believes campaigner George Crozer. "I don't see it raising its head in the next 10 to 20 years - but beyond that people forget and then you have to go through the whole argument again. I speak to young people today and they don't know anything about it.
"When people like me are not around any more, someone else has got to learn about it."
Let this be a history lesson for us all.