by political editor Paul Francis
Veteran Conservative MP Sir John Stanley has taken Kent County Council to task over its backing for a second runway at Gatwick airport.
In a hard-hitting letter to leader Paul Carter, the Tonbridge and Malling Conservative MP accuses the council of reneging on the party's commitment to oppose any expansion at Gatwick.
He also warns it would have environmentally devastating consequences for west Kent - which is one of the main reasons KCC has set itself against plans for a Thames Estuary airport.
KCC outlined its support for an expansion at Gatwick in a document
published last month.
Bold Steps for Aviation detailed how KCC was opposed to the idea of a new hub airport and argued instead for a fast rail link between Heathrow and Gatwick.
It also said there should be a new runway at Gatwick once the block on
expansion there comes to an end.
Sir John accused KCC of acting in a high-handed and insensitive manner.
In a forthright letter to the county council's leader, he wrote: "It is a matter of deep disquiet and disappointment to me that Kent County Council under your leadership, in a high-handed and insensitive manner and without any key consultation with local communities and their MPs, should have discarded a key Conservative commitment to the people of west Kent."
His letter said the timing of KCC's announcement was "frankly extraordinary".
"KCC in my view should have awaited the publication of the government's
forthcoming consultation document on a sustainable framework for UK
aviation rather than seeking to pre-empt it."
The environmental case against expanding Gatwick was why successive
governments had stipulated there should only be one runway there, he
KCC leader Paul Carter said the county council was keen to hear views
about its strategy, but it was vital to ensure that the UK acted to
retain an international hub airport.
"It is a discussion paper. I think most people recognise that capacity
in the south east is stretched and we are losing an awful lot of
employment opportunities by losing a lot of airport travel to Frankfurt
and Paris. Linking Gatwick and Heathrow around a very fast rail link
would increase the capacity for an international hub airport around