DEPUTY Prime Minister John Prescott made no apology for keeping airport options open in Government aviation expansion plans during a visit to Medway yesterday
He dismissed media suggestions that the Government was dithering and causing confusion by having so many plans on the table. These would include the hugely unpopular Cliffe option.
He said of the Thames Gateway area as a whole: "This is a most important site and the Channel Tunnel rail and air links are essential to unlock the potential. It is right we should study that and I do not apologise for that."
The Thames Gateway area extends to London and Essex and the Government is considering a number of options for the South East including the expansions of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports.
Mr Prescott had flown in by helicopter to Chatham's Historic Dockyard, as part of a wider tour of the Thames Gateway area in Kent.
He said: "I've seen new hospitals as I've come down here, the transport investment is increasing considerably.
"We are getting the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the first major rail link in this country. So to that extent I think there's a great future here although I've been hearing from the authorities here we've got to do more about getting more jobs and developing the high technology.''
Mr Prescott had earlier visited places such as the Eastern Quarry between Gravesend and Dartford, where five new villages planned. In the last stop of his tour he held a brief 25-minute meeting with Medway leaders at the Historic Dockyard to discuss urban regeneration in Medway.
He met with Gillingham MP Paul Clark, Medway Council chief executive Judith Armitt and the council's four political party leaders.
Mrs Armitt said after the meeting that she had asked Mr Prescott about help from the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, for the launch of the Medway Renaissance Partnership.
She explained that Mr Prescott would make an announcement about what Medway might get through the announcement of the Government's Community Initiative at the turn of the month.
She said: "We will have to see then what we get. He has obviously had many requests for help.
"But we have a very positive and productive discussion and we made clear the cross-party support for the Medway Renaissance.''
Medway Council leader Rodney Chambers said; "It was a very useful meeting.
"We gave a message to the Deputy Prime Minister that we are keen to work with the Government on the renaissance of Medway but the local authority would wish to be in the driving seat in a partnership. He understood that.''
Mr Clark said: "It was also very useful to have a visit from the Deputy Prime Minister
"He travelled by helicopter throughout his visit to the North Thames Gateway area to literally get a bird's eye view of the development of the area. "