THE expansion of Southend Airport will not go ahead without the approval of a Government minister, it has been announced.
Even if Southend Council approves the plan to extend the runway across Eastwoodbury Lane, it will still need the go-ahead from Government Minister John Denham.
Mr Denham, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, will either approve the plan or call it in for a public inquiry.
The council’s development control committee is meeting today to discuss the plans. If the committee refuses the application, the plans are dead. [Not strictly true, as the airport could appeal the decision.]
But if it is approved, the decision is put on hold until the Secretary of State decides he will not intervene or he decides to “call in” the application.
This means there would be a public inquiry about the plan, chaired by a Government planning inspector.
The Secretary of State is not required to reach a decision with any specific timescale, but aims to deal with it “as quickly as possible”.
Anti-expansion pressure group Stop Airport [Extension] Now welcomed the news.
Spokesman Denis Walker said: “The direction means it’s much more likely there will be a public inquiry and that’s good news.
“This is what we’ve been asking for ever since the planning application was submitted.
“Leaving this decision to Southend Council means there wouldn’t be proper scrutiny of it.
“Without a public inquiry, there would be no cross-examination of evidence or full scrutiny in public.
“This major decision would be left entirely in the hands of a process designed to approve extensions to houses.”
Inquiry delay would be ‘frustrating’
THE leader of Southend Council said he is concerned plans to expand the airport could be delayed by the Government’s decision.
Tory leader Nigel Holdcroft said: “There was always the possibility the Government would issue the directive, therefore, it doesn’t come as a great surprise.
“Obviously, the application will still be considered on its merits by the development control team.
“Hopefully, the Secretary of State reviews the situation promptly and decides as quickly as possible to call the matter in if the committee approves it.
“If it’s called in for a public inquiry, it would lead to a significant delay which the airport organisers would find very frustrating.”
Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Southend West, Peter Welch, said he welcomed the Government’s decision.
About John Denham
JOHN Denham is the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
Mr Denham, 56, has been Labour MP for Southampton Itchen since 1992 and has been the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government since June.
He recently hit the headlines for claiming class was a more significant factor in 21st-century Britain than race.