Lydd Airport Expansion

Our MPs have supported it (both the former and the current), Shepway District Council has supported it, but the majority of local residents plus plenty of highly knowledgable and influential organisations oppose it. The proposed expansion of Lydd Airport stems from a Saudi Arabia-based sheik and could expand passenger numbers from today’s 3000 to 500,000 and even to two million by 2015, although the commercial viability of the plans must be open to question, given the remote site, the under-utilisation of Manston and the lack of infrastructure and transport links. The current planning application (filed in December 2006) comprises two parts – a 444m runway extension supported by an Environmental Statement based on 300,000 passengers per annum and a new terminal with an Environmental Statement based on 500,000 passengers per annum. The runway extension would allow Boeing 737 and Airbus A319/A320s to be accommodated, with these taking off and landing within three miles of the nuclear power station.

The arguments for the expansion mostly revolve around the creation of local jobs in one of the most deprived areas of Kent. However, the company behind the plans has not been specific about how many jobs it expects to create and, given that the airport would presumably only be adopted by low budget operators, presumably there would be great emphasis on keeping costs – and therefore jobs and salaries – to a minimum. Moreover, the potential loss to the area from tourism could more than offset any employment benefits.

There have been more than 12,000 objections to the scheme, including from the Green Party, Greenpeace, the RSPB, British Energy, the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), Kent Wildlife Trust and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. The shingle peninsular of Dungeness is a unique area, protected by UK and European law. It has a diverse range of plants, invertebrates, birds and animals. Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay comprise a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and there are also three European designations – A Special Area of Conservation (SAC), a Special Protection Area (SPA) and a proposed RAMSAR site – a wetland of international importance. The RSPB’s Dungeness bird reserve is also of international importance, for migrating, breeding and over-wintering birds, including large numbers of swans and geese.

The airport’s runway is directly enclosed by the SSSI and SAC which means these designations will be directly impacted by the extension of the runway and the creation of 150m safety strips on either side of the centre line of the runway. In addition, all designations will be adversely affected by noise, disturbance and air pollution leading to the loss of rare species and the reduction in the ecological significance of the area. In this respect the development does not concur with the Kent & Medway Structure Plan which supports development of the airport but only if this does not create “material harm on internationally or nationally designated environmental areas and no significant detrimental impact on locally designated environmental areas”.

The expansion plans are the focus for a public enquiry, which has been running since February. For more information and for details about opposing the plans, see related websites in our links section, including that of the Lydd Airport Action Group (LAAG) and the Keep the Marsh Special Alliance.