Page last updated at 14:01 GMT, Monday, 20 October 2008 15:01 UK

Airport inquiry set for next year

London Ashford Airport
Airport planners want a longer runway and new terminal building

Proposals to expand an airport based in ecologically vulnerable land in Kent could be decided on by early 2009, a council has confirmed.

It has taken almost two years for the London Ashford Airport at Lydd to submit all the relevant information to Shepway District Council.

The privately-owned airport plans to extend the runway and build a new terminal for 300,000 passengers a year.

The area in Romney Marsh is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI).

Airport managing director Clifford Spink said the council had stalled a planning decision by issuing many supplementary questions about the plans.

'Getting close'

"On just about every aspect, whether it be geomorphology, ecology, birds or SSIs, and with studies from universities from our own consultants, we spent an inordinate amount of money," he said.

"We do know we are getting close to the planning inquiry. We anticipate it, hopefully, early next year."

The initial planning application was lodged with the district council in December 2006.

However, extra information regarding international ecology restriction was requested from the airport in January 2008 and was delivered to the council in August.

In these cases it is the applicant's responsibility to show that beyond reasonable doubt there will no harm to the ecological interests
Chris Lewis
Shepway District Council
Chris Lewis, the council's planning manager, said: "We simply didn't have enough information for members of the council to make a full and proper informed decision.

"It is located in an extremely difficult area to build.

"It is in an area where there are international ecology restrictions, there an exemption normally against building and there is a very high bar for the application to get over.

"In these cases it is the applicant's responsibility to show that beyond reasonable doubt there will no harm to the ecological interests of the international designated sites."

A planning meeting where councillors will decide on whether the plans can go ahead could happen in early 2009, he added.

More than a third of eligible electors in Lydd and New Romney voted in April 2006 on whether they supported the expansion proposals.

In Lydd, 741 were in favour and 916 against, while in New Romney 396 were in favour and 1,288 against.

Groups in favour of the airport expansion say it would bring jobs, better transport links and an economic boost to the area.




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