The year has been dominated by Southend Airport. Southend and Rochford Councils have been working together to develop a “Joint Area Action Plan” (JAAP) for the airport and its and environs. In June 2008, they started the first phase of consultation on this plan to determine which of four scenarios to pursue. The choice was between a “low growth”, two “medium growth” and a “high growth” option. There was very little publicity for this consultation and the local group only found out about it a couple of weeks before the deadline. We quickly put together an objection letter and delivered it to as many residents as we could.
In September, we organised a public meeting at Eastwood Community Centre with the aim of setting up a campaign group to oppose the expansion of the airport. The meeting was a success with over 150 people attending and a new campaign group, “Stop Airport Extension Now” (or SAEN) was formed.
Despite the fact that the majority of respondents to the first consultation opposed the “high growth” scenario, that was the option pursued by the two councils in their “Preferred Options” document, consultation on which belatedly started in February 2009. Following the appalling lack of publicity for the first phase of consultation, Southend Council promised to deliver a leaflet to every household in the borough to inform residents of this second consultation. Initially they failed to do so and so the consultation deadline was extended several times, eventually finishing on 15th May.
At the time of writing, we are still waiting for the results of that consultation, which Rochford Council tell us they will not release as they regard doing so not to be in the public interest. However, Southend Council has been in discussions with the airport to negotiate a new set of restrictions on flights and following this, the airport submitted a planning application to extend the runway even though the JAAP process hasn’t been completed. SAEN has been busy publicising the need to object to this application and we await the Development Control Committee’s decision in January.
Meanwhile, with the Big Ask campaign having successfully concluded with the passing of the Climate Change Act at the end of 2008, the group has moved on to a new national campaign entitled “Get Serious about CO2”, which attempts to get local authorities to commit to a 40% cut in carbon emissions by 2020.
Group Co-ordinator, Denis Walker has also been working on the MARINET Marine Reserves campaign in the capacity of webmaster. The campaign’s Early Day Motion – EDM337 – obtained a total of 233 MPs’ signatures but when it came to the crunch, 158 supported the (albeit rather watered down) amendment to the Marine Bill and the vote was lost. However, there is no doubt that the campaign raised the profile of the issue and had Labour not made it a whipped vote, we may have won.
And finally, Priory Crescent. In the same way the FoE local group got the ball rolling for the SAEN campaign last autumn, in its previous incarnation, the co-ordinator at the time, Jon Fuller, called a meeting in July 2001 which formed the Priory Park Preservation Society to oppose the widening of Priory Crescent. Almost exactly eight years later, that campaign has successfully concluded with Southend Council finally realising the Government was never going to give them the money for the scheme. Congratulations to everyone involved in the campaign from the PPPS, Parklife and Camp Bling.