Plans for Rochester Airport set out by council
PUBLISHED: 10:13 11 December 2012
Hopes that the proposals will create up to 1,000 skilled jobs
COUNCIL chiefs are hoping to turn Rochester Airport into a profitable venture – but are looking for the business world to help the venture take off.
A plan to create up to 1,000 skilled jobs at the site has been put forward by Medway Council, which would see a business park built on the existing grass runway.
Currently, the airport sees a small amount of aviation traffic including leisure tours, private planes and acts as a base for the National Police Air Service.
There are fears the dated site is missing out on business opportunity, with some of the facilities reaching the end of their lifespan.
But proposals set out would see two of its grass runways shut, and 12 hectares will be made available to develop by a business.
And although there are plans to maximise the use of the aviation facilities with a new tarmac runway, it is not believed the airport has a place in solving the country’s airport problem – with no scheduled flights expected out of the Medway airport.
The plan, according to council deputy leader Cllr Alan Jarrett, will not hamper local residents and has been built around them to minimise noise disruption.
He said: “I believe these proposals represent the best possible opportunity to protect Rochester Airport and secure a major private sector investment into this important asset in Medway.
“The proposed scheme will safeguard aviation for business, heritage and leisure use in this well-connected location, as well as releasing new land for jobs in Medway.”
New operators would be offered 25 year lease by the council to allow any future investor to create a long-term strategy for the site – and it is hoped the facility will attract business, history enthusiasts and tourists.
The council-owned airport, which was first established back in 1933, has been run by Rochester Airport Limited (RAL) on short-term leases for the past 12 years.
RAL chairman Dick Searle said: “Together with local residents, we have fought long and hard to retain the airport over the past 12 years.
“The combination of closing one runway and modernising the airport is a good one.
“With low-rise business employment buildings being considered, we can look forward to an exciting economic future for the area and a new landmark leisure facility for our neighbours and visitors.”
The news has been welcomed by Rochester MP Mark Reckless, who said the proposals could prove to be a “real boost for the local economy”.
The Tory MP said: “I am delighted that plans are now being put in place which should help secure Rochester Airport’s future for many generations to come.
“Over many years, I have fought alongside local residents and councillors to retain this cherished asset.
“The proposed scheme will go a long way to safeguarding the airport’s future as well as provide a real boost for the local economy through the job opportunities which it will provide.”
The proposals will go before Medway Council’s cabinet next Tuesday (December 18).