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26/03/02 News
Rochester Inquiry Report
The Inspector's Report has now arrived at Medway Council - two months earlier than expected.

The Inspector recommends that Rochester Airport should be retained for general aviation with the environs being developed as a smaller Science and Technology Park. If adopted, the Inspectors recommendations would reduce the scale of industrial development and eliminate all of the 200 houses originally proposed.

Any proposal that retains the airport as a vibrant GA facility must get our support. But the fight is not yet over.

Medway Council is not obliged to adopt the Inspector's recommendation. They can vote to ignore it.

In his report, the Inspector writes:

"The most contentious aspect of the Deposit Plan is undoubtedly the proposals in Policy S11 which involve the closure of Rochester Airfield and its redevelopment for a Science and Technology Park, along with housing, open space, and associated areas. This proposal attracted by far the majority of the objections, totalling over 3,300 objections from over 1,600 individuals and organisations. In principle, I have concluded that this is a soundly-based proposal which would accord with many key elements of national, regional and strategic planning policy. However, I consider the Plan gives insufficient weight to the importance of the existing Rochester Airport, and recommend a redevelopment option which allows the development of a smaller Science and Technology Park, but with the retention of a general aviation facility and omission of the housing element.". [our emphasis]

The inquiry had been previously adjourned in December 2000 when the Council commissioned a report by W.S. Atkins into the development prospects of Rochester Airfield.

The Atkins report presented a number of options including Options C and C1 which are essentially similar to the Inspectors recommendation. And in a survey by Atkins, 92% of respondents were in favour of retaining Rochester as a working airport. Yet on 11th April 2001, after considering the Atkins report, Medway Council decided not to make any changes to the Local Plan policy in relation to the Airfield.

This new report underlines the value of the airport to Rochester. The people of Rochester, the W.S. Atkins report, and now the Local Plan Inspector have all spoken in favour of this important facility. We hope the council will listen to the opinions ranged against them - both popular and professional - and revise their plan. Not only is it good for GA, it is also good for Rochester.

If, in spite of the Inquiry Report, the deposit local plan enshrines a policy of closure, then an appeal is still possible in the form of a judicial review and a calling in of the local plan by the DETR.

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