Kent and Essex airport plan debated by businesses

Isle of Grain Mr Johnson believes the economy would benefit from an airport in the Thames Estuary

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Proposals to build an airport in the Thames Estuary have been debated by business leaders in Kent.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has looked at plans to build a £40bn facility between the Essex and Kent coasts.

The RSPB, Medway Council and Kent County Council have opposed the idea, saying it would damage the environment.

But some business leaders feel opposition to the airport - nicknamed "Boris Island" - has obscured the potential economic benefits.

The meeting, chaired by BBC Kent's John Warnett, took place at the Federation of Small Businesses Conference Centre at Gillingham Football Club.

'Pie in the sky'

Panelists included Daniel Moylan, the deputy chairman of Transport for London (TfL) and Mark Reckless, the Conservative MP for Rochester and Strood.

Mr Moylan said: "We need the business, the investment the business brings us, and we need to be well connected into the rest of the world for that as our neighbours and competitors across the Channel are."

But Alan Johnson, Kent area manager for the RSPB, argued that a decision had to be made as to "where to draw the line" in terms of wildlife, while Mark Reckless MP said people living in the area had not moved there because there was an airport nearby.

He added that he thought most people considered the "Boris Island" proposal to be "pie in the sky".

The meeting came amid a government consultation on its future aviation policy.

The coalition government has ruled out airport expansion in the South East but the aviation industry believes greater capacity is needed if London is to continue to compete globally.

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