Former Medway mayor backs controversial airport plan

Impression of Thames Hub from the east
Image caption The Thames Hub would be built partly on reclaimed land, with aircraft approaching over the water

A former mayor of Medway has backed ambitious plans to build a new airport in the South East despite widespread condemnation.

The idea of a new airport on the Isle of Grain, in Kent, is opposed by Medway Council and Friends of the Earth.

However, Dai Liyanage, who was mayor in 1999, said the area cannot afford to miss out on the economic opportunity.

In his Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne did not rule out a new hub airport in the Thames estuary.

Until now there has been almost universal political condemnation for the airport.

The proposed airport, which could handle 150 million passengers a year, was outlined by architect Lord Foster earlier in November.

'Lost out'

Mr Liyanage said: "We lost out when they started the channel tunnel rail link. We were going to have a station in Medway and because of all the protests it went to Swanscombe and Ebbsfleet.

"People don't understand what a hub airport means. The benefits of a hub airport like Dubai...they have benefited so much."

The airport would be serviced by high-speed rail connections to London, the Midlands and northern England as well as continental Europe.

Lord Foster's scheme also includes a new Thames barrier for flood protection and generating carbon-free energy from the tide.

But Friends of the Earth said the airport would have a "devastating" impact on wildlife.

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