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Carole Mulroney's 'Political View' about the airport (Leigh Times)

February 25, 2020 11:32 AM
By Carole Mulroney in Leigh Times
Originally published by Southend Liberal Democrats - Working For You

I AM so proud of Leigh! It's a great community - it's special and we're determined to keep it that way. When the going gets tough, Leigh pulls together and we are going through one such time now. Like the time we stood firm on the community centre or library, now it's the airport.

Like many of you, even those who have voiced complaints in recent months, I am not anti-airport. It brings jobs and tourists (although we must learn how to keep them here and not hot-footing it to London after stepping off the plane). And it allows us to travel relatively cheaply and easily - but at a cost - noise and air pollution and, if it expands in the future, more traffic on our roads. And that is all part of the much bigger climate change debate.

We need to balance these competing factors and make sure the Borough and its residents - and beyond - get the best possible outcome.

I know there are some that just don't want the airport, but we have to be realistic - it's here and it's operating. But for everyone who complains about the noise, particularly from night flights, there is another who doesn't see a problem.

Right now, early morning cargo night flights are a real concern in large parts of Leigh and for those living on the airport's doorstep. I sympathise totally because if you are susceptible to noise interruption and have difficulty getting back to sleep, it is a complete and utter nightmare.

Many voice their concerns on social media, sign petitions and protest. That's good (and helps to ensure councillors and airport bosses know the full extent of the problem and how it affects individual people), but complaints alone don't solve the issue, especially when the airport is acting within the law.

The airport is in a strong position. It has a valid planning permission and a legal arrangement with the Council, which goes back many years. Even the new night flights comply with that agreement.

But being compliant is not good enough.

We know (and the airport management knows) there are issues to resolve, so there has to be a meeting of minds and some compromise, especially on the part of the airport. We want it to operate better, quieter, cleaner and be more community focused, with more clarity over its operations as it interacts with residents.

In recent weeks, either alone or with Council colleagues, I've met residents and the airport and discussed the issues and what can be done. I suggested an Environmental Action Plan, and that the airport has agreed to do and the management have shown a willingness to listen - the first hurdle! - and understand the need to do more, much more.

It needs to be a tougher negotiator to ensure that any new business opportunities do not detrimentally impact the community in which we all live.

Airport bosses need to come out into that community and be more visible - face the music - and take seriously the comments made to them and deal with complaints more openly.

The climate change declaration I promoted through the Borough Council puts huge pressure on us to reach certain targets by 2030. Many people will say we can't do it with an airport in our midst. It's a daunting task. But the pressure now coming from within the aviation industry, technology that is advancing rapidly and a growing awareness by the industry that it cannot ignore the issues (and, hopefully, a continued strong Government position), will provide the impetus for quicker and more effective action - and for airports nationwide to realise they are privileged to be in our communities and should treat us with respect and a duty of care.

So for our part, your Lib Dem councillors will continue to meet with and pressure the airport to realise its responsibilities, take measures to address the problems and use its not inconsiderable muscle to ensure that all those it does business with do the same.

If new proposals come forward we will first and foremost scrutinise, measure and consider them in terms of their environmental and personal impact on the people of Leigh and the Borough and that it plays a responsible role in keeping Leigh special, as we are striving to do.