Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Labour's Regional Airport would wreck Coleridge

One of the more surprising comments to come out of last weeks full Council meeting was the admission from a Cherry Hinton Labour Councillor of a hidden agenda for Cambridge Airport. 

He confirmed that an Eastern Region Labour meeting had vowed to turn Marshall's into a regional airport, raising the prospect of many more passenger flights and even the likes of Easyjet flying to Cambridge.

We want to see Marshall's stay at the airfield site (and certainly don't want the high density housing/inadequate transport plan being forced on them by Labour's housing targets), but turning Marshall's into a regional airport will be a nightmare for local residents in Coleridge, with increased noise, traffic and risk. We will fight Labour's plans for the airport all the way.

UPDATE: Cambridge Labour Party are trying to dissociate themselves from Cllr Drydens comments - I'm happy to append the following comments received by email from the Leader of the Labour group:

"Rob as you know did make a comment but he definitely did NOT state at the Council meeting that eastern Region Labour Councillors had voted or had a meeting on this issue."

"Rob attended a non decision making meeting with regional trade union representatives where the unions supported the retention of Cambridge airport, and Marshalls, and supported Cambridge Labour Party's consistent opposition to the 12000 houses proposed there.

I have represented the party in Cambridge at all regional meetings of eastern region Labour Councillors since 2006 and on the East of England Regional Assembly, and there has been no such discussion by eastern Region Labour Councillors, never mind decision on this issue as you suggest.

Labour Councillor regional policy, followed through in meetings developing the Regional Spatial Strategy, is to support only two regional airports - Stansted and Luton."

I welcome Labour's commitment locally (if not nationally) to trying to save Marshall's in Cambridge - it is a battle I have been fighting since around 1999 after Labour's national policy moves on housing targets, and before Labour locally woke up to the issue. However the fact remains that a Labour Councillor made it clear in an open meeting of full Council that a grouping of Eastern Region Labour supporters/Councillors (of whatever constitution - I'm not familiar with the internal machinations of the Labour party) were calling for Marshalls to become a regional airport, something that is very worrying indeed and we will continue to oppose these plans. If Labour have any more clarification of Cllr Drydens remarks, we will be more than happy to publish them in the comments (not anonyously would be preferred!)


Richard Taylor said...

I was observing the full council meeting from the public gallery. The Labour group did say that Cambridge needed a regional airport, but I took this as just an unfortunately clumsy choice of words to describe their views.

Labour Cllrs Dryden, Blencowe and Bradnack all spoke strongly in favour of keeping Marshall where it is, saying any decision to move ought be down to the company and the City and County councils ought not be trying to bully them out. The argument was made that Cambridge needed a "regional airport" in-order for investment to be attracted to the area. Discussion at an Eastern Region Labour meeting was referred to with councillors saying Cambridge City was the economic driving force in the region we still had to consider our neighboring towns and cities which compete for businesses and jobs.

I understood that to be a reflection of facts that major investors see the airport as an asset for example Bill Gates regularly files in and it has been suggested might not have invested in the city if it did not have a local airport. While they were saying Cambridge needs an airport, they were not as I understood it proposing it become anything like the East Midlands Airport for example.

Once Labour councillors had mentioned the phrase "regional airport", Liberal Democrat Cllr Ward, who flies small private planes from Marshall's airport, and who had declared that interest, said he opposed such a designation as it would involve him and others like him being excluded from the airspace around the airport for extended periods of time everytime an Easyjet came in. Cllr Dryden, who was sitting behind Cllr Howell, was vigorously shaking his head at this point indicating that he didn't mean "regional airport" in that sense.

The Liberals and the Conservative jumping on this minor slip-up in phrasing and making far too much of it distracts from the substance of the debate on where new homes in and around the city should be located.

As too often happens this prompted a range of tangental contributions, including comments that the runway isn't long enough for fully laden passenger jets to take off, and discussions about the fact there are lots of schools under the take-off flight path over the city.

Cllr Howell was asked to explain why his party, the conservatives who rule the County Council appeared supportive of the development of homes on the Cambridge Airport site. He responded saying that their hands were tied by central government and described the Labour central government's regional planning policies as Stalinist. He pointed out that in the city both Labour and the Conservatives oppose the Liberal Democrats' efforts to bully Marshall out.

Cllr Howell referred to a letter from Sir David Trippier - Chairman of Cambridgeshire Horizons to the Marshall group which he suggested amounted to encouraging them to move. I have not been able to find a copy of the letter and have asked for a link.

Both Labour and the Conservatives in the city oppose the crazy Liberal Democrat plans to push Marshall out. That's the key point both ought be getting across on this together rather than sniping about semantics.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't there but I doubt it was a slip of the tongue, they are obviously serious about it, just like most of their mad-cap ill thought out Government-driven nonsense ideas. A regional airport for a city of 150,000?! Why??, we already have Stansted and other London airports, and Marshalls, you would have to be quite mad to want to build another airport or put 12,000 houses on the current site!!

Anonymous said...

I wasn't there but I doubt it was a slip of the tongue, they are obviously serious about it, just like most of their mad-cap ill thought out Government driven nonsense ideas. A regional airport for a city of 150,000?! Why, we already have Stansted and other London airports, and Marshalls, you would have to be quite mad to want to build another airport or put 12,000 houses on the current site!!

Chris Howell said...

I was at the meeting and Cllr Dryden in support of his argument that Labour was in favour of Marshall's staying where it was indicated that some Labour party gathering in the Eastern region had indicated support for Marshall's becoming a regional airport. Labour do now seem to be arguing over precisely which group of Labour people it was that wanted to see Marshall's as a regional airport, but I don't think the fundamental point has been misrepresented in any way.

That said, it remains the case that Labour's central housing targets are what is the cause of pressure on Marshall's to move, and parts of centrally government have been working closely with Marshalls and the Councils to try facilitating a move so the horrendous overdevelopment of the site required to meet Labour's central housing targets can take place.

Anonymous said...

Why has the city conservatives now change their policy of supporting the Marshall's move as their county conservatives colleagues do,to now agreeing with the Cambridge city labour party?

Anna Smith said...

I agree with Richard. At a local level in Cambridge, the Conservatives and Labour should avoid head to head confrontation wherever possible and concentrate on removing Nimmo Smith and his anti democratic junta from power.

Chris Howell said...

Dear Anonymous,

Not sure where you would have got that idea from - the City Conservatives have never supported development on Marshalls. When I was first elected as a Councillor in Cherry Hinton in 2000 we were warning residents that Labour's approach to housing targets would force Marshalls to look elsewhere, and Labour claimed we were just scaremongering, but our opposition to development on Marshall's has been completely consistent since it first became a possible threat round about then.


Andrew Bower said...

I was at this full council meeting last Thursday and clearly remember Councillor Dryden announcing with pride that Labour had agreed at their Eastern Region conference to designate Cambridge Airport as a 'regional airport'.

Cllr Dryden was not coy about this point as it was made with the intention of publicly reinforcing the idea that Labour locally were against the absurd Lib Dem plan to recommend the Marshall site for the fulfilment of Labour's crazy plan to build gazillions of rabbit hutches in East Anglia while bulldozing the North of England.

Now Cllr Dryden may well have (a) conflated Labour party proceedings with the proceedings of some other body - not surprising given that the Labour party is beholden to unions for example or (b) misunderstood the implication of a regional airport or (c) fluffed his words, or some combination thereof. If any of these is the case perhaps he would like to explain himself? Not anonymously, that is.

City Conservatives welcome the Labour U-turn in opposing the development of the Marshall site as housing, after having dismissed our first warnings on the subject as scaremongering, but if they wish to be given the benefit of the doubt when they slip up in public then it would help if they stopped projecting their failure to oppose the idea onto us who opposed it right from the start.

Richard Taylor said...

I have been sent a link to the correspondence between Sir David Trippier - Chairman of Cambridgeshire Horizons and the Marshall Group.