Councillors hit out at ‘undemocratic’ meetings over Southend night flights

Conservative councillors have slammed rivals for holding a meeting with Southend Airport over disruptive night flights without inviting them.

Residents living in the airport flightpath have been calling for an end to night-time cargo flights for months and appealing to councillors to address the problem.

But Tory councillors have questioned why they were not invited to a meeting that was attended by members of the administration.

Details of the meeting emerged when Councillor David Garston (Con), who represents the Prittlewell ward, questioned whether the problem had reached a point that councillors who represent affected wards should begin speaking to the airport directly.

He was told by Cllr Carole Mulroney (Lib Dem) that a meeting had already been held.

Mr Garston said: “This is an issue where residents are getting very concerned and I for one have always been a supported of the airport and it has always been a useful thing to have for our residents and business.

“But at the same time one must be aware of environmental issues and I do think if meetings have been taking place without members from one of the wards that is most affected, the Prittlewell ward, then I do think its time a meeting took place.”

Cllr Stephen Aylen (Ind), who represents Belfairs, also hit out at members of the administration demanding an explanation.

Cllr Daniel Cowan (Lab), who helped to arrange the meeting, said it was the result of the airport’s interest in “improving community relations” and he was asked to put together a “small group” of councillors.

He said that two Conservative councillors were invited but did not respond.

“The meeting itself was quite successful although probably a little too big but we did agree we would open it up and I would be more than happy to have any councillors that wants to be involved get in touch with me.

“This meeting it informal it is not a formal function of the council.”
Deputy mayor, Cllr Mark Flewitt (Con), said solving the night flights were a matter of changing details of the airport’s planning terms, known as a section 106.

He said: “No matter what a councillor says to the electorate at election time is anything more than a promise in the wind. It is not going to happen. It needs to be done at the highest level.

“I am for refinement of this, the night-time cargo flights effect a lot of people wherever they live.

“Stop having select meetings. Any fool can send out an email inviting certain people and then say oh guess who wasn’t there – it is called a setup. Its not fair, its not tasteful and it is not democratic.”

An online petition to stop the night flights in Southend has been signed by 2,571 people and campaigners have warned they are affecting the health of residents due to sleep deprivation and increased air pollution.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter