Plans for council homes at end of airport runway “immoral”

Plans that could see council homes built at the end of Southend Airport’s runway have been described as immoral.

A £200,000 feasibility study will now determine the best use of land in between the A127 and Southend Airport’s runway.

The land, between the A127 and Nestuda Way, is set to be vacated by a farmer, with ideas for the site including an electric vehicle charging centre, a park-and-ride scheme or 90 council homes.

Councillors broadly supported the schemes on Thursday but had concerns about the homes – which would likely be social housing – being built so close to the runway.

Dan Nelson, Conservative councillor for Southchurch ward, said: “The recommendations are that we agree the principles that are being set out which includes housing, so if we push this paper through we basically agree the principle that we agree housing should be built on the end of the runway.

“It’s the administration’s intent to make these council houses. I personally think it’s immoral to put the most vulnerable in our society at the end of a runway.

“I do not agree that in principle.”

Chris Walker,  Conservative councillor for Eastwood Park ward, insisted the land is not suitable for housing due to its proximity to the airport.

He said: “Did any of our officers actually look at a map and see where this piece of land is? Every suggestion I’ve seen could so beneficially be put somewhere else. You can’t stuff housing immediately under the end of the runway.

“If this was made affordable housing there would be an outcry because it’s immediately under the end of the runway.

“All the other housing round there was built before the runway was extended. It’s no good for housing.”

Daniel Cowan, Labour councillor for St Laurence ward, insisted residents should form part of the decision.

He said: “We do need housing across the town and if there is the scope to build housing there and the local community are in favour of it then why shouldn’t we consider it.

“If they’re not in favour of it or not in favour of electric vehicle charging or park and ride then we need to look at what they are in favour of and do something with it.”

Cllr Ron Woodley, deputy leader of the council, attempted to calm opposition by stating “nothing is set in stone”.

He said: “It is a high level proposal. Nothing is set in stone. All St Laurence councillors will be consulted then we will come up with the final situation that will go forward to the business case.

“That is where we are. This is the first stage of being informed. Not the final stage.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter