Rochester Airport Plans
A move to secure a long-term and profitable future for Rochester Airport and provide up to 1,000 jobs has been put on the table by Medway Council.
The popular local airport, which was first established in 1933, is owned by the council and has been run by Rochester Airport Limited on short, five-year leases for the past 12 years.
But many of the buildings and facilities at the site date back to the 1930s and are reaching the end of their useful life, with a number of the organisations there operating out of temporary huts or Portakabins.
Medway Council is seeking to safeguard the important aviation activity that happens at the airport and help improve community access to this unique facility.
But it wants to do this without developing it into a full scale airport used by air passengers, which would lead to a significant rise in aircraft movements and hamper residents' lives.
The council also wants to enhance the heritage and community facilities that are and will continue to be integral to this historic airport.
The council aims to put out to tender a new 25-year lease for an operator to run a revamped Rochester Airport.
Under the proposals, the airport would see its two current grass runways closed and one new parallel grass and paved runway.
This paved runway will allow modern small aircraft to take off and climb to a higher altitude very quickly, meaning that less residents will be affected by noise.
And the grass runway will allow the nationally recognised Medway Aircraft Preservation Society (MAPS) to continue to use the site for heritage aircraft and open days.
Part of the former runway; around 12 hectares near to Rochester Airport Industrial Estate, will then become available as a development for hi-tech business, science or technology development.
This will enable this part of Medway to capitalise on the success of the nearby Medway Innovation Centre and attract small firms to a new hi-tech innovation quarter for Medway.
There will also be major improvements to existing airport facilities on their current location on the airfield including a new permanent home for the Medway Aircraft Preservation Society (MAPS)
Better public access to the site for heritage, leisure and tourism is also proposed. The proposals, which will go before the council's Cabinet on Tuesday, 18 December, will safeguard Rochester Airport as a 'smaller but better' sustainable airport with improved facilities for Medway residents and visitors.
It will lead to new land released for job creation - with the potential to eventually create more than 1,000 new skilled jobs
And it will increase visitors to the area by becoming a new aviation heritage attraction to encourage more visitors to Medway
The proposal will also ensure the existing green view of the airport from Maidstone Road is preserved and it will provide an opportunity to attract private sector investment into Rochester Airport by offering a 25-year lease to an operator alongside a council contribution to the overall development
The council has been working for a number of years to identify a financially viable way to protect Rochester Airport and provide greater public access for aviation and heritage/leisure use.
And, as the council cannot afford to pay for these improvements without private sector funding, these proposals provide a way of achieving this.
This is their statement
Medway Council has worked with airport specialists and neighbouring businesses including BAE Systems, and have evaluated a number of different options for the future of Rochester Airport. This has led to the conclusion that this proposal achieves the right balance for local residents, businesses and airport users.
Cllr Alan Jarrett, Deputy Leader of Medway Council, said: "I believe these proposals represent the best possible opportunity to protect Rochester Airport and secure a major private sector investment into this important asset in Medway.
"The proposed scheme will safeguard aviation for business, heritage and leisure use in this well-connected location as well as releasing new land for jobs in Medway."
Dick Searle, the Chairman of Rochester Airport Limited, added: "Together with local residents we have fought long and hard to retain the airport over the past 12 years. The combination of closing one runway and modernising the airport is a good one. With low-rise business employment buildings being considered, we can look forward to an exciting economic future for the area and a new landmark leisure facility for our neighbours and visitors."
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