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Airport plan could create 1,000 jobs

Tue 18 December 2012, 9:04 pm

Medway Council has tabled new proposals to secure the long-term future of Rochester Airport that could create up to 1,000 jobs.

Under the plan, the authority would close the airport’s two grass runways and replace them with parallel grass and paved runways in a way that would free up part of the site for redevelopment.

It would also seek a new operator for the airport under a 25-year lease agreement that would fund improvements to on-site facilities.

Medway said the plan would make 12 acres of land near to Rochester Airport Industrial Estate available for a new hi-tech business, science or technology development.

It said the scheme would enable the area to capitalise on the success of the nearby Medway Innovation Centre and attract small firms to a new hi-tech innovation quarter that could create up to 1,000 new jobs.

Deputy council leader Alan Jarrett said the scheme represented the “best possible opportunity“ to protect the airport and secure major private sector investment.

“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,” he said.

For the past 12 years the airport has been operated on short-term five-year leases that Medway Council said were a block to updating the airport‘s current facilities, some of which date back to the 1930s.

It said there were no plans to turn the airport into a full-scale passenger operation, but that the new proposals would safeguard the airport’s future.

Dick Searle, chairman of Rochester Airport Limited, said the combination of closing one runway and modernising the airport was a viable option for the future.

“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,” he said.

The proposals have the backing of Medway Aircraft Preservation Society, which uses the site for heritage aircraft and open days, and the Police Air Service, which is based at the airport.

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