There appears to be a negative rumour about what might happen to the airport land should it be necessary to close the operation. So what other ideas might be worth considering beyond offering the land to the NHS Medway Maritime Hospital Trust.
The following two ideas are not exhaustive. You may have other great ideas and we would love to hear from you.
A rumour, that the airport land could be sold for housing, and in the words of one Conservative councillor, “concreted over” if the Masterplan is rejected is silly and probably intended to herd local residents into accepting the Masterplan proposal out of fear of the alternative.
The absence of any investigation into alternative options for the airfield by Medway Council, might suggest to some that a minority of individuals wanting to exploit the airport for personal reasons might be peddling misinformation to alarm residents.
The Council are combating residents concerns about the commercialisation, overuse of a concrete runway, and safety, by telling people that the Masterplan proposal will be subject to a robust planning application process.
Why should local residents trust the Planning board process when those perpetuating the “concrete it over” misinformation have no confidence in the Planning board to protect our green spaces themselves?
It is clear that the current Masterplan is plagued with unsolvable environmental, financial and safety issues. Rochester Airport is now too small and built up for practical and safe aviation use and is well past its sell-by-date.
What to do with obsolete airfields is not an uncommon problem and a number of non-housing schemes exist which address the obvious inadequacies of the current proposal.
The following two options are suggestions and other equally practical solutions may exist.
Retains the airport as an flying facility and satisfies Medway Council’s business\technology park aspirations. Similar to the existing plan, the encroachment on the airport land however, makes it difficult to support on safety grounds.
A clear benefit to the private flyers is that without a concrete runway their use of Rochester airfield is better safeguarded from marginalisation by commercial influences similar to those experienced at Biggin Hill.
Is a possible solution that benefits the wider community. It too retains Medway Council’s aspirations to create 1000+ jobs but brings competitive edge to attract companies to relocate to Medway. The business/technology park similar to the Option 1 remains and is approximately 44 acres in size.
A community park and facilities at the southern end of the Rochester airfield would be maintained through income generated by a solar farm installation. The park would be approximately 23 Acres in size.
In sympathy with the Medway Draft Core Strategy (2.51 Provide more opportunities for cycling and walking). The park would be equipped with a perimeter, all-weather family cycling track to provide a safe learning area for small children with parents plus a walking lane.
Access to the community park would utilise the old airport road access from the A229. An additional pedestrian access between the business/technology park at its southerly point might encourage lunch-time walking and exercise for employees.
The Park would be protected from glare by a raised bund at the north point which would hide the solar panels from view and present a pleasant outlook for visitors.
Some facilities and buildings at the park could be renovated to support MAPS activities and way memorial enhanced.
Space permitting, a facility for youngsters and remote controlled electric cars could also be incorporated.
Consideration could also be made for electric disabled buggy surfaces.
Subject to further work and planning application, a 5MWp photovoltaic solar farm could be accommodated in the west section of land comprising approximately 35 acres. The farm would not be overlooked by residential properties and surrounded by industrial/ business park units.
A new park-and-ride combined with Sikh temple parking could be built on the North West portion of land. Entry and exit to the parking area would be from Laker Road. This would alleviate parking problems on worship days and provide additional parking facilities for Dickens Festival etc. Such an infrastructure investment supports Core Strategy (2.47 Invest in public transport infrastructure).
The power generated by the solar farm could be used by the new business park tenants or other council projects/buildings local to the area. The fixing of day time electricity for the business park at preferential rate would attract companies and bring competitive edge in securing jobs for Medway people over other business sites in the South East. The land would provide a protected wildlife haven.
If the land were leased to a solar farm provider. After the 20/25 year lease the land would be returned to the Council for continuation of the solar farm (council would take control of the installation) or have the operator remove it so that the business or recreational park could be expanded or alternative uses could be explored.
Alternatively the council could elect to invest in the solar farm themselves to enjoy significant revenue streams from FIT and greater flexibility in the use of the generated electricity.
Tenders to supply and operate the solar farm would be governed by Medway council procurement process.
For Rochester airfield site reconfiguration options please see attached schematic with benefit bullets.