In Blenheim Park, and about Blenheim Park

SEMF AGM, and Ms Lo Bao talks to those assembled

SEMF AGM, and Ms Lo Bao talks to those assembled

Campaigning is a year-round activity in Southend-on-Sea for the local Labour Party, and whilst the weather remains reasonably good we have had teams out and about in a number of wards. This weekend I opted to join the crew in Blenheim Park ward where Matt Dent is making his presence felt.

This ward is currently represented by three different parties, and Matt aims, in May, to keep that up by replacing the Liberal Democrat councillor with a Labour voice. Judging by the positive reactions I have witnessed it is a real possibility.

Earlier this week I attended the Southend Ethnic Minority Forum annual general meeting which featured an interesting talk on Southend Airport given by Hannah Lo Bao, Head of Customer Services. The airport is a wonderful facility, I have used it twice, and am not surprised it wins awards. It does attract some criticism, especially from those within its flight path. Those in Blenheim Park ward, though, were largely concerned about early morning and late night flights, and accepted that in the main it is an asset to the town.

What is going on in the park that gives the ward its name? It appears that drainage work has created new water features – and there are concerns over just how safe these are.


I have an odd relationship with green politics.

I have heard Caroline Lucas in the flesh and largely enjoyed what she had to say (especially the bit about her being a socialist). I have also seen far too many green campaigners who clearly are NIMBYs (can I start the NIMBYs? Not in my back yard campaign?) and whose green credentials only extend to protecting their assets. Selfish reasons do not always condemn a campaign, but altruism always beats it.

I am keen to protect open spaces, am an unashamed tree-hugger, and endorse anything that looks to address the issue of climate change. I am aghast when I see more of my town covered by concrete, yet applaud the two for one tree planting policy, and the vastly improved recycling rates. If the Alternative Vote had won that referendum the Green Party would be my number two choice most of the time.

Green politics dictate that they must oppose airport expansion, and I can understand why even if I do not agree. Air pollution from increased aeroplane use is something to worry about, and I can only console myself with the carbon offsetting one can normally buy into when purchasing flight tickets.

When London Southend Airport expanded I had concerns. I had concerns over the numbers of flights as this would mean increased noise and pollution. I had concerns over when these flights would take off and land; I was keen to see no night flights allowed. I was concerned over the transport infrastructure, and pleased to see a train station built (and worried that parking has not been adequately addressed). I was concerned about the road network which is already straining during peak hours. I was concerned that the expansion would build on green areas.

In contradistinction to these concerns was my delight at the jobs created. I was also pleased that many in my corner of Essex would no longer have to traipse to Gatwick or Stansted in order to travel abroad, an environmental bonus. Whatever the concerns of environmentalists, international travel is becoming more popular, and aeroplanes are becoming more fuel efficient and less polluting. It is clear that London Southend Airport is a success, and many of my acquaintance are readily disposed to sing its praises, and its roster of destinations is expanding to meet demand.

The sackcloth and ashes brigade (SAEN) will find reasons to complain, and I would hope that at least some of their concerns would be addressed. Those living under the flight path will be inclined to bemoan the increase in flights, but I can honestly say that the rest of the town celebrates the airport and the jobs and opportunities for convenient travel that it now provides. We must encourage enterprise and job creation, and take joy in better travel opportunities for our residents, and whilst doing this lobby for cleaner, greener, quieter planes.