WITH the decision on whether to allow a major expansion of Lydd Airport said to be imminent the European Commission has raised safety concerns over its proximity to Dungeness nuclear power station.
The power station is just three miles and 60 seconds flight time away from the power station.
Now the European has written to the UK Government expressing concerns.
The runway extension, if approved will transform a small local airport, which operates predominantly light aircraft, into a regional airport capable of supporting Boeing 737s and Airbus 320s - aircraft that the nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) acknowledges have the potential to cause its highest category nuclear accident in the event of a crash claim objectors.
The larger aircraft can weigh over 70 tonnes when fully laden.
The airport claims the extension and new terminal will create hundreds of new jobs in the Rye and Romney Marsh area and provide much needed regeneration.
Rye Town Council objected to the plans and local people raised concerns over noise from low flying aircraft and the proximity to the power station.
The operators of Dungeness B, the French energy giant EDF, opposed the application, warning that it would increase the risk of a nuclear accident.
“The large increase in air traffic around the site is a risk that should be sensibly avoided in the local and wider public interest,” EDF argued in its submission.
The application was called in for a Government inquiry and the outcome will be announced by Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government.
The airport is surrounded by protected habitats including a major RSPB bird reserve. Environmentalists say that it is under one of the main migratory bird routes in the south of England. As a result, the Dungeness Peninsula is the most heavily protected area in the UK, its habitats designated under EU and UK legislation.
Louise Barton, from the Lydd Airport Action Group, said: “The Office of Nuclear Regulation did not oppose the plans, arguing the posibuility of an aircraft accident was so low it could be ignored.
“Despite requests over a number of years, the ONR has refused to allow the basis of this decision to be subject to public scrutiny. It has consistently failed to answer specific questions about well substantiated concerns.”
She added that the case could end up being referred to the European Court of Justice.