EASYJET has not ruled out running from Lydd Airport – but Government dithering over plans for a Thames Estuary facility is damaging Lydd's future, it is claimed.
The carrier says it is always looking at expanding its destinations but it appears indecision over schemes put forward for the estuary is delaying a verdict on Lydd's future.
A report made to the House of Commons transport select committee last week was critical of the Estuary proposals. It said a new airport could cost as much as £43 billion and would place a huge burden on taxpayers and concluded the idea was risky and "not commercially viable".
A second report prepared by former Labour transport minister Paul Clark for his Gateway Associates company found strong support among both business and politicians for building a third runway at London's Heathrow rather than a new airport.
Supporters said both strengthened the case in favour of Lydd's expansion plans which would enable it to boost capacity and grow into an important regional airport for the south-east.
Shepway MP Damian Collins said: "The difficulty and inevitable delays involved in expanding our hub airport capacity make it all the more important that we allow our smaller regional airports to develop, especially when the local council has granted planning permission for it already."
The public inquiry into Lydd's proposals ended 18 months ago but a decision seems to be on hold until the estuary airport question has been settled. A spokesman for the Communities and Local Government department could not say when it will be made.
Brian Godfrey of Friends of Lydd Airport Group (FLAG) said: "Airports like Lydd could take the pressure off the hub airports such as Heathrow and Gatwick. Look at way Southend has taken off - easyJet has moved in and the airport now employs 6,500 people."
An easyJet spokesman said: "We haven't looked at Lydd as yet but we are always looking to expand our routes and destinations."
Shepway District Council's head of planning, Chris Lewis, said: "We approved plans for the expansion of Lydd Airport because we believe such an expansion could bring economic benefits to the Marsh community and that any environmental impact could be mitigated.
"Our decision was called in and we are now waiting for a result from the secretary of state. We understand certain frustrations over the time the Government is taking in deliberating and while we would like a decision sooner rather than later, this is outside Shepway's control."
But Louise Barton of Lydd Airport Action Group, which opposes expansion, said:" There is too much slack and over-capacity in the system already in Kent and there is absolutely no need for additional growth at Lydd."