War of words over Biggin Hill Airport consultation
PUBLISHED: 11:22 17 November 2015 | UPDATED: 12:46 17 November 2015
Chiefs from the airport and Flightpath Watch, an opposition campaign group, have clashed over interpretations of the consultation data
Chiefs at London Biggin Hill Airport (LBHA), and representatives from an opposition campaign group are at loggerheads following the public consultation regarding plans to extent the airport’s operating hours.
The Flightpath Watch group has announced that it has asked Bromley council for “irregularities” within the consultation data to be investigated.
Residents across the whole of Bromley took part in the biggest consultation in the borough’s history between January and March, with 31,500 residents supporting the airport’s proposals.
However, Flightpath Watch subsequently completed its own survey, in which the results demonstrated a significant variation, so much so that the group requested the council’s data under the Freedom of Information Act for analysis.
The group argue the data shows just two internet service providers being used, each with comparatively small UK market shares, generating 70 per cent of the total online response, and 83 per cent of the YES response.
Flightpath Watch chairman, David Clapham, said: “We are most concerned that this exercise appears to have been influenced significantly through a mass input of YES votes.”
In response, the airport has blasted the group’s claims, as managing director Will Curtis said: “It’s frankly incredible that Flightpath Watch would stoop so low as trying to accuse LBHA and the council of trying to skew the consultation just because it turned out not to support their point of view - especially since Flightpath Watch has done everything in its power to skew the result by telling outright lies to scare local residents about our plans.
“We have watched quietly over the past few months as Flightpath Watch has acted in the most outrageous manner imaginable, scaremongering residents, twisting facts and slandering our good name.
“We are in favour of open debate but this time this tiny minority of antisocial activists has gone too far.”
“The airport has always been clear that we would promote our case and encourage supporters to register support.
“That is all we have done by making it easier for supporters to have their say.
“31,500 people have registered their support and Flightpath Watch want to disenfranchise them.”
A spokesperson for the airport added: “As part of the council’s consultation, Biggin Hill Airport did encourage supporters to register their support for the proposals, in the same way that Flightpath Watch encouraged their supporters to register objections.
“This did involve promoting the council’s survey through online social media and through canvassing, which encouraged respondents to complete a survey on an iPad on the spot and in person with the data being logged instantaneously in the council’s survey database; this explains why so many responses were logged through so few IP addresses.
“All people who registered support provided their full name and address to Bromley council.