Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Thanet District Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee - 30/08/2011

By Cllr David Green - Labour Vice Chair.
On Tuesday I proposed, and Peter Campbell seconded, that a report, from the Council’s Airport Working Party, on the monitoring of activities at Manston Airport including Night Flights policy be adopted by the Thanet District Council (TDC) Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and forwarded to Cabinet. The committee voted 8 to 7 with all Labour Councillors and Cllr King in favour.
“1 (a) The Council adopts a policy of not allowing scheduled, pre-planned or otherwise timetabled flights between the hours of 23:00 and 07:00
(b)  That a period of 1 hour at either end of the flying day be allowed for late/early arriving flights only.
(c)  That a penalty be applied to any flights arriving during the 1 hour periods
(d)  No take-offs will be allowed between 23:00 and 07:00 hours
(e)  A schedule of exceptions to the above will be prepared to include ‘mercy flights’, and flights, medical emergencies, coastguard movements etc.
2.    In respect of aspirations to be carried into a successor to the current Section.106 agreement;
(a)   Consideration be given to requesting the Airport owners whoever they may be at any given time to contribute to the cost of a TDC Airport Officer and that requirement is included in a new section 106 Agreement;
(b)   A new Section 106 Agreement is negotiated within 12 months.
3.    A further Term of Reference be added to the Airport Working Party; purpose that investigation is undertaken to the relationship between a possible Parkway Station and the Airport and the current need for it.
4.    Quarterly or half yearly reports are received by Thanet District Council on the performance of the Manston International Airport as measured against the section 106 Agreement.
5.    Thanet District Council be recommended to ask the Manston International Airport operator to review the Kent International Airport Consultative Committee (KIACC).”
The local Labour Party has been pressing for the issue to be addressed, as it should be, through the Planning system for years now. We argued through the Council’s airport working party and Scrutiny system that clarity over the current policy of no night flights was essential.
Thanet District Council, as the local Planning Authority has a clear duty to produce a Local Development Framework, against which local businesses, developers and residents can plan their future in terms of land use and environmental impact.
It is clear, that the Council has failed in this duty with regard to the future development of Kent International Airport. The environmental agreement that controls the conditions of use of the airport (section 106) was devised in 2000 and was anticipated as being updated every 3 years. In the intervening years it has served the community well, allowing development of the airport, but protecting residents from the worst environmental impacts. However, the aircraft industry and environmental standards have moved on. A new agreement is required, and the airport owners need a clear guide to what is acceptable.
The airport owners have produced a master plan of how they would like the airport to develop. It is aspirational as one would expect, and optimistic with regard to predicted traffic and jobs created. In the absence of planning guidance from the Council, the danger is that the master plan will become mistaken for Council policy.
Through inaction, the Council has allowed a myth to develop that all that is required is some minor adjustment to the conditions of the old s106 agreement that will allow the relaxations of environmental control that the master plan requires. As far as night time flying is concerned it is clear from reports commissioned by the airport and separately by the Council, that the environmental impact would be severe. This reinforces the legal opinion obtained on at least two occasions that night time flying represents sufficient intensification of use as to require fresh planning approval.
We believe a clear, balanced policy that protects the vulnerable public is required, but will allow future development of the airport allowing competition with other similar airports.


  1. I commend those members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee who have taken this stance. At last, we have some Councillors who are approaching this issue with the interests of their constituents to the fore.

    Infratil knew that there were some restrictions on night-flying when they purchased the airport. If they knew anything about the business they were investing in they could have seen that this airport was not in a suitable location for a 24/7 operation. If they had any intention of existing in harmony with their neighbours they would not be pursuing this issue and would concentrate on making use of the runway during the day-time.

  2. Local Businesswoman1 September 2011 at 10:23

    What a refeshingly sensible approach. It's great to see that there are some people out there who aren't just falling for whatever Infratil cares to say about Manston and its future. It's time that the public was told that the airport already has an amazingly lenient, and very out-of-date, night flying regime that many other airports would kill for. Have a look at those airports that are as near to big population centres as Manston is to Ramsgate - they can't allow the night flights that Manston already operates.

    It's not even more night flights that Manston needs before it can succeed. It needs to be nearer a bigger passenger catchment area...and that isn't going to happen.

    And before you all squeal "NIMBY", listen to the rest. I've just turned down an opportunity to invest in a small business here. Why? It's on the flight path and it is tourist dependent. Scheduled night flights is the perfect way to drive tourists away. That's a couple of jobs right there that I won't be creating, and I'm not alone. The airport has been a planning blight for years, faffing about with its on/off night flight threat and is stopping us benefitting as fully as we should from the surge in UK staycations. I dread to think how many jobs it has already cost us.

  3. Thank you for an extremely well-thought out approach to this whole thorny issue. I agree wholeheartedly with the comment that 'the danger is that the master plan will become mistaken for council policy' and reiterate the view expressed here that issue be properly addressed through the planning system to institute some clarity for all and to avoid the council being seen to be in the pocket of Infratil.

    Currently, it appears to the ordinary resident that the council take at face value the claims of the airport with regard to jobs. Given the significance of the issue, it is vital that the council ensure that all residents have full faith their ability to properly consider and weigh real evidence, as opposed to unsubstantiated claims, in advance of any decision. This is especially important given that the council has, over many years, failed to hold the airport properly to account against even the current 106.

    At a time when, even despite the dire economic position, Ramsgate, Margate and Broadstairs are once again being featured in the national press as places to live, work and visit, it is essential to secure the long-term future of Thanet and to attract investment and people. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that people are choosing to invest elsewhere or are biding their time simply because the threat hanging over Ramsgate is so significant.

    I welcome this move to ensure that the council adopts a far more rigorous position with regard to its responsibilities regarding review/scrutiny of the airport and its activities. I also firmly endorse efforts to categorically insist on the denial of night time flying in order to safeguard the economic, social and personal well-being of Ramsgate and its residents.

  4. If Infratil was that worried and intent on acquiring night flights, why is it, they have not legally applied through the proper channels to have this 106 agreement revised to allow night flight on their contract.
    Did they really think we wouldn't notice, if they decided to sneak a few heavy goods planes in the air now and then, circulating over our heads whilst sleeping.
    Doesn't the planning dept have to consider such an application before they start, this has not been instigated or applied for. But, we are already suffering from very late flights 11.45pm 12.08am and early flights 5.32am and 6.29am in just one night. Forcing the residents to endure night flights in such a heavy over populated area is completely unacceptable and will cause many health problems, if allowed to continue.
    Expand all you like during the day but leave us to sleep at night, stop scaremongering the public by saying Manston will have to close if Night Flights are turned down, this will not be the cause of Manstons closure if it happens and 3000 jobs will not be created if NF are allowed, at least be honest with the public .
    I notice the instigator of this rediculous destruction of peoples lives, does not even live in Thanet!
    Say no more, rather like the Tesco situation at Margate when the deciding vote came from Birchington resident. Do these selfish people actually sleep at night?

  5. KCC's Regional Growth Fund application states that 23 extra jobs at the airport will allow Infratil to handle 750,000 extra passengers PLUS double the amount of freight. Steer Davies Gleave's report that went in with the application says that the maximum number of passengers per year will be 119,000. So the Infratil's prediction of 3 million passengers and 3000 jobs is PR pie in the sky.

  6. I was on the verge of creating jobs in Thanet by relocating my production company to Ramsgate from London. In the process I was also going to buy a house, and convert rundown Victorian industrial premises into my workspace/studio, which would also have created work for the building/renovation trades. The area is briliant, but in the end the threat of night flights and a massively enlarged cargo airport on the doorstep with planes taking off and landing so low over the town put me off. Not only would it have been disruptive for my business, it would also have made living in the town a nightmare.

    If Thanet Council want to attract future-focussed, creative industries to East Kent, they need to think long and hard about about Manston in my opinion.

  7. What I have difficulty with, is that the current District Audit (DA) will not deal with the failures of EKAP to monitor the airport as directed by the DA, so in essence TDC failed to monitor the airport.

    This has been raised with the local MP!!!

    Of even greater interest is that a well known public interest group requested that TDC go to arbitration and this offer was extended to Infratil yet both parties failed to respond.

    Why this publicly spirited and really useful group even asked why their monitoring of aircraft landings and take off's differed from theirs(TDC.

    Do we have an issue of misconduct in public office here?

  8. I have complained many times about having my family being woken at night by flights.

    The most recent incident was at 3:50am. It took many emails to elicit a response from TDC and only after much haranguing by my local councillor (Lab).

    "Following your recent communication regarding the aircraft movement at Manston, Officers have liaised with the airport operators and we are advised that the nature of the aircraft movement and specification of the aircraft involved meant that the incident was outside the fining regime.
    In light of the above, no action will be taken against the aircraft operator involved.
    Yours sincerely
    Cllr Robert Bayford

    There is no monitoring done by TDC, they ask the operator! They do not know what level of noise we are being subjected to, they ask the operator! There are no limitations imposed on what this operator can do, there are no fines, there is no consideration given to local residents. I honestly do not know why this operator is bothering to apply for night flights, they do as they please already!

    The leader of TDC has sought to suppress representation of those that are affected by night flights by using council funds to get dubious legal opinion on pre-determination, a ridiculous ruling he well knows as he has already espoused his thoughts on the issue of night flights in the media.

    The concept that this issue is going to consultation is bizarre. Who's right is it to vote whether I, my children, or anybody else should be woken at night? Least of all when there has been no measurement of what level of noise we are being subjected to, or those that are being asked are not subject to it themselves.

    I am grateful that Thanet Labour party has adopted a common sense approach to this issue.

  9. I quite like the idea of a ban on scheduled flights between 11pm and 7am, but as pointed out here, today's rules have gaps you could drive a 747 through at 3am.

    The fines need to be levied on all flights of qc4 and above landing after 11.30, not above qc4.


  10. Presumably from the above comments only anti-airport and Labour luvvies are allowed to have a say?