SLEEPERS can rest easy for awhile after British Airways shelved plans to fly noisy cargo planes over the area. Complaints flooded in after the airline was given the go ahead to fly 11 planes out of Kent International Airport at Manston and across Herne Bay, Tankerton and Chestfield the town between 6am and 11.30pm every day. Canterbury City Council was given just five days to respond to the proposal passed by its Thanet counterparts late last month.
But those fearing sleepless nights breathed a huge sigh of relief this week as BA pulled the plug and announced it had decided to remain at Stansted Airport.
Although pleased with the withdrawal, campaigner Phil Rose, of Beacon Hill, says the issue of planes over Herne Bay should not drop off the radar. He said:
“It’s as important as ever, just temporarily less urgent. Obviously the latest announcement is a relief for us all, but airport owners Infratil have invested millions of pounds and will be looking for alternatives. This temporary setback gives us all much-needed breathing space. It is essential that we use this interlude to agree a robust framework which allows Infratil scope for commercial success, while maintaining the quality of life for the residents of Herne Bay. Rather than rushing into this half-cocked, we can work towards a sound and solid “win-win” solution. I am all for the creation of jobs and a boost to the local economy, but not if it sees Herne Bay getting screwed.”
Councillors will be briefed by Infratil at a private meeting on Tuesday (March 24). Mr Rose said:
“They need to get an independent flight path expert to attend the meeting. Someone with no axe to grind, who can say whether or not the planes need to go over the town or can go out to sea. It may be that they says it’s not possible or practical to over the sea, but we need to make sure Infratil aren’t being lazy or greedy.”
Agreeing with Mr Rose, Herne Bay councillor Ron Flaherty said:
“All members are determined to investigate thoroughly the possibility of changing the flight paths. A gun was held against the head of the consultative committee when we were given just five days to respond. We knew BA wanted to come to Manston, Infratil were keeping it a secret, and now BA have decided they don’t want to come after all. The farce continues.”
Speaking after BA’s withdrawal, Manston chief executive Matt Clarke said:
“Like any business that bids for a new contract and is unsuccessful, we are obviously disappointed with this news. However, this negotiation was only one of several opportunities we have been pursuing and we are pleased with the level of interest shown by carriers in operating at KIA. The fact that Kent International was considered alongside Stansted shows how far its reputation in the industry has progressed since Infratil acquired it in 2005 and this bodes well for future business.”
Clipping: thisiskent By jnurden