Unfortunately the splendid and venerable bus, loaned to us by a Ramsgate resident and supporter, broke down in Queen Street and so we were unable to get all around town as planned – apologies to all those who had camped out waiting for a glimpse!
We were delighted with the response, lots of people came out to support, we were able to speak to residents and visitors who were unaware of the proposal, and we were able to speak to people about the facts etc etc.
Here are some of the highlights of the day – do feel free to add your own…
- The sheer numbers of people who were visiting, either for the day or on a weekend break. There were people from all over the country. I had no idea there were so many visitors. Has anybody collated any data about the numbers of people visiting Ramsgate and the income they must be producing for the town? Almost everybody I spoke to who was visiting was appalled by the idea of night-flights and understood why we were opposing them.
- The fact that the only argument put forward by the pro-night-flighters was “jobs” and the fact that none of them could explain how the night-flights would create these jobs. Many people were in favour of night-flights for passenger flights but not if they were going to be used for freight. When I pointed out that this proposal didn’t distinguish they were happy to sign. It brought home to me the importance of continuing to undermine the “thousands of jobs” nonsense. It really is the key to changing perceptions. I just love the people who won’t make eye contact with you and weave around you, muttering and shaking their heads.
- There was a surprising number of people who said that night-flights didn’t bother them and that they slept right through them. When I pointed out that we didn’t have any night-flights at the moment they seemed perplexed. Their views did highlight how so many of the pro-lobby only think about themselves and don’t care as long as it doesn’t affect them. I haven’t (yet) come up with a succinct way of describing this attitude but it strikes me that they are the real NIMBYs.
- A very articulate and knowledgeable chap who took Alan Poole apart. He told Alan that the mess they are now in was a direct result of the Section 106 Agreement which he and his colleagues had signed. He cited the way in which penalties are not specified for breaches of the agreement and how the agreement specifies that the airport operator only has to present a policy in order to commence night-flights. Poole attempted to counter by saying that it was the “best agreement they could get at the time”. The articulate chap pointed out that they had been under no obligation to sign any agreement at all, and that they would have had far more control in the current situation if the Section 106 did not exist. In other words, the Section 106 is worse than no agreement at all. Poole was way out of his depth and looked very uncomfortable. Labour councillors should be reminded of this at every opportunity.
- The numbers of people who have no idea who Gerry O’Donnell is, but think he is a complete *rse. Way to go, Gerry.
- The Labour Councillors who put money in our bucket. We could end up in the bizarre situation of fighting a court battle against councillors who have helped to fund our case.
- The chap from Spencer Square who loudly and confidently proclaimed that he didn’t believe any of it, the noise, the pollution, the health effects. It was all a load of nonsense and night flights should be allowed. I asked him “But what if you’re wrong?” At this he went very quiet and his wife gave him a quizzical look. He turned and stalked away. Again, he didn’t have a single fact or piece of data to back up his opinion.
- The chap from St. Lawrence who has his own portable noise monitor, and records times, dates and noise levels of flights which pass over his house. He has recent readings in excess of 100 decibels, well above the 80-90 decibels supposedly being recorded at the official monitor, which is less than 100 metres away from his house!
- Brilliant impromptu (or rather, not planned by us) appearances from the old guy in pyjamas and dressing gown and the kids with noise protector headphones and home made signs which both made for great photo opportunities and were lapped up by the press photographers.
- The bus had real impact. Provided a great stationary billboard and pitch for us and welcoming people on, dishing out tea and biscuits etc all felt good and again, furthered the impression of the group being friendly, welcoming etc – plus we gathered a real crowd outside. When the bus was driving, the giant banners certainly drew people’s attention and I’m sure the short, sharp and punchy messages were easily read and digested.
- Jobs, jobs, jobs again from people. I had “there’s 0% unemployment around Gatwick” a couple of times. If you can get people to actually listen and engage, you can sometimes present them with facts but a lot of the time they just have these myths firmly embedded in their brains – very difficult.