Airport owners have been accused of trying to “pull a fast one” after revealing new plans for night flights over Herne Bay. Controversy has boiled for the past two years over the policy, with Manston Airport owners Infratil keen to boost the number of night flights at the Thanet airport.
Under the current agreement the airport is not allowed any scheduled flights between 11pm and 7am. But in a new revised proposal submitted on Friday, Infratil says it will limit any flights between 11.30pm and 6am to less than two a night and will comply with a strict noise quota.
But the policy leaves them free to fly as many planes as they want – unrestricted by noise limits – between 11pm and 11.30pm and 6am and 7am. Phil Rose, who runs the website HerneBayMatters and has fiercely campaigned against the night flights, said:
“The airport owners are trying to pull a fast one. They are proposing to place an upper limit on the total amount of noise nuisance from planes, but they’ll only be measuring the noise between 11.30pm and 6am. Who are they trying to kid?”
Airport chiefs have forecast an average 6.4 flights between 11pm and 11.30pm and 6am and 7am, but just 1.8 between 11.30pm and 6am. Mr Rose said:
“They call this less than two flights a night, but it’s actually more than one an hour throughout the night. You also have to bear in mind that these are average numbers – when there are no planes one night, there’ll probably be 16 the next night. So an ‘average’ night could be a Boeing 747-400 cargo plane landing, or taking off, at 11.05pm, 11.15pm, 11.25pm, 1.55am, 3.40am, 6.05am, 6.25am and 6.55am – and they’re presenting that as a couple of flights a night.”
Planes landing at Manston fly straight over Herne Bay if there is an easterly wind and skim Reculver when they take off into a westerly wind. Mr Rose said:
“Sometimes, like last summer, we can have several weeks of non-stop easterly winds. So the people of Herne Bay can look forward to sleepless nights from noise pollution, ill health from the resulting stress, ill health from the air pollution from cargo planes and HGVs, and the rapid destruction of our tourist industry.”
Rejection “could threaten airport”
Manston boss Charles Buchanan says allowing night flights would create 3,000 jobs by 2018 and is vital for the long-term future of the airport. He said:
“For the airport to be commercially viable in the longer term and deliver for Kent what other airports have done for their regions, it is vital that we are allowed to compete in terms of the operating hours.”
The submission also includes a Night Noise Assessment Report after previous plans sparked fears about noise. Mr Buchanan said:
“Rejecting the submission by prohibiting all commercial traffic between 11pm and 7am would severely hinder the airport’s ability to attract passenger and freight airlines. It would cost the local economy an estimated £30 million per year and some 1,450 jobs at a time when the area needs them more than ever. It could even threaten the continuation of the airport as a viable business.”
The plans will go out to public consultation after Thanet council has had an independent assessment carried out.
HB Gazette 3rd Nov 2011 firstname.lastname@example.org