Residents face sleepless nights from May as night-time flights are set to soar over Herne Bay and Whitstable from May. Herne Bay town centre and Hampton Pier are on the planned flight path for 11 British Airways cargo carriers and homes in Chestfield and Blean will also be affected. BA has been given the green light for 11 freighter planes to land and take off at Kent International Airport at Manston for an 18-month trial period from 6am to 11.30pm. Canterbury city council was given just one week to respond to the proposal, passed by Thanet Council earlier this month.
A third of the flights are expected to be directed over Herne Bay and Whitstable as the Boeing 747-400s make their way into land. Liberal Democrat councillor Ron Flaherty (Heron) demanded more information about the plans at a council meeting on Thursday. Tory council leader John Gilbey responded by confirming rumours that the previously unnamed international freight operation was British Airways. He said:
“My understanding is that Kent International Airport has been approached to relocate a long haul international freight operation, which I can confirm is British Airways, to Manston from its existing base. The proposal envisages an 18 month period of operation with three monthly review, at the conclusion of which a prospective night time flying policy, covering the period of 2010 to 2018 can be put into place.”
As the flights will affect residents in the Canterbury district Cllr Flaherty, a former member of Kent International Airport Consultative Committee, is angry at the lack of consultation.
“I’m not happy about this, as many as a third of these proposed flights could come over us.”
He is also annoyed that the city council was given less than a week to respond to the plans from airport owners Infratil, adding:
“Infratil threw this down with only five days notice and would not disclose who the airline was. I don’t understand the rush because British Airways cargo operations have been looking for a new site away from Stansted for years.”
Council spokesman Rob Davies said:
“Although we weren’t given as much time as we would have liked, we did manage to produce a response in time.”
The response listing the city council’s concerns was included at the debate in Thanet. The city council’s head of regeneration and economic development Ian Brown agreed that the plans would be good for the economy but was concerned about noise levels and their effect on the district:
“This proposal is potentially a major opportunity to generate employment and strengthen East Kent’s economic structure. Overall we would expect best possible technology and methods of working to be deployed to minimise the environmental impact of the operations. There is no mention of any changes to noise abatement routes. Our understanding of routes for the preferred approach from the Dover Beacon shows the route passing to the west of Canterbury over Blean, Chestfield, Hampton and Herne Bay. It would be preferable if this route could be modified to mitigate noise over Chestfield or Herne Bay.”
Although in theory the airline has permission for more than 2,000 flights a year, only a portion will be scheduled. A spokesman for BA World Cargo said: “British Airways World Cargo is currently in the process of tendering its long haul ground handling operations within the United Kingdom.
“These operations are currently based at Stansted Airport. However, as part of the tender process we are considering a number of different Airport options within the UK.”
The owners will brief city councillors on the plans in a private meeting in March. Cllr Flaherty said:
“We have to seize this opportunity to determine whether these flights have to go over our town.”
An Infratil spokesman said:
“Canterbury City Council has a permanent representative on the airport’s consultative committee which meets monthly. The council also made a submission to us about the plans. The number of flights coming over Herne Bay will really depend on wind direction so it is hard to determine. The town is a fair distance from Manston so planes coming in to land will be at a high enough level where noise should not be a big issue.”