An irate clown was in no mood for jokes when he arrived at Manston airport on Friday to highlight the “circus” over night-time flying. Sporting a wig, tartan suit and painted clown face, protester Malcolm Kirkaldie attended a meeting of the Kent International Airport Consultative Committee.
Mr Kirkaldie, a former committee member before he resigned in disgust this year, said Thanet council’s failure to properly monitor night flights had made a mockery of the 106 agreement with New Zealand-based operators Infratil. He said:
“Given the recent events at the Airport Working Party and the admission of certain failures in the 106 agreement and monitoring, it has turned into a bit of a circus – so I thought how appropriate to dress up as a clown.”
A main issue at the meeting was the airport’s delay in submitting a revised policy on night flights to the council so it could go to public consultation. Claims by airport managing director Charles Buchanan that a new policy would be handed to the council “imminently and shortly” were greeted by laughter from members of the public in attendance. When Conservative Canterbury councillor Peter Vickery-Jones asked about the revised policy, Mr Buchanan said:
“It will be completed imminently, but I can’t be specific. The report is still being finalised.”
Committee chairman Paul Twyman said the airport was in need of a clearer timeline. He said:
“‘Imminently’ is as long as a piece of string. The consultation will take some time and Thanet District Council must take time to consider all views.”
Council leader Bob Bayford, who sits on the committee as a representative of the council, said the 12-week consultation would be “wide-ranging and unbiased” but he attracted groans from the audience when he said the council was carrying out the consultation despite “not being under any obligation”. At the end of the meeting most questions and remarks from the public concerned night flights.
Commenting on the usefulness of the gathering, a very serious Mr Kirkaldie said that it was “weak”.