Home ... Herne Bay ... Consultation stops before it starts

Yes folks, although it was once scheduled to start TODAY, the public consultation has been stopped in its tracks. Thanet District Council CEO Richard Samuel, and TDC Leader Cllr Bayford met Manston's CEO Charles Buchanan to break the bad news - his proposal doesn't merit consideration. How did it come to this?

Consultation stops before it starts

Across east Kent, along the flightpath, all the boys and girls awoke with a thrill of anticipation. “Today’s the day! Today’s the day!” – they thought as they scrubbed their little faces clean, “Today’s the day we finally get asked about what we want to happen to our sky”. Their little eyes, once sparkling with excitement, are now bloodshot with tears of frustration and disappointment.

Yes folks, although it was once scheduled to start TODAY, the public consultation has been stopped in its tracks. Thanet District Council CEO Richard Samuel, and TDC Leader Cllr Bayford met Manston’s CEO Charles Buchanan to break the bad news – his proposal doesn’t merit consideration.

How did it come to this? TDC bent over backwards to accommodate Infratil’s requests/demands during the British Airways World Cargo fiasco. Their embarrassment at the unseemly haste of it all (coupled with the need to bounce their neighbouring councils into agreeing at short notice to buy a pig in a poke) led them to press Infratil for a formal night flying request. Days, weeks and months passed. Which came as a surprise to anyone who had believed Infratil’s talk of the pressing commercial urgency of having permission for scheduled night freight.

Eventually Infratil produced a remarkably shabby and utterly useless document that lacked a few vital ingredients – numbers, for instance. This was sent back to them, marked “must try harder”. More time passed. Thanet’s CEO Richard Samuel apparently prodded Infratil twice to get cracking and produce something worth looking at.

Hand on heart, I have to say I am taken aback at the rubbish Infratil have put out. To jog your memory – Infratil are a billion dollar multi-national, and they would have us believe that night freight will be the make-or-break factor for their strategic move into European aviation. It was clear, even to my untrained eye, that their proposal to TDC was riddled with unrealistic forecasts, unsupported assertions and manifestly unacceptable conditions. The “supporting” documents from BAP noise consultants are a mixed bag: the technical stuff is incomprehensible, the comprehensible stuff is laughable.

With a commendable display of common sense, and a degree of self-interest, TDC has thrown the latest tawdry offering back at Infratil. (See how TDC present the story further down the page.) As you will see, TDC have twigged that they are once again being given the runaround by the greedy kiwis. Infratil shot themselves in the feet by (i) asking for an absurdly high annual noise allowance, and then (ii) bodging the counting system so that nobody could understand what it would translate into in practice. It would appear the Bureau Veritas, employed by TDC to “peer review” the proposal, have warned them to steer clear.

A possible future problem arises from the wording of TDC’s press release:

…before residents have their say, they need to know more detail and have a full understanding of exactly how many aircraft movements are being discussed. That information is difficult to gauge from the proposals that have been put to us, partly because of its technical nature and this needs further work. I also believe that the proposed upper level of activity is too high and needs to be reconsidered. I am not prepared to start a public consultation until these issues have been resolved.

To me, this carries the suggestion of an auction-style conversation between the airport owners and the council to determine what is “acceptable” long before Jo Public gets a look-in, which isn’t my idea of a consultation.


Plans for a public consultation on a new night-time flying policy for Manston Airport have been stopped by Thanet District Council.

The night-time flying plans were submitted by the airport to the council in late September 2010. When the plans were received, the council said it would carry out an independent review of the noise assessment report, produced by the airport as part of their application, before any consultation started. An initial draft of this report was received recently and the final report is expected soon, when it will be made public.

Following careful consideration of this draft report and taking account of the considerable public interest in the future direction of the airport, Council Leader Cllr. Bob Bayford and Chief Executive Richard Samuel met with the airport’s CEO Charles Buchanan on Monday 1 November. The airport agreed to revise the detail contained within the proposal. The council will not open any public consultation until this has been received.

The council indicated that elements of the night flying policy needed more clarification to ensure that the public could be provided with a better understanding of how it would be managed, how it would link to the business need for the plans, and examples of how many aircraft movements could potentially take place during the night. Cllr. Bayford said:

“I have met with Charles Buchanan to advise him that, after careful consideration over the last couple of weeks, the proposals that have been submitted have insufficient detail in some areas to be acceptable to the council. We’ve had an initial report through from our consultants, which has confirmed that there are areas of clarification that require further work before local residents are consulted. I believe that, before residents have their say, they need to know more detail and have a full understanding of exactly how many aircraft movements are being discussed. That information is difficult to gauge from the proposals that have been put to us, partly because of its technical nature and this needs further work. I also believe that the proposed upper level of activity is too high and needs to be reconsidered. I am not prepared to start a public consultation until these issues have been resolved. I am pleased to say that the airport has agreed to review these issues.

 “The council remains supportive of the airport and maximising the employment opportunities it can create and sustain, but this cannot be at any price for local residents. As a council, we need to balance the economic benefits carefully against environmental considerations. The proposed night-time flying policy doesn’t fully allow us to do that, as it leaves uncertainties that need to be clarified before we consult the public.

 “I have confirmed with the airport that they will receive a copy of our advisor’s report as soon as it’s finalised. From this, they have agreed to develop fuller information that we will consult on. I recognise, as does the airport, that this may take time, but it is important to get this right.”

 

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