Thanet District Council have created cock-up out of chaos – a half-arsed consultation, then playing put the genie back in the bottle. It would have been so much simpler just to bat Manston’s proposals straight back to them, just as the previous administration did, and for exactly the same reasons.
Originally, the consultation was to last 90 days, be carried out by MORI (for example), and cost £50-£80k. Councillors and members alike have been getting twitchy about the cost, and so they’ve opted to do it in-house, i.e. on the cheap. There’s no suggestion that this will produce a better consultation.
Manston have dragged their feet for years over this, to the extent that even the Council has been appeared quite nimble in comparison. Nonetheless, Clive Hart has tried to allay our impatience by acting swiftly. Personally, for an exercise of this importance, I would rather he did it right than did it soon.
Having just realised that the S106 agreement means that Manston can proceed with whatever night flight policy they like, TDC have decided to wait and see what effect the night flights will have. Erm, quite apart from what their native common sense should be telling them, TDC have now commissioned two independent reports, both of which conclude that the costs of night flights outweigh the benefits.
They are also waiting to see if night flights would result in an “intensification or change of operation” at the airport. Hmmm… tricky one. Currently: 16 hours a day, with scheduled night flights forbidden. Proposed: 24 hours a day, with no limit on night flights. You know what – I think there will be a difference.
New approach to airport consultation
A new approach is to be taken by the council in response to Infratil’s proposal for regular night-time flying at Manston Airport.
Leader of Thanet District Council, Cllr Clive Hart, has signed a decision notice, which states the council’s intention to carry out a focused consultation in-house for a period of 28 days for Thanet residents and in particular for those directly affected by the Airport’s proposals.
The decision follows clarification that the proposal submitted by Infratil is for consultation only and the proposal does not require a planning application at this stage. The council’s role is therefore as a ‘consultee’ and it is not in a position to make a binding decision in respect of the night-time flying policy.
The council is seeking advice as to whether the proposed night flying policy, if implemented, could result in an intensification or change in operation at the airport. This could then require a planning application at some point in the future. However at this time, the council is only being asked to provide a consultation response to the proposals and is seeking the views of local people to inform its response. People can also submit responses direct to the Airport, via its consultation page.
The decision also comes after review of the findings of an independent assessment carried out by Parsons Brinckerhoff Ltd. on behalf of the council, which challenges a number of the environmental and economic claims of the airport. Cllr Clive Hart, said:
“Taking a new approach to our consultation is absolutely essential given this advice. We’re committed to listening to our residents, and will still provide the opportunity for people to comment on the proposals before we draft our response from the council, as well as people being able to provide their views directly to the Airport. We’ve promised that we will seek residents’ views, and we’re standing by this commitment, but on a more appropriate scale. This issue needs to be drawn to a conclusion for the sake of the community, the council and the airport.”
The public consultation is proposed to launch on Friday 3 February for a period of 28 days and will be open to all residents in Thanet. Responses to the proposals must be submitted in writing to Consultation, Thanet District Council, PO Box 9, Margate CT9 1XZ or by e-mail to email@example.com Full names and addresses must be provided with each response.
The proposals, and more information about the public consultation, will be available to view on TDC’s website from Thursday 26 January.