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A three month consultation has thrown up a range of concerns from residents in Thanet, Sturry and Herne Bay, that will be discussed with Manston airport owners, PlaneStation. Inappropriate penalties, inadequate noise monitoring, off-route aircraft, and concern that cargo flights may increase, were among the worries voiced. Council leader Cllr Sandy Ezekiel pledged that the local authority would "go into hard negotiations" with the airport owners over a revised Section 106 environmental agreement that will update the original five-year-old voluntary agreement that he described as "rather woolly".

Council promises ‘hard negotiations’ with airport

A three month consultation has thrown up a range of concerns from residents in Thanet, Sturry and Herne Bay, that will be discussed with Manston airport owners, PlaneStation. Inappropriate penalties, inadequate noise monitoring, off-route aircraft, and concern that cargo flights may increase, were among the worries voiced. Council leader Cllr Sandy Ezekiel pledged that the local authority would “go into hard negotiations” with the airport owners over a revised Section 106 environmental agreement that will update the original five-year-old voluntary agreement that he described as “rather woolly”. He said:

“People have taken the opportunity to put their views forward and some clear messages have emerged that will be taken into consideration as work gets underway on the successor to the 106 agreement. We need to provide better information to the public and noise monitoring needs to be improved.”

Dr Hilary Newport, Kent director of the Campaign for Rural England, said her main concern was over night flying. She said:

“Night flying is a major issue for any airport, but especially for Manston, and it needs to be strictly controlled or it will seriously damage people’s quality of life. The town of Ramsgate is just 1,300 metres from aircraft touching down.”

She said that the branch was so concerned about the potential impact of night flying on the residents of Thanet, it commissioned research by acoustic consultants Capita Symons. Noise monitoring was conducted at three locations around the airport. It said that readings taken as jet aircraft took off showed that night flying noise over Ramsgate exceeds Government and World Health Organisation guidelines. EUjet Fokker 100s registered a peak of 84.3 decibels, equivalent to a short blast of a pneumatic drill 30 metres away. Dr Newport added:

“Night flying is not allowed at London City, Belfast, Norwich and Southend airports because of the proximity of housing. CPRE Kent believes that Manston should be classified as a city airport for the same reason. The results of Capita Symons’ noise monitoring only confirm what hundreds of Ramsgate residents already know: aircraft over the town are unacceptably noisy, and they must not be allowed to come and go at any time of night. We need to make sure that night flying will, genuinely, not be part of the long-term plans for Manston. PlaneStation needs to confirm, once and for all, what is happening after September, then the residents of Ramsgate will know what chance they have of a getting a decent night’s sleep in the future.”

But Stuart McGoldrick, group commercial director at EUjet, said the company is “very disappointed at the tone and content” of the “highly subjective” CPRE comments that “fail to grasp some of the key points relating to night flights from Manston”. He said:

“Kent International Airport is pleased to confirm that it has not requested permission for any night flights for the winter season starting on October 30 as EUjet has received all the flight slots requested from outstation airports. The number of night flights operated this summer will be significantly fewer than allowed under the original 106 Agreement. Kent International Airport is aware of local sensitivity to night flights and has sought to reduce night flying throughout the summer to an absolute minimum. This winter there will be no scheduled night flying at all. The Fokker 100 aircraft – which is the type EUjet operates – is the quietest regional jet in operation anywhere in the world. The CPRE refers to the measurement of noise levels of aircraft taking off – EUjet has only night arrivals at Kent International Airport. In addition, whenever wind conditions allow all aircraft have a westerly flight arrival pattern specifically designed to minimise any impact on the local population.

Kent International Airport originally requested night flights for the summer season only, which resulted in permission to operate to the end of September being granted by Thanet council. Unfortunately, due to an administrative error on our part, the original Section 106 Agreement failed to allow for the fact that airlines the world over operate on a seasonal basis – with the summer lasting from the end of March to the end of October. EUjet is no different. Hence the request that the successor 106 Agreement, the terms of which we are far from taking for granted, take account of this fact of airline life.”

Mr Ezekiel added:

“Night flying is an issue that particularly affects those under the flight path and we will look very carefully at the statistics from this summer’s night flights. The public has sent a firm message to the airport owners PlaneStation that they want to know more about the plans for the airport and what it will mean for them. People want to be kept fully informed about the airport’s development and growth. This successor to the original agreement needs to maintain people’s quality of life as far as possible. The council will use feedback from the public consultation to ensure that this happens and I am sure that all councillors welcome the extensive information from the public consultation.”

Council chief executive Richard Samuel said the consultation provided a lot of information and that feedback showed strong support for the airport, its continued development and for economic growth of the area. He said:

“People have told us where they stand on this issue and it is most important.”

kentonline 18th July 2005

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