Manston a.k.a. Kent International Airport is an ex-RAF base in north-east Kent, just west of Ramsgate. It passed from the RAF to Wiggins, then PlaneStation, owners of EUJet (a budget passenger airline). EUJet went bust, and in August 2005 the administrators sold Manston to Infratil, a New Zealand-based multi-national infrastructure investor.
The airport is mainly used for flying clubs, testing and training, and private planes. In 2008, less than 3% of the planes were freight or passenger flights. Infratil’s growth plans for Manston are ambitious: 6 million passengers, ½ million tonnes of freight and 103,800 flights annually.
There is a “Section 106 Agreement” (S106) between Infratil and Thanet District Council (TDC) which describes what Infratil can, and can’t, do at Manston. The scale of Infratil’s planned growth is enough to require the S106 to be renegotiated. The existing S106 was drawn up in 2005, and needs to be renegotiated anyway as its 3 year lifespan has expired. There would be a statutory period of public consultation lasting 6 months. This consultation period has not started (as at: 20th June 2009).
Due to the nature of airports and air travel, many more people have a stake in this than just Infratil and TDC. East Kent residents under the flightpaths, particularly in Ramsgate, but also in the Wantsum villages, Herne Bay, Whitstable and Canterbury will all be affected to some degree. Environmental groups, transport lobbies, government bodies, wildlife groups and others all have an interest. The non-partisan KIA Consultative Committee provides a valuable forum for all the interested parties to meet and discuss.
A key issue for local residents is noise. Obviously, the nearer a plane is (in both distance and height) the louder the noise; and if everything else is particularly quiet (at night) it will sound louder anyway. Which is why flightpaths, plane heights, flight times and monitoring matter so much to so many, and keep appearing on this site.
TDC have a duty to do their best to regenerate and energise Thanet, which includes some of the most deprived areas of Kent. Infratil have spent £30m on Manston so far, and have yet to make their shareholders a profit. All the East Kent residents would welcome something that benefits them. We need to find a win-win-win solution.
This is not a small decision, and the consequences will affect tens of thousands of people for years, if not decades. It’s worth taking the trouble to get this one right. And everyone needs to think in the short, medium and long term.