Politics is the worst thing that ever happened to democracy, and I only realised this since getting involved in local community campaigns like this one.
The downsides of night flights – noise and other pollution, environmental destruction, reduced quality of life, worse health, more stress, harder-to-teach kids, etc. etc. – are all straightforward facts, and as such are strictly non-political.
The advertised upside of night flights – that they will allow the airport to achieve its master plan and the forecast jobs – is more a matter of belief, trust or interpretation, and as such is likely to coloured by the political colour of your mind/heart.
It’s disheartening when political spin and point-scoring produce more heat than light, warming the hearts of political supporters without showing a way forward. (This criticism is emphatically not levelled at Laura alone, not by any means – they’re all at it, most of the time, usually when there are better things to be doing.)
Laura is right to be concerned about the brevity of the consultation, but it would better to wait for the full details to be published before kicking it. It seems clear that TDC is short of money, full stop. I don’t think the kerfuffle over flower beds tipped the balance.
Laura goes on to say that there is “confusion at the heart of the Labour administration whether this night flight policy constitutes an intensification of use or not“. It’s fair to say there is confusion pretty well everywhere on this vexed subject, which is why it will end up in the High Court. If Laura herself (or anyone she knows) can speak with both certainty and authority to provide clarity on the subject, this would be a good time to speak up.
It is, as far as I know, absolutely accurate to say that a Labour administration signed the S106 agreement with the airport, presumably after having had a hand in drafting it. (For what it’s worth, I think it is the most slipshod legal document I’ve seen.) It is also true that it is supposed to be re-negotiated every three years, and that every administration since 2000, of whatever political complexion, has failed the people of Thanet and East Kent by failing to re-negotiate an agreement that became more obviously inadequate with each passing year.
So, I agree with many of Laura’s points, despite the blue bunting that threatens to obscure them. I’m particularly pleased with her declaration that “I have been consistently against Night Flights at Manston and recognise the impact they could have on the town.“ This would be a good time to briefly suspend party hostilities and work with the TDC leadership on this key issue, perhaps the only one where your written statements are, in parts, indistinguishable.
Labour Council Backs Down on Independent Consultation – Confusion Over Whether Night Flights are a Planning Matter or Not
Following Clive Hart’s, Leader of Thanet District Council, announcement to change the whole consultation process surrounding night flights at Manston, Laura Sandys MP said:
“The statement from Councillor Hart both waters down the public consultation on the night flight policy and also throws doubt on whether this very important policy will ever come in front of the planning committee. Both of these issues are fundamental to ensuring that the public voice is appropriately heard and that local democracy is upheld.
“The Council is watering down the consultation process that the Conservative administration put in place. The then Leader, Cllr Bob Bayford, was extremely keen to use an independent and reputable market research company to assess the public response to increased night flights whilst this council leader is happy to do a cheap internal job. In addition, the previous consultation was planned for 12 weeks while the new council is only giving 4 weeks for residents to have their say. Following Labour’s “Floral Budget”, there is either not enough money for the planned professional assessment of public opinion or no political will to listen to what the public want.
“There is also confusion at the heart of the Labour administration whether this night flight policy constitutes an intensification of use or not. Those residents who live under the flight path are convinced that this needs proper scrutiny as it will be an intensification of use. The public will be extremely surprised that there is an equivocation by the Council on whether this is a planning issue or merely a proposal.
“Labour councillors are breaking their election promise. Many Ramsgate residents supported Labour candidates because of their opposition to night flights. I have been consistently against Night Flights at Manston and recognise the impact they could have on the town.
“It is time for the council to be clear with the residents of Thanet. Does this mean that night flying can proceed without scrutiny from the Planning Committee? If this is the case it represents yet another loop hole in the original 106 agreement that Labour signed when it was last running the Council.”