Manston airport’s night-time flying consultation has been delayed as airport-operator Infratil has been forced to check its facts. New noise assessments produced independently by the council have led to it asking the airport to review its application and the public consultation has been halted until Infratil reviews its proposal.
Thanet council received an application from Infratil in late September to extend flying hours at Manston and grant permission for a number of night flights for heavy freight planes. However, a draft report investigating the potential noise impact of night-flying prompted councillors to reject Infratil’s plans on Monday. Bob Bayford, council leader, said:
“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. 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 and this needs further work. I also believe the proposed upper level of activity is too high and needs to be reconsidered.
“I’m not prepared to start a public consultation until these issues have been resolved. I’m 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 adviser’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.”
Meanwhile, Thanet’s Labour group voted unanimously to reject the current application at a meeting on Thursday evening, October 28th. Richard Nicholson, shadow cabinet member for regeneration and economic development, said:
“Many issues of concern were raised, but in essence it was felt the alluded-to benefits in terms of jobs were merely an aspiration rather than concrete. And it is clear in our minds these do not in any way compensate for the environmental and quality-of-life issues for the thousands who would be adversely affected.”
The Labour group is calling for a review of the existing Section 106 environmental agreement with the airport. Mr Nicholson said:
“Clearly much more needs to be looked at and put right even under the current Section 106. Primarily, it needs to be enforced properly, renegotiated, flying routes need clarifying and vastly improved and the whole 106 needs improving after what is now 10 years. It was abundantly clear that even now the envelope on what Infratil asked for was being expanded. The airport does indeed provide an opportunity for jobs in the Thanet area, but there is much more daytime capacity which could be utilised before any other options are needed. Furthermore, we feel that any changes such as the one sought at present may require planning permission and Thanet council needs to fully explore this.”
Alan Poole, shadow cabinet member for environmental services, said:
“Concerns were raised about the environmental and health impacts on local residents, particularly sleep deprivation caused by aircraft noise.”