One of the crunch seats in last Thursday’s poll may have been lost over the issue of night flights from Manston airport. Residents living under the flight path ditched Conservative councillors Jill Kirby and Brenda Rogers for anti-night flight Labour rookies Kim Gibson and Steve Alexandrou. Miss Gibson believes her party’s tough stance on night flights clinched the seats. She said:
“I think what swung it was the night flights. When I was campaigning, residents told me they felt let down by the Conservatives and that they didn’t live on the ward. Night flights is an incredibly important issue for people living here and people want us to fight these plans.”
Mrs Kirby, the wife of Kent county councillor John Kirby, admitted the airport was a huge issue for residents. Mrs Kirby, who said she will now quit politics, said:
“It was put about that we would vote for night flights, but the Conservatives have always promised a free vote. When we carried out a survey last year we asked residents if they were OK with extending the shoulder periods for flights but not night flights. I think the council needs younger councillors now.”
Nethercourt ward saw the third highest turnout across the district election. The owners of Manston airport have asked Thanet council to lift a ban on flights after 11pm and before 7am. Infratil says that the flexibility for having planes land and take-off between these times is crucial for the airport’s development.
Chief executive Charles Buchanan refused to be drawn on the consequences of last Thursday’s poll, which could see Labour with its policy of no night flights, take control of the council. Mr Buchanan said:
“The position is clear. We had an application for the management of night-time flying – that application outlined the need for the airlines to be able to fly at night. We proposed a schedule of night-time activity and we will work with the local authority to make sure this business can flourish. The ability to schedule night time activity is an important part of developing Thanet’s economy.”
thisiskent 13th May 2011