THE public will be asked for their views on plans for regular night flights from Manston airport from 1st November. On Tuesday, Thanet council’s chief executive Richard Samuel said its consultation on an application from airport owners Infratil for scheduled flights between 11pm and 6am will last approximately 12 weeks. Infratil submitted its proposals to Thanet council, the planning authority, last week. Part of its application is an assessment of the noise impact of its plans on surrounding towns and villages. Thanet council will have those claims independently reviewed before it launches its public consultation.
Infratil’s application asks for 1,995 quota count (QC) points a year for flights at night, the equivalent of 500 take-offs or landings of Boeing 747s at QC4. QC ratings are given to all aeroplanes depending on the noise they create. Points are used up as flights take off and land at the airport at night. In its application Infratil states it will not operate aircraft of “greater than QC4” between 11pm and 6am. Any flights of QC4 or above would attract fines, to be paid into a community fund.
Airport chief executive Charles Buchanan believes a more flexible night flying policy is vital to the success of the airport. He said:
“We want to offer clarity for the community and people that use the airport. It is incredibly important because we have to satisfy passenger and freight operating at night, but it is equally important that we operate with sensitivity.”
On Tuesday Thanet council’s leader Bob Bayford stressed the importance of the council being impartial in deciding the application. He said:
“Neutrality is paramount. We are not obliged to have a public consultation, but we decided it is best practice to hold one.”
Infratil is also seeking to halve quota points used per flight if the planes follow the routes set down in its current agreement with Thanet council. These routes – called noise abatement routes – have been agreed because they take into account aircraft safety and try to avoid flying over towns and villages. If the request is agreed this could potentially double the number of aircraft movements.
Councillor Mike Harrison, chairman of Thanet council’s Airport Working Party, which is reviewing the night flying policy, said:
“We noted that Infratil wanted to halve the quota points of planes taking off to the west – over St Nicholas – and it is something we will be looking at closely.”
Thanet council’s consultation is expected to end in February. Mr Samuel said there would then follow a period to assess the public response, followed by a working party meeting, cabinet discussion and then a meeting of the full council. Any expansion of night flying is being vigorously opposed by campaigners. No Night Flights leader Steve Higgins, 36, believes Thanet council will not have time to complete a review of the airport’s noise assessment. He said:
“They have not completed a thorough review of the noise assessment and are not taking into account public views. This assessment assumes noise levels based on people’s windows being shut. What happens in the summer? There are still too many unanswered questions. Night flying will not be acceptable for residents in Ramsgate.”
View the full application at Thanet council’s website at www.thanet.gov.uk
By saul leese firstname.lastname@example.org