Home ... NNF ... Manston ... Quick question

A reader writes:

Have recently become more involved in NNF's campaign. Much to digest and eventually understand. Have emailed Manston, MP/councillors about recent flights - as per your website advice.

What I don't quite understand at the moment is - when flights do come over during the restricted hours - who/which organisation has responsibility to decide if they are operating outside of the current agreement/legislation and then who/what organisation then places fines etc onto Infratil?

Thank you for your time.

SM

Hmmm... good questions, which highlight the shortcomings of the current S106 agreement between the Council and the airport.

Quick question

A reader writes:

Have recently become more involved in NNF’s campaign. Much to digest and eventually understand. Have emailed Manston, MP/councillors about recent flights – as per your website advice.

What I don’t quite understand at the moment is – when flights do come over during the restricted hours – who/which organisation has responsibility to decide if they are operating outside of the current agreement/legislation and then who/what organisation then places fines etc onto Infratil?

Thank you for your time.

SM

Hmmm… good questions, which highlight the shortcomings of the current S106 agreement between the Council and the airport.

The agreement explicitly forbids scheduled night flights, using the following definition:

“regular night flying operations” means flight movements which are scheduled or programmed and which occur frequently or regularly to the same or similar pattern for the same operator during night-time.

The problem is that it is down to the airport to decide (or admit) whether a flight is scheduled or not, and self-regulation is a notoriously bad way to run anything.

Flights that are not scheduled, but arrive during the restricted hours, are only fined if they exceed a certain noise threshold. The flight arrived at 3:30 AM on 9 December, for example, was rated as QC2 and will not attract a fine. The next level up is QC4, which would also not attract a fine. The next level above that is QC8, which would attract a fine of £1000 for the first offence – and the fine doubles on each subsequent offence.

The airport is expected to confess to each and every breach of the agreement, and the Council is supposed to be monitoring the airport’s performance. The Council has admitted that its monitoring of the airport has fallen short of what is expected and required, so we cannot be certain that the airport is confessing to every misdemeanour.

The result of all this is completely unsatisfactory for everyone who lives within earshot of the flight path. The S106 agreement is supposed to regulate the activity of the airport in order to protect the quality of life of those who live nearby. Clearly, it fails to do this. All too frequently, the residents of Ramsgate, Herne Bay and the Thanet Villages are woken from their sleep and the operators of the offending aircraft go unpunished.

On the bright side, there has been a recent change of leadership at TDC. The local elections in May this year resulted in a finely balanced Council which has recently flipped from Conservative to Labour leadership (the new Leader is Clive Hart). This may result in a fundamental change in the nature of the relationship between the Council and the airport. Until now, the Council seems to have been bending over backwards to give the airport whatever it wants. We may now be entering a phase when the well-being and wishes of the residents are also weighed in the balance. I hope so.

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  1. Danno - Herne Bay

    It's good to see you mention Herne Bay residents again in your response. We have experienced many huge aircraft over recent years – flying low and noisily across the Bay and over Beltinge during the day in the direction of Manston.There have also been several other noisy low flying aircraft late at night, and in the early hours, heading over our homes towards Manston Airport.Please do not let anyone forget – particularly Infratil and all the various councillors – that we in Herne Bay and the surrounding areas are on the flight path too and our discomfort is almost as bad as those who live further along the flight path closer to the airport. It is not just Ramsgate or Thanet generally that are affected by this unwelcome disturbance and pollution – and the effect that regular night flights would have on us all would be disastrous.

  2. Local businesswoman

    A more depressing way of explaining the S106, the agreement that is supposed to protect us all from night noise (amongst other things), is to say that the airport can land whatever it likes at whatever time of night it fancies as long as the flight is neither scheduled nor as noisy as QC8. Now, you can get around the scheduling bit easily (and we think that Infratil is doing just that) by saying "oooh, it was meant to land at 10.30pm, honest, but it was just four hours late,… again, just like it is every week". As long as that's how it looks in the schedule, you'll be fine. As for the QC8 bit, well only a tiny percentage of planes have a QC8 rating now. I think the % may be as small as 1%, but do feel free to check this! That means that 99% of planes, including the noisy ones that you can't land at Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick at night as scheduled flights because they're too noisy, can land….er, here…without attracting a fine, at any time.The S106 is a disgrace and TDC has been negligent in its repeated failure to renegotiate it in line with current best UK practice. It's there in black and white that the S106 should reflect best practice, but it allows unlimited, penalty-free, night flying of QC4 planes over a residential area. Interestingly, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted are working on reducing their night flights. It's time that TDC stepped up to the plate and started taking seriously its duty of care to local residents.