RESIDENTS against plans for regular night flights at Manston airport made their anger felt at the first public meeting on the issue. The hall at Chatham House School was packed for the meeting called by Ramsgate Town Council on Monday night. It gave people the chance to air their views on an application by the owners of Manston airport, Infratil, to allow scheduled flights at night. The application was made in September to Thanet council.
The meeting, chaired by Ramsgate mayor David Green, featured speeches from Kim Gibson of the Ramsgate Alliance of Residents’ Associations (Rara) and Susan Kennedy of the No to Night Flights campaign. Mrs Kennedy, who works for the East Kent NHS Trust, argued the benefit of jobs created by extra night flights was minimal and outweighed by the negative impact on the area’s tourism trade. She added night flights would have a bad effect on residents’ health:
“There is a mounting body of evidence which shows the serious negative impact on people’s health and children’s education. Noise isn’t just annoying, it is dangerous, it can even be deadly.”
Rara secretary Mrs Gibson also cited health dangers in relation to night flights and argued the airport had been disregarding public safety issues:
“Infratil chief executive Charles Buchanan stated at a KIACC (Kent International Airport Consultative Committee) meeting on September 17 that due to the wind farm becoming live and causing a cluster on the radar it made it very difficult to land aircraft safely. The secondary surveillance radar which will alleviate these problems will not be ready until November 2011, so for the next 13 months we are living with the possibility of a plane coming down.”
The floor was also opened to Ramsgate residents who raised numerous objections to the introduction of night flights. Ronald Blake, who described himself as a “long suffering resident”, said that for the people of Thanet to pay for an “expensive consultation” over night flights is “like a condemned man buying the bullet he will be executed with”.
The town council sent a letter to Mr Buchanan on October 20 inviting him to attend the meeting but he declined, citing “prior business commitments”. Thanet South MP Laura Sandys also sent her apologies saying she had to be in Westminster. The only member of Thanet council’s Airport Working Party – which will make recommendations on the application – to speak was Councillor Mike Harrison, who assured residents of the group’s impartiality, saying he had “no axe to grind one way or the other”.
Ramsgate town councillors are scheduled to vote on the issue during a meeting on Wednesday, prior to a 12-week public consultation. Thanet council will not be expected to vote on night flights until next year.
By andrew woodman firstname.lastname@example.org