People living under or near the flightpath of Manston airport could have their sleep shattered up to seven times a night if Thanet council supports plans from operator Infratil. The company’s application for a night-time flying policy has gone in to the local authority – and it wants as many as seven aircraft a night to fly in to the airport between 11.30pm and 6am – a period being labelled the ‘Night Time Quota Period’. Up to 1,995 planes could fly in at night during the year, which has been set as an annual limit.
The information, produced by Infratil, was submitted to the council late on Tuesday night last week. The company says the number of planes may not be that many to start with and is being applied for to allow it to press ahead with its expansion plans as set out in the masterplan document, published last year. The figures have taken more than a year to come into the public domain and are already proving divisive.
A No Night Flights campaign started last year, with the backing of the Stop Manston Expansion Group. Objectors say it will mean sleepless nights for many thousands in Thanet, as planes loaded with freight fly overhead during the small hours. Pete Binding, a Ramsgate resident who opposes night flights, said:
“Finally it’s been published and it’s even worse than we thought.”
Aircraft with a QC4 rating will not be able to make scheduled flights at night, but that accounts for only a tiny fraction of planes flying in Europe today. QC4 flights that are late or unscheduled will still be able to land, and many believe the penalty fines proposed in the application for such planes landing are simply not high enough. A fine of £1,000 will be applied, but fines for planes that take off and arrive from the west would be smaller. Mr Binding says Infratil has “invented” the Night Time Quota Period to make night-flying hours seem shorter:
“Airlines will gladly pay £1,000 for the right to fly the noisiest planes in the world into the airport at 3am.”
The areas most affected by the night flights are Ramsgate, St Nicholas-at-Wade, Monkton and Minster, but there is also likely to be opposition in Herne Bay [you can count on it! Ed.]. Thanet council will conduct a 12-week consultation on the issue before any decision is taken. Council leader Bob Bayford said:
“We know this is a hugely important issue for local people, which is why we are making these documents available to the public at the earliest opportunity. It has been made clear that people want the council’s independent assessment of this report available when the consultation starts. That’s why the formal consultation process is not beginning immediately. Of course, should people want to make their views known before we begin our formal consultation, we’d be happy to receive those. That will be followed by a thorough and extensive consultation.”
The start date of the consultation will be announced by the council soon.