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Steve Dawe

Clipping: thisiskent

MANSTON airport proposes to have more night flights. To do this ignores the known health impacts of aircraft noise. Research shows exposure to aircraft noise is damaging to health and even impairs learning in children. How productive will people in Thanet be if their sleep is disturbed, perhaps by noisy freight-carrying aircraft at night? The health evidence collected by researchers throughout the world is that there is a strong association between aviation noise at night and blood pressure problems.

Sleepless in Thanet

Steve Dawe

Clipping: thisiskent

MANSTON airport proposes to have more night flights. To do this ignores the known health impacts of aircraft noise. Research shows exposure to aircraft noise is damaging to health and even impairs learning in children.

How productive will people in Thanet be if their sleep is disturbed, perhaps by noisy freight-carrying aircraft at night? The health evidence collected by researchers throughout the world is that there is a strong association between aviation noise at night and blood pressure problems.

There are also associations with increasing stress and anxiety. Some studies show increases in allergies – especially amongst children.

But more worrying is evidence that the learning ability of children is appreciably reduced if they live near busy airports. Near major airports, elderly people are more prone to die at earlier ages from heart and circulation problems.

Manston may opt for more air freight, bringing in higher-value lightweight items that are passed on to the China Gateway for distribution. Since employment in warehousing is low density (perhaps as little as 13 jobs an acre) and airports similarly use large areas of land for very little employment, we should all look sceptically at claims of significant jobs from Manston’s expansion – or the China Gateway for that matter. We are still very much in recession and no regional airport in the UK is doing well at present. If successful, Manston and the China Gateway could potentially generate a lot more local air pollution from increased traffic. But oil prices are rising again as we head rapidly to the global peak of cheap, recoverable oil supplies, so success from these initiatives seems very unlikely.

Any perceived gain in jobs for Thanet at Manston has to be set against the losses of productivity and skills which are created by ill-health from noise and associated air pollution. What about the alternative of a combination of Pleasurama in Ramsgate, a revived Dreamland and Margate sea front and the creation of all-weather leisure facilities at Manston instead of airport expansion? Couple this with the Turner Contemporary and the possibility of a creative quarter in Margate copying Folkestone’s and you might have an overall economic strategy that is more sustainable than more warehouses and more aircraft. Promotion of the No Use Empty approach to empty commercial properties – renting them at low rents rather than keeping them empty – to local arts groups and other locally-based organisations could help fill up long-term empty properties. Thanet’s tourism has been day tripper-based for too long: more leisure and cultural facilities could change this.

It is a practical impossibility for the UK to cut greenhouse gas emissions if aviation use is not constrained. If aviation emissions are averaged across households, then each UK household is making about one third of its carbon emissions by the flights its members take. This is accomplished by a small proportion of households making a lot of flights and accounting for a lot of emissions in consequence. Even more surprising, the UK is top in the world for aviation emissions per adult – far ahead of the USA and other rich countries. Currently, each UK adult averages about 603 kg of carbon emissions from aviation use per year whilst the US average is only 275 kg per adult per year.

Journeys to Europe can be made by rail. This alone would cut emissions from aviation significantly. Domestic tourism and rail travel to the continent can substitute for flights, helping to boost UK tourism revenues. Kent Green Party wants all of Kent’s airports converted to other leisure uses to support domestic tourism, not international flights. Wake up to this Thanet, or be woken up by night flights!

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