Manston a.k.a. Kent International Airport is an ex-RAF base in north-east Kent, just west of Ramsgate. It passed from the RAF to Wiggins, then PlaneStation, owners of EUJet (a budget passenger airline). EUJet went bust, and in August 2005 the administrators sold Manston to Infratil, a New Zealand-based multi-national infrastructure investor.
There is a “Section 106 Agreement” (S106) between Infratil and Thanet District Council (TDC) which regulates how Infratil can use Manston – they can’t suddenly decide to turn it into a spaceport and launch satellites, for example. The scale of Infratil’s planned growth is enough to require the S106 to be renegotiated, which would require a period of public consultation lasting 6 months.
The S106 states that Infratil isn’t allowed to schedule any night flights, although a scheduled flight that arrives late can actually land. A night flight is any take-off or landing between 11pm and 7am. Infratil have said they want more night flights.
Many more people have a stake in this than just Infratil and TDC – East Kent residents under the flightpaths, particularly in Ramsgate, but also in the Wantsum villages, Herne Bay, Whitstable and Canterbury will all be affected to some degree. Environmental groups, transport lobbies, government bodies, wildlife groups and others also have an interest. The non-partisan KIA Consultative Committee provides a valuable forum for all the interested parties to meet and discuss.
A key issue for local residents is noise. Obviously, the nearer a plane is (in both distance and height) the louder the noise; and if everything else is particularly quiet (at night) it will sound louder anyway. Which is why flightpaths, plane heights, flight times and monitoring are so important.
TDC have a duty to do their best to regenerate and energise Thanet, which includes some of the most deprived areas of Kent. Infratil have spent £30m on Manston so far, and have yet to make their shareholders a profit. All the East Kent residents would welcome something that benefits them. We need a win-win-win solution.