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YES WE CAN: enjoy being awake

Yes we can: the story so far… To be commercially viable (let alone successful), Manston will have to be very busy; and night flights are undesirable on a number of counts. Top marks to those of you who have leapt to the conclusion that there will be a lot of daytime flights.

During the day there’s the advantage that fewer people will be woken from their sleep. For those already awake, the planes will be just as loud as at night, but the higher level of background noise means that the overall effect is less startling and disruptive.

It’s worth remembering that the human body is designed to work best with a ‘normal’ background level of entirely natural noises – think in terms of the plains of Africa, Garden of Eden, Sherwood Forest, walking in wide open countryside, that sort of thing. Anything above and beyond that rapidly becomes stressful – just how stressful depends on the volume, pitch, repetition and so on. Even relatively small changes in the noise levels can have a significant effect. A brief digression for a quiet chat about decibels:

Sounds are measured in decibels. Zero (0) decibels is the softest sound a person with normal hearing can hear at least 50% of the time.The important thing to know about decibels is this: if a sound increases by 10 decibels, it doubles in loudness as we perceive it – it sounds twice as loud. Here are decibel levels of everyday sounds:

  • 0 Decibels Threshold of hearing
  • 10 Rustle of leaves
  • 20 Water dripping
  • 30 Whisper
  • 40 Quiet radio in room
  • 50 Moderate rainfall
  • 60 Conversation, dishwasher
  • 70 Busy traffic, vacuum cleaner
  • 80 Alarm clock
  • 90 Lawnmower
  • 100 Snowmobile, chainsaw
  • 110 Rock music
  • 120 Jet plane takeoff

Now you know.

The point of telling you these things is to let you grasp the significance of this: a 5 decibel increase of noise during the day has been linked to primary school children being up to two months per year behind in their reading age. Five decibels is a relatively small increase in noise levels. Currently in Ramsgate there are primary schools operating what has been called “jet-pause teaching”, where everything just comes to a halt until everyone can hear themselves think again. This is unacceptable. Nobody should have to put up with that, least of all our kids.

The obvious solution is to regulate and manage the flow of air traffic. This will inevitably involve trade-offs: for good practical reasons the planes like to have a long straight run-up to the runway when landing. An absolutely straight line may take them right over a town. We need to work together to see how much leeway there is, and how far the flight path can be curved away from town. It may be worth exploring trying to keep the planes higher for longer – we all know that some come in too low, too soon. We could look at the timings of flights – aircraft noise during the rush hour would seem less intrusive. We need imaginative solutions.

This should be one of the cornerstones of the S106 re-negotiations: avoid flying over built-up areas wherever and whenever possible – use the sea, or unpopulated/sparsely populated land instead. As I said before, it’s not rocket science, just sense. Add your comments below, or email me.

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  1. You are living in cuckoo land if you think that there will be any renegotiation of the Section 106 Agreement. The agreement is wholly in the favour of the airport operator. It contains no means by which they can be forced to renegotiate. For that reason they (and TDC) have done nothing in the five years since it was supposed to have been renegotiated. The Consultative Committee was told of fruitful and productive meetings that had taken place with respect to renegotiation. But where are the minutes of these meetings? There are none. Was the Committee misled? You bet, and you would be a fool to believe any talk about renegotiation now. The Section 106 allows Infratil to do pretty much as they please. The recent application for permission to conduct night flights has told them that TDC will bend what few rules do exist to Infratil's advantage. Why bother renegotiating?

  2. Me, I'm just a layman reading around the subject. If you have expert, professional or inside knowledge do please spell it out.My understanding is that S106 is an agreement between the Local Planning Authority (TDC) and the developer/land user (Infratil) placing restrictions and obligations on the latter. As part of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (the law of the land) it is, by definition, enforceable.That said, it's clear that TDC went into the original negotiations on their knees, and since then their only thought has been whether to spit or swallow.It is also clear that TDC got a bad deal for their electorate (and those who live nearby) and have made a bad deal worse by failing to enforce it.And while I've got my seven league glasses on, it's also clear from Infratil's failure to install and use adequate monitoring equipment, to record any readings, to publish full and clear results, or to fine any instances that fall into their vanishingly small definition of a breach of conditions, that they regard the S106 as little more than an irritating drain on admin.What hope for us cuckoos, then? Largely thanks to the internet, more people are better informed. Websites, blogs and emails make it possible to apply greater pressure when, where and on whom it has greatest effect (rather than heartfelt but belated complaining). This means that the *legally necessary* public consultations will have greater public input. I am encouraged by the feisty attitude of Paul Twyman (head of KIACC). The CPRE (Kent chapter) are ready willing and able to get stuck in drag TDC/Infratil through the courts. Infrtail's own greedy flounderings have drawn attention to their short-termism. In combination, all this serves to focus the spotlight on Infratil's behaviour and their relationship with TDC (and the wider community) through the S106.Be silent and stand by, or step up and speak out. Everyone's free to choose.