Here’s a snippet from a recent interview with Clive Hart shortly after he managed to take leadership of the Council from Bob Bayford. The rest of the article, which you can read by clicking the link below, covers a wide range of topics of interest to Margate, Ramsgate and the rest of the Thanet.
This excerpt is about night flights, and is therefore of interest to a lot of North East Kent. I think Clive Hart is being overly cautious about the tricky question of predetermination, which is fine. What I am more concerned about is his apparent inability to deliver the whole of his party when it comes to a vote on night flights.
If Mr Hart is confident he can deliver all the pledges made by his group at May’s elections, there is one important exception – night flights from Manston airport.
Labour’s manifesto in May was clear. The party would oppose any scheduled flights after 11pm and before 7pm. This distinction to the Conservative’s policy, which promised their councillors a free vote on the controversial issue, was credited by Labour for ousting the Tories from Ramsgate seats – the town most affected by night flights – helping to produce the hung council.
Mr Hart is a little coy on the subject of the airport owner’s application for night flights, which has now been made to Thanet council.
He explains that to say his party will vote no to night flights could be construed as “prejudging” the issue if the application by Infratil becomes the subject of a planning application. This would disbar them from a vote.
“There is a caveat about the airport. There is the policy we stood on in May, but if the matter does become a planning application my members have to take every bit of evidence into account, like I do on all matters, I would have to weigh the pros of jobs, over cons of the environment.”
In reality, Ramsgate’s Labour councillors are highly unlikely to vote yes to night flights. Colleagues from parts of the district not under the flight paths could, however, if they felt that the airport’s promises of jobs outweigh the impact of the flights.
Might some of the electorate feel that this line is something of a U-turn, or at least a backtrack on May’s unequivocal “no to night flights” stance?
“They may,” says Mr Hart, smiling awkwardly.
Mr Hart says that the matter of night flights may not become a matter of a planning application and the district council is seeking legal advice on whether regular flights between 11pm and 7am would constitute an “intensification of use” or not.
Maidline Homer, director of community services, should have the answer to this question by the new year.
thisiskent 16th Dec 2011