Brian Urwin (of the Ramsgate Alliance) spells it out, and tells the world. Public safety zones, fuel dumps, fireworks factory, flaky airlines, bird strike, radar interference from the windfarm, and NOISE… all this and more points to Manston not being particularly healthy or safe.
Text of Letter to Health and Safety Exec
Dear Ms Hackett
Many of the residents of Ramsgate have queries concerning safety at Kent International Airport located on the outskirts of town at Manston. It is less than two miles from the centre of Ramsgate and many of the planes come into land very low over our heads. The airport is operated by Infratil which is now looking to expand the hours of daylight flying from 6am to 11:30pm and have a further quota of night flights.
In its Masterplan, Infratil acknowledge that the Public Safety Zones for the airport should have been done in 2006 and were not. We are aware there is a fireworks manufacturer at the airport, situated near the end of the runway and, according to the Masterplan, it is close to one of the airport’s two fuel dumps.
Ramsgate is a town of approximately 40,000. We have looked at the Public Safety Zones at other airports and believe that there are primary schools, a secondary school, a main road, a caravan park and a hotel all situated within what should be the public safety zones for Kent International.
The airport is used primarily by cargo planes. In its July 2010, operational report Infratil states that, “Freight traffic through Manston rose 12% against the previous year for the same month, with the rolling 3 month total up 5%. The recent demise of MK Airlines is beginning to be compensated by Egypt Air and Meridian who have increased capacity.”
MK Airlines was banned from flying within the EU and Meridian has within the last few weeks been banned from flying within both the UK and Belgium. That leaves Egypt Air. We understand that last year the EU flagged up serious safety concerns about the safety of Egypt Air.
“EgyptAir has been warned that it risks inclusion on the European Commission’s blacklist of banned airlines unless it addresses serious concerns in several areas of its operation. In a detailed assessment of its recent blacklist revision, the Commission states that 75 inspections since January last year turned up 240 individual safety findings, including 69 in the highest of the three classifying categories.The Commission expressed “serious concern” to the Egyptian civil aviation authority in May, regarding “systemic safety deficiencies” at the flag-carrier.”
These cargo planes regularly approach Manston by coming in very low across Ramsgate harbour and across the most densely populated section of the town, passing over schools and homes. As the runway is so close to the town centre, the cargo planes seem to be below 1500 feet which is the height to which sea gulls can soar. Ramsgate’s gulls are very large indeed and very numerous. We fear that a bird strike to one of these old planes could have very serious consequences for the local population. This is doubly worrying because we understand that the Rescue Fire Fighting (RFF) category is 3-9 but 24 hours notice is required depending on the category required.
This part of the coast is often subject to violent storms and particularly high winds which is why Europe’s largest operational wind farm is less than 20km off shore and London Array is about to start building another. Infratil acknowledge that wind farms cause ‘clutter’ on aircraft radar up to a radius of 30km. As the aircraft line up with Ramsgate harbour, they come well within 30km of the Vattenfall wind farm.
To summarise the safety issue, we are worried about a combination of no public safety zones, high winds, radar interference, airlines with poor safety records, aged cargo planes flying very low over densely populated areas, the marked potential for bird strike, a fireworks factory and fuel dump located close to each other and to the runway; all this and 24 hours notice required depending on the RFF category. Sooner or later, all or some of these ingredients will coalesce and there will be a disaster and it should be noted that Manston’s administrative data states that airlines using the airport are only required to carry £500,000 third party insurance.
There is also the issue of health. Our local district council concedes there has been no noise monitoring of aircraft over the town because as a local councillor put it ‘no one realised the monitor needed to be connected to an analogue line not a digital’. Many residents are also concerned about air quality and the quality of the drinking water. Infratil acknowledge that the airport is over the town’s aquifer but they do not state what steps they are taking to ensure that it is not further contaminated.
We are not asking for the airport to be shut but there are a significant number of residents who are concerned about the safety of the airport and we feel that it is only right that their worries are addressed. We believe that, given the grave nature of their concerns, the HSE is the correct body to do this although we are aware that there may well be some overlap with other bodies.
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