A reader writes:
Have recently become more involved in NNF’s campaign. Much to digest and eventually understand. Have emailed Manston, MP/councillors about recent flights – as per your website advice.
What I don’t quite understand at the moment is – when flights do come over during the restricted hours – who/which organisation has responsibility to decide if they are operating outside of the current agreement/legislation and then who/what organisation then places fines etc onto Infratil?
Thank you for your time.
Hmmm… good questions, which highlight the shortcomings of the current S106 agreement between the Council and the airport.
The agreement explicitly forbids scheduled night flights, using the following definition:
“regular night flying operations” means flight movements which are scheduled or programmed and which occur frequently or regularly to the same or similar pattern for the same operator during night-time.
The problem is that it is down to the airport to decide (or admit) whether a flight is scheduled or not, and self-regulation is a notoriously bad way to run anything.
Flights that are not scheduled, but arrive during the restricted hours, are only fined if they exceed a certain noise threshold. The flight arrived at 3:30 AM on 9 December, for example, was rated as QC2 and will not attract a fine. The next level up is QC4, which would also not attract a fine. The next level above that is QC8, which would attract a fine of £1000 for the first offence – and the fine doubles on each subsequent offence.
The airport is expected to confess to each and every breach of the agreement, and the Council is supposed to be monitoring the airport’s performance. The Council has admitted that its monitoring of the airport has fallen short of what is expected and required, so we cannot be certain that the airport is confessing to every misdemeanour.
The result of all this is completely unsatisfactory for everyone who lives within earshot of the flight path. The S106 agreement is supposed to regulate the activity of the airport in order to protect the quality of life of those who live nearby. Clearly, it fails to do this. All too frequently, the residents of Ramsgate, Herne Bay and the Thanet Villages are woken from their sleep and the operators of the offending aircraft go unpunished.
On the bright side, there has been a recent change of leadership at TDC. The local elections in May this year resulted in a finely balanced Council which has recently flipped from Conservative to Labour leadership (the new Leader is Clive Hart). This may result in a fundamental change in the nature of the relationship between the Council and the airport. Until now, the Council seems to have been bending over backwards to give the airport whatever it wants. We may now be entering a phase when the well-being and wishes of the residents are also weighed in the balance. I hope so.