Many residents are still blissfully unaware that Ramsgate and Herne Bay are facing an environmental catastrophe.
When Manston airport was closed, an aggressive campaign group was set up to try to get it reopened. Most of the people running this campaign live in areas which are not affected by aircraft noise. The campaign group has been backed by prominent local politicians including Sir Roger Gale, MP for North Thanet, Laura Sandys, MP for South Thanet and Iris Johnston, Leader of Thanet District Council. None of these live in areas affected by aircraft noise.
The only way the airport can be reopened is by purchasing it from its new owners. The owners don’t want to sell, so the campaign group has been pressing Thanet District Council to use its compulsory purchase powers to buy the site of the former airport.
Thanet District Council can’t afford to do this. The campaign group has backed a U.S. real estate company called Riveroak which says that it will fund the compulsory purchase. However, when Thanet District Council performed a due diligence exercise on the proposal, they could not conclude that there was no financial risk to the council. Riveroak was rejected.
The campaign group did not accept this decision. They were able to persuade the Department for Transport to commission a study to determine whether Thanet District Council made a correct decision. The accounting company Price Waterhouse Cooper is doing this study and will report back to the minister in May.
If the Department for Transport is convinced that there is no financial risk to the council they may recommend that Thanet District Council compulsory purchases the airport on behalf of the U.S. company, Riveroak. Conservative and UKIP councillors have stated on record that, if they are running the council, they will proceed with the CPO, regardless of the advice they receive from council officers.
You may be wondering what Riveroak will do with it if it is reopened. As a real estate company they have no experience of running airports. Nevertheless, they have produced a plan outlining what they intend to do.
Riveroak do not intend to introduce passenger flights. Those who might be hoping for cheap flights to sunny climes need to forget this, because it isn’t on the cards.
Riveroak intends to create a freight depot. Freight planes will land and take off from Manston. Riveroak says that it will not need night flights. This is not credible. Freight needs the freedom to operate 24/7. If they are allowed to create a freight depot it will inevitably require permission to operate around the clock.
Last year, at a public meeting at the Marlowe Academy, one of the parliamentary candidates was present and said that the restriction on night flights would need to be looked at again. He got a standing ovation. They will give local people assurances that they don’t need night flights. As soon as they are operational they will say that night flights are essential.
The issue of reopening the airport is inextricably linked to the issue of night flights. If the airport is reopened, night flights will be introduced. The campaigners do not dispute that night flights will cause noise. They don’t care. One campaigner described Ramsgate as “A sacrifice worth making.”
Now, it’s up to you to have your say. Do you want unrestricted night flights? Do you believe that Ramsgate or Herne Bay should be sacrificed for the greater good of East Kent? Or do you think that the new owners should be allowed to pursue their plans to create a new business park catering for high tech manufacturing companies? They have estimated that 4,000 jobs could be created, and they already have 500 jobs in the pipeline.
Make sure the election candidates know what you think and, before you put a cross in the box, make sure you know what they are going to do if you elect them.