Sunday, 31 October 2010

Sunday Ramble

Once again a major event in Ramsgate and scant publicity on the Thanet District Council website, I was tied up this week with the bookshop and half term and just didn’t get the time to deal with it.

Here is the link to the event details hidden in plain view on the councils websites. You can of course have a go at getting to it from the councils homage, something that the cynical would say would have been splashed all over their homepage had the event been in Margate.

The night flights and Kent International airport is in the forefront of the blogs, local media and politics at the moment, a difficult one for me as the town centre where I live is so noisy at night anyway.

There is also the problem that there is a lot of statistical and technical information, mostly emanating from the airport operator and much of which doesn’t really make sense, the problem here is that if I come down heavily on one side or the other it is very difficult to make a dispassionate assessment of the information.

Anyway at the moment I will continue to publicise all the information that I can find.

It is still difficult to work out what the airport operators want, they seem to be saying on one hand that they want to get out of operating European airports and on the other that they want to increase their activities at Manston.

Much of the airport argument seems to be centred around local jobs ant claims that Infratil are making in this respect look very strange indeed, their graph relating to this seems to be, well just plain potty.

It looks like a big slab of red and blue cheese fairly near the bottom of this page at the moment they employ just over 60 people who live in Thanet and going by what Don says on his blog see there is a fair amount of slack to be taken up before they are going to need any more.

The strangest part of this though is what they call, indirect, induced and catalytic jobs, it would seem that the current 60ish Thanet jobs are supposed to be generating about 100 of these at the moment, it doesn’t say how many of these indirect, induced and catalytic jobs are in Thanet. The graph goes on to say that the same airport producing about 600 jobs for people in Thanet will produce about 5,000 indirect, induced and catalytic jobs.

The noise business is just as difficult to work out at the bottom of the same page, they describe the really noisy area around the airport as 57dBLAeq,8hr, they then go on to say that there are no dwellings in this area.

Now my understanding is that 57dbl is about the level where noise starts to get annoying, the sort of thing that would wake you up or make you raise your voice to be heard.

The trouble here is that when a large aeroplane taking off or landing flies over Ramsgate it is so load that you have to raise you voice to be heard and indeed it would wake you up, so something here doesn’t make sense.

This business with decibels also doesn’t make much sense 57db using the scale I learnt many years ago is about the noise level of ordinary conversation, you could say that the whole thing is much more complex that I expected.

At a rough guess I would say that a large plane taking off and being noisy over Ramsgate, as happens regularly makes a noise in about the 100db range.

On the other hand there are the flybe planes like the one Don went on, these fly over Ramsgate regularly and don’t seem to be louder than normal road traffic, in fact the flybe operation seems to be beneficial to Thanet, improving our connections with the rest of the UK.

To me the argument seems to be much more along the lines of it’s fine to drive past my house in the middle of the night but please don’t use a chainsaw outside my house at 2am.

Back to TDCIT you may be interested to know that Thanet District Council have joined Facebook, see!/pages/Margate-United-Kingdom/Thanet-District-Council/83700846372?v=wall they seem to have one friend and 16 people who like this.

They also have a youtube account, see and a twitter account see they don’t seem to have embraced blogger yet.

Some thoughts on Halloween and the way faith schools approach this, my youngest children go to a faith school, so they had an all saints party, this involved dressing up as a saint.

This was obviously a costume party and from the point of view of the youf the costume, well as it was obviously Halloween this needed to fairly gruesome, fortunately the church’s history of martyrdom managed to come up with the goods.

I thought though that the slash across the neck, St Agnes, just wasn’t in the same league as St Lucy resplendent and carrying her eyeballs on a plate in the usual fashion.

A bit of a glance at the other local blogs now.

Simon Moores has more concerns about how the government cuts are going to cause problems for the council, I would like to be able to find something flippant to say that would make this all sound like a storm in a teacup, the trouble is that it just isn’t like that. I will instead just jest that I couldn’t understand his quick mental calculation, which I can’t, 21m divided by 167k sees to suggest Thanet has a population of about 126 people, enough teasing, fortunately Simon takes this sortof thing in good spirit.

The council officers I talk to have very genuine concerns, not only that they will lose their jobs but that some of the departments just won’t have enough staff to operate effectively.

Planning is a part of the council where I know more officers than most, and it is genuinely looking as though the mixture of unworkable legislation and shortage of staff may well mean that the whole thing pretty much grinds to a halt.

Simon is also getting on to the business of voting for faster broadband in Thanet see worth voting for this and for once it seems to be something that all the parties agree with.

Dave Green on has an article that is very similar to Stella Creasy’s and one like this must be great minds thinking alike.

But the news there is that the Thanet Labour Group are to oppose night flights from Manston, jumping on a band wagon or listening to local people at last, I am not so sure.

Six months to the local elections and the feelings against night flights seems to very strong talking to the customers in the bookshop, but then there is the question of what is the Conservative Group’s position on this one?

I had a chat with Don recently, his latest post reminds me of the literary quotation “Il Porcupino Nil Sodomy Est” which roughly translated means don’t muddle your balls with hedgehogs, see

Don seems to have come out in favour of night flights, I think the problem here may be to do with confusing the relatively quiet passenger planes with the very noisy cargo planes.

Tony Bignews has an interesting article on the ongoing saga of the demolition site in Northdown Road, see this sort of public safety issue is something needs drawing public attention to.

Tony is another one who seems to be coming out for night flights and I get the feeling that the airport issue could be turning into both a political football and a sort on south Thanet v north Thanet issue.

I will add to this ramble as the day progresses.


  1. Michael

    The meeting that took place in Ramsgate was for Ramsgate Town Council and wasn't a Thanet Council event and so it's quite irrelevant where it was! To underline it further, councillors like me weren't invited and as it was an RTC meeting it wouldn't have been appropriate for me to attend without an invitation anyway!

    As for comment on the airport or the event itself, the council is involved in a consultation process and once again it would be improper to comment until such a time as the details of the application have been properly and expertly evaluated!

  2. The problem here for me Simon is that TDC have set up and tagged their websites so that they come up on the first page of google when you search phases like what’s on in Thanet.

    I don’t think that this was a town council event, nothing on their website about to say it was, but the real point here is that the tourist information people will know about this event but don’t seem to have any input in terms of prioritising events on the TDC websites.

    Actually looking at your comment I wonder if you have missed the point that this is a public motor racing event with free entry, you don’t need an invite and it is going on at the moment.

    With the airport, has the council got any experts on airports, or are they using an outside consultant?

  3. Michael

    We simply go around in circles in regard to what you think should be on the TDC website and you've had plenty of correspondence from officers on the subject in regard to how the system works.

  4. Simon I feel the TDC website does little to promote events, I know how hard it is garnering information as I suffer finding stuff to promote on my site. As for something like the quad bike thing I discovered a picture on Michaels blog of a poster pinned up on railings in Ramsgate.
    The airport meeting I can understand you not going.

    Michael as I type my wife is at church helping at a 'BRIGHT NIGHT PARTY' our atempt to get children away from gouls and werewolves and into the light of the church. A lot has been printed about various orginisations being pilloried for coming out against the Trick or Treat culture. I personaly think it is all too commercial but then what do I know?

  5. 57 decibels is said to be the 'average' noise level at which people begin to get annoyed. The trouble with averages is that they hide so much. An average of 57 means that sometimes the noise is louder than this and sometimes it is quieter. You could have a pneumatic drill which makes a noise level of 140 decibels, but the average would only be 57 if you used it intermittently.

    The other problem with using an average of 57 decibel as a measure of community disturbance is that this figure was empirically derived around Heathrow airport during the day-time. London is a pretty noisy city and the average noise level which begins to irritate people in the day-time is probably a lot higher than the average noise level which will irritate people in Thanet at night.

    If there aren't gong to be that many night-flights I can't see the point of using an average noise level. Far better to look at the noise level of individual events and see if they are loud enough to wake people up.

  6. Simon I seem to remember a couple of years ago there was a beach cross event in Margate, I seem to remember that senior councillors supported it. This event in Ramsgate didn’t seem to get any support from that quarter and I wonder if it is because they didn’t even know it was on.

    What I am saying here is that there seems to be different criteria for Margate and Ramsgate on every level and yes the council always seem to have some sort of answer.

    Difficult one there Don, the church took over the pagan festivals and now things seem to have got a bit mixed up, but in the UK I don’t think it is commercialism that is the problem, well not with Halloween that is.

    18.08 I don’t think that 57db is an average 57dBLAeq,8hr on the other hand I have to admit to not really understanding, I think they should be using EA guidelines and it should be 55Lden.

    This is a bit of a new departure for me, I am hoping that the councils environmental protection department will produce something easier to follow in their consultation.

  7. Quite right Michael. thanks, too many zeroes!

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  9. Michael

    tricky dB

    Decibels are, as you know, "Dimensionless". There is actually no such thing as a decibel.

    The term refers to a logarithmic comparison of energy levels and requires a reference to give it meaning (what units the two compared energy levels were measured in). Hence the little letter(s) which follow "dB".

    Hence I think no statement of the dB for the duration of a night flight over the houses has been presented.

    IE They seem to be saying being screamed at for two minutes is an equivalent of being whispered at for eight hours.

    Hope this is helpful.

  10. It seems that they wangled the numbers to NEC A when they may really be in the planning consent refusal category of NEC C ?

  11. I think dBAmax (night flight event)is the figure you want Michael.

    Best of luck. After all even when I did FOI requests exposing as FACT the contamination of the aquifer, by Sericol and Thor, Thanet hardly stood up on its hind feet to protect its environment and personal health did it ?

  12. Retired, You seem to be knowledgable on dB. How do you equate the WHO recommendation of 57dB with the noise contours of 85, 90 and 95 dB as stated on TDC consultation map for a Boeing 737 landing over Ramsgate? (runway 28)

  13. Simon interesting that no one else noticed, I suppose that we are becoming so used to economic doom that saying something like a family of four will have to find an extra £300k per year on their council tax, didn’t seem to worry anyone.

    Readit and Retired I think you are getting onto the right track here, I will add a bit of a rant for what it’s worth.

    The measurement of sound is a tricky one, and the various measurements that evolved weren’t designed for the use that they are being put to here.

    You start with something that vibrates lets say a thousand time a second, say it is a steel sheet and it moves 1mm each way a thousand times in a second, as the movement out is equal to the movement in the average place it is in the middle, so one way of viewing its movement mathematically, is the average, zero.

    Having then decided it must have some figure because it is making a noise, it is normal to express this movement as a waveform i.e. a wiggly line of movement plotted against time.

    Then you go to measure its value, you can measure the distance between the peaks 2mm half the distance between the peaks, the actual effective power based on the volume of one wiggle, this is what we normally do in science and engineering and is called the root mean square.

    Then the problem is that what is sounds like relative to how much it wiggles isn’t linier, a 2mm wiggle doesn’t make twice as much noise a 1mm wiggle and so on.

    Then sound, apart from a pure musical note from one source is a combination of a lot of wiggly lines all happening at once that transforms into wigglier line that represent the vibrating air that comes into contact with our eardrums.

    Then comes the decibel business, this was really devised for how loud radios were years and years ago, the problem is what is a watt, now light is fairly linier, by that I mean that what watts you put in is closely related to what you get out. A hundred watt light bulb is twice as bright as a fifty watt bulb which is twice as bright as a twenty five watt light bulb and so on. Same with heat a two thousand watt electric fire twice as hot as a one thousand watt one. When it comes to sound a hundred watt HiFi is roughly twice as loud as a ten watt HiFi which is twice as loud as one watt one.

    In fact you could say that this morass makes the figures very easy to bend to make whatever result you want, say you are looking for the average where 1=1 2=10 and 3=100 then that average will be different if it relates to time exposed than say loudness or how far from the sound you are.

  14. Michael, You lost me. I like to keep things quite simple.

    If a Boeing 737 passes over Ramsgate, according to TDC the noise contour would be 85, 90, or 95dB. I assume this is measured at ground level otherwise the aircraft noise would be constant, the contours show an increase as the plane gets lower near Manston.

    W H Organisation say Ramsgate should only be subjected to a maximum of 57dB and the only way I can see to equate the two figures is to build concrete bunkers to live in giving a dB reduction of about 30 to 35 dB

    The only effective deterent against noise is heavy construction so Ramsgate will need to become a town of concrete bunkers where nobody goes out at night.

  15. 57dBLAeq,8hr is an average noise level over an 8 hour period (2300-0700) The LAeq bit is a fiddle factor to allow a fluctuating sound to be compared to sound of constant energy.
    90 decibels is the sort of peak noise level produced by a large jet when it passes across the town.

    REALLY funny web-site (

    In the forum bit they claim that Michael Child was one of the people who objected to the privatisation of Manston and that he was present at last week's meeting at Chatham House. The web-site says that it is against their rules to publish mad-up facts. Looks like they are happy to break their own rules to abuse local residents.

  16. Night flight consultation postponed pending further discussions with the airport operator.

  17. 18.56 good try with the decibels, the problem is that the decibel can be used as a scientific compromise devised to equate the way the human ear recognises changes in sound intensity. It can also be used for other scientific applications but it is only a method of expressing something exponentially, like a slide rule.

    In the context of using it as part of an expression of the level of noise in an area I think the starting point would be to measure the existing noise at various places over a period of time, even the places themselves would effect the noise level.

    The next stage would be to fit the decibel scale around the existing noise.

    What the person who produced the aircraft noise assessment report appears to have done is copied figures obtained from proper noise monitoring elsewhere and then tried to apply them to this area.

    After that they then appear to have applied averages.

    The problem really in purely scientific terms is that it is difficult to produce a counter argument for figures that someone has just made up, one way of doing this would be to make up different figures, but this is not something I am prepared to do.

    The best I can do is to say that when the noisiest of the aircraft sound occurs over Ramsgate it sounds like about 100db outside, under the aircraft.

    I did some research in the field of acoustics many years ago and I can assure you that sound measurement isn’t straightforward like say measurement of length or weight, the same sound will sound louder in two different rooms for example.

    Strange about the website, I do have an alibi.

  18. Averaging out intermittent loud noises is a nonsense, they will still wake you at night.

    Its like averaging out the dB rating of your alarm clock throughout the night and using it as an excuse for getting to work late in the morning.

  19. Yep Readit. Decibels enable designers to work in add ups and takeaways because they are logarithmic.

    An increase of 3dB is a doubling of the power. Hence 60dB has twice as much energy as 57dB.

    The hearing response is logarithmic so your ears do not perceive this as a doubling of energy. In effect they perceive it as an increase of 3/57ths ?

    dBs based on ten times the logarithm of the ratio of the compared energy levels.

    Hence what comes forth is merely a number with no units. To have meaning requires a statement of what units were used to make the measurements of compared values.

    Supposing we use Watts. And we compare a 10 watt level to a five watt level.

    10 divide 5 equals 2.

    Log 2 equals 0.3013 (I think)

    Multiply by ten

    Result equals 3 dB

    And hence when power is doubled the equivalent increase expressed as dB is THREE.

    To have meaning requires reference to standards and the interpreation of standards.

    Hence I put on a couple of linkies which, on a cursory check, suggest that the dB figures quoted for Manston are a bit of a wangle.

    In the Army years ago I wish I had available the Manston dB interpretation. "Sarnt major instead of screaming at me for two seconds at 5 AM I wonder if you would do the equivalent nuisance of whispering in an adjoining barrack block for eight hours I thank you"

    Michael and I once visited techie stuff (long since draining from the data banks of my sad old grey cells) when I sent him a frequency response explanation for the means by which a maths graduate sabotaged Petbow production without their in factory load testing being able to detect it.

    There was a similar argument. If I rest a sledge hammer on your toe for an hour. X rays then prove there is no damage to your tootsie. I issue you a BSI accredited certificate that your toes can withstand the force of a sledge hammer.

    If you believe Petbow interpretation then you would agree for me to hit your toe with a measly instantaneous blow from a little old toffee hammer. After all your toes are proof against a sledge hammer ?

    Which is why (My technical argument to Tony Blair) Petbow generator welds did not come apart under average loading but later came apart at customer premises under minor intermittent loads.

    Best of luck Michael


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