Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Kent International Airport at Manston, Night Flights Consultation Ends This Week.


I still haven’t responded to this consultation, mainly because I am a bit uncertain about what it is that the airport are asking for, so this morning I had a long chat with Charles Buchanan who runs the airport.

I put a series of questions to him, which I will run through first and then try to give a general picture of what he had to say. I will do my best not to misquote him and try and convey a general and concise picture of what he had to say. 

1 Would you consider accepting a similar ratio of night flights today time flights as that enjoyed by Heathrow and Gatwick? Answer, no.

2 Would you consider running a test week where you have the maximum number of night flights you are asking for, so we can tell what we would actually get in terms of sleep disruption? Answer, not practical.

3 There has been some suggestion that the 106 agreement may not actually be a legal document and that some locals may be going to challenge its validity in the courts, do you have any views on this? Answer, I view it as a valid and legal agreement with the council.

4 Presumably if the 106 proved to be invalid then the previous section 52 would come into effect, any idea what the terms of this are? If you have a copy perhaps you could send it to me. Answer not applicable as I view the 106 as valid. 

5 My guess is that the only medium term viable expansion of the airport would be as a mixture of a historic aircraft centre and small regional airport, in other words if you continue to subsidise it at a six figure level you might just as well do something popular as unpopular, any thoughts on this? Answer, although the existing historic aircraft attractions at Manston are something the airport is happy to support I don’t consider this area could be significant in generating a profitable and viable airport.

6 I can only find the Manson monthly operational reports up to September on the Infratil website, are they being withheld for any reason? If not could you send me copies? Answer, These are provided as shareholder information by the investment company, which isn’t my remit, that said I will find out and supply them if possible.

7 Is it your intention to move to operating a freight only airport, or an airport based around freight? Answer, no the intention is to create a balanced passenger and freight airport, although I would expect there to be times during the expansion period when on or another aspect will expand faster. 

8 It says on your website that responses to the consultation may be sent to TDC, does this mean that the consultation on your website is different to the council’s? Answer. No this is the same consultation.

9 What proportion of responses are you sending to the council? Answer. All of the responses will be sent on to the council.

10 Are you only sending responses that are for night flights? Answer, no

Could you give a layman’s explanation of the maximum amount of night time flying you are asking for in terms of types and amounts of planes? I. E. how many 747s and when. Answer. It is important to understand that this is a quota system, where more nosier planes count the same as less quieter planes, so it isn’t possible to give a precise answer.

Could you give a layman’s explanation of what you would expect to be a noisy week based on what you would actually expect to be flying assuming the airport was running profitably? Answer (I think I have got this right but my notes are not as good as I hoped here) about two movements a night.

I have heard now from three different sources that you are engaged in trying to sell the airport to a Middle Eastern operator, is this true? Answer No

Are Infratil trying to sell the airport? Answer, this is not my remit but that of the investment company Infratil.

I have also heard that Flybee pulled out, not because they were unhappy with
Manson, but because Infratil wouldn’t make the investment in facilities there that they wanted, is there any truth in this? Answer No

That is the bones of the thing and in my defence if I have muddled the thing up I did send the questions to Charles by email and it was his idea to have a chat about them rather than just answer them by email.

I will now try to put across what we discussed as I get time so I hope to get all of this post finished by early evening.




In a general sense I would
say that Charles sees the airport as being beneficial to Thanet and being a
main driving force in getting visitors here and boosting the local tourist
economy. 
His big hope is to get
an airline to operate in a serious way from Manston.
You also have to appreciate
that I am not anti airport, in a general sense when I hear a plane come over,
my reaction is to grab my camera not complain about the noise, so this wasn’t a
hostile discussion.
With the night flights
issue, my problem is that we just don’t know what night flights would be like
in terms of sleep disruption, because we haven’t ever experienced them.
In a more general sense we have never experienced
having a busy operational airport here, but the consultation is about night
flights, so I will try to stick to the thread.  

I would say that his
main take on the night flights situation is that at the moment there is no real
regulation and that if night flights are not part of a regular time table, then
they are pretty much unregulated.

What he says he wants
in terms of night flights is a consistent allowance that would allow him to operate
a viable business in a predictable way.

I would view this as a
budget regulating how much inconvenience he is allowed to give local people and
in return for this the airport offers the possibility of some economic benefits.



Something I did find interesting was that Charles seemed surprised that people had moved here unaware that there was an airport operating close by. I have lived here on and off since about 1967 and I don’t recall aircraft operations being a major factor in local life apart from the recent training flights.


I guess since Air Ferry, the first airline to operate from Manston, failed in 1967, use of the airport has been sporadic and locals haven’t ever considered it that seriously.   


Some of this is about perception I may have got this wrong, but I but I got the impression that Charles had the impression that local people were in some way used to having a busy airport here and therefore knew what to expect.

32 comments:

  1. I think you need to reformatt the text Michael. Currently it runs over onto the links to other blogs (at least via Firefox) & is virtually unreadable.

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  2. Sorry about that Peter I copied the text of the questions from the end of the email exchange arranging the time for a chat and there must have been some hypertext in it that blogger didn’t like, does it look ok to you now?

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  3. 1 Would you consider accepting a similar ratio of night flights today time flights as that enjoyed by Heathrow and Gatwick? Answer, no. (COMMENT: Unsurprising as this would only give him 15 flights A YEAR and not the unlimited flights he is asking for. SO, let's be clear, he doesn't want parity with Heathrow or any other airport)

    2 Would you consider running a test week where you have the maximum number of night flights you are asking for, so we can tell what we would actually get in terms of sleep disruption? Answer, not practical. (COMMENT: Reasonable answer and we don't need this anyway. If you live in Ramsgate and know how low and how noisy they are, then imagining a night with 10 or 5 or even 3 planes waking you up is only too easy)

    3 There has been some suggestion that the 106 agreement may not actually be a legal document and that some locals may be going to challenge its validity in the courts, do you have any views on this? Answer, I view it as a valid and legal agreement with the council. (COMMENT: I'm not aware that anyone has said that this is not a legal document and that on those grounds it should be challenged. Rather, the S106 was due to be renegotiated in 2003 and hasn't been. It is an inadequate and woefully out of date document and, perhaps worst of all, the council have failed to sufficiently monitor and sanction the airport under the provision of this document. The airport and the council need to renegotiate especially given that the council has repeatedly issued planning consents to the airport without ever asking for a new S106 to be negotiated. In fact, given these piecemeal planning concessions, full planning permission (which the airport does not have) needs to be demanded as well as the necessary Environmental IMpact Assessment. Other airports have to go through this process. Why is Manston exempt?

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  4. (cont)
    7 Is it your intention to move to operating a freight only airport, or an airport based around freight? Answer, no the intention is to create a balanced passenger and freight airport, although I would expect there to be times during the expansion period when on or another aspect will expand faster. (COMMENT: This is more schmooze and spin. The independent report and previous reports have indicated that passenger operations as projected by Manston are wildly optimistic -I'm being kind - and that freight is where they want to go)

    8 It says on your website that responses to the consultation may be sent to TDC, does this mean that the consultation on your website is different to the council’s? Answer. No this is the same consultation. (COMMENT: And the council has indicated that it will not be accepting responses via the airport)

    9 What proportion of responses are you sending to the council? Answer. All of the responses will be sent on to the council. (COMMENT: as above)


    Could you give a layman’s explanation of the maximum amount of night time flying you are asking for in terms of types and amounts of planes? I. E. how many 747s and when. Answer. It is important to understand that this is a quota system, where more nosier planes count the same as less quieter planes, so it isn’t possible to give a precise answer. (COMMENT: So, no answer in other words. This is because there is no such thing as a quiet plane over Ramsgate plus they are asking to be allowed to fly noisier or as noisy planes as land at Heathrow)

    Could you give a layman’s explanation of what you would expect to be a noisy week based on what you would actually expect to be flying assuming the airport was running profitably? Answer (I think I have got this right but my notes are not as good as I hoped here) about two movements a night. (COMMENT: This is not true. 'A NIght' is from 11pm to 7am as defined across the world. Charles Buchanan chooses to redefine night as only between 11.30 and 6am which would mean unrestricted flights during this one and half hours that he has conveniently shaved off the night. He can then claim only two scheduled flights between 11.30pm and 6.00am when, in fact, the usual delays and unscheduled flights that Manston currently seems so fond of means that even in this period more than two can be expected. Result - a night that is full of planes.)

    I'm sure Charles did prefer a chat rather than committing weaselly answers to email. It is important to go to the actual application and to read what they have actually asked for. I would urge everyone to respond to the consultation before Friday.

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  5. I would like to re-iterate the point made by the last person, that the 'two movements a night' only applies to their shortened definition of night time. Which sits in between 2 night periods (11-11.30pm and 6-7am) where there will be unlimited scheduled activity which, as we have already experienced, frequently runs late, therefore could be considerably more than the 2 he quotes.

    And crucially, there is no provision for any fines or penalties of any sort if they exceed these quotas in any case - hence unlimited cargo night flights.

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  6. Thanks Michael - It's still a little wide (I have to scroll from side to side to read it), but at least it's readable now. I'll look at it properly later.

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  7. Hi Michael,

    You should respond to the consultation and, if you don't have enough information to make up your mind, I would suggest that you should respond against the proposal.

    It is the Council's consultation and, therefore, it is their responsibility to provide sufficient information to allow people to make an informed judgment. If they haven't done this, it's better to be safe than sorry.

    You won't be able to reverse the night-flights once they have started, so you need to be sure that they won't have the damaging effect on the town that some protesters have predicted.

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  8. So far I haven't so far responded to the consultation, although I own a property on the flight path. This feels too much like a landlord looking for a tenant to fly the flag for the airport. If it was 22 SQD, Bristows or Air Ambulance running a night flight, I would be contributing to their collection appeals. DHL or FedEx using it as a base would give it a mark of respectability and confirmation that this was a valid option.

    I have the impression that government is happy to have a large runway available for awkward situations with someone else picking up the tab. For example night flights during the Olympics, and flights not wanted by Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted.

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  9. to anonymous at 23:07.

    " If it was 22 SQD, Bristows or Air Ambulance running a night flight, I would be contributing to their collection appeals." Me too.

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  10. I see that "Anonymous" raises his/her head again, basically calling the CEO a liar.

    If anything, this makes me more inclined to believe a CEO of a business who has taken time out to call a member of the public to answer some questions rather than somebody hiding behind an anonymous name who uses words such as "weaselly".

    I don't for one minute think that we will suddenly have night after night of solid plane comings and goings. However, I would much rather have an airport on my doorstep than 1000's more houses with no jobs to support the people living there.

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  11. I would be interested to know the ages of all those anti-night flight campaigners.

    Are they the younger generation who will have to live with the airport in the future ? Or (more likely) are they the older generation who have contributed to the decline of Thanet and therefore don't really care about the future of Thanet from an economic viewpoint ?

    The anti-night flight contingent went down in my estimation when they used 6 year olds to campaign against it recently. When you have to stoop so low as to involve young children, you're really scraping the barrel.

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  12. children should not be aloud to protest, they don't understand, 24 adults and a bus ,what a shambles ,i live under the flight path, and find it o.k. i can go back when the R,A,F had squadron,s using it at night time with out ,moans

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  13. A CEO only has one remit - to satisfy his shareholders, and will take all measures necessary to keep his company alive. I don't blame him for what he's pushing for - I'm sure there's quite a viable business in getting all the night cargo flights that more enlightened people have refused at their local airports, and it keeps the airport ticking over in the short term and raises its value should it be sold. Makes perfect sense. What I abhor is that our elected representatives allow a multinational to ride rough-shod over this community, where we get nothing in return: no increased jobs, no investment in an area blighted by night flights, education suffers, health suffers, and people with money and business ideas leave the area for good. Its not as simple as saying do we have an airport or houses, its the fact that having night flights will kill the area for investment opportunities. Everyone should be concerned by this. The people are speak to about this issue come from all ages and backgrounds. I have a young family and we went down to the harbour on Saturday to show our support, and took our kids (shock horror) who are directly affected by this. On the occasions that we have the jumbos waking them up at night they are literally shaken, and clearly disturbed. And most people know how kids are after a bad night's sleep - concentration levels and temperament are clearly affected - imagine if this were to be a regular occurrence. I also live under the flight path and also find it OK, but then I've yet to experience what being woken throughout the night is like, but I can imagine and I've read the experiences of people who have, and the health reports, and the research in Munich that showed how children's learning abilities were directly affected by night flights. Ans we have to judge this proposal based on what they are asking for, which is unlimited night flights by old jumbo jets. Whether you believe they'll be able to fill those slots is irrelevant, that's what they're asking for and that's how the airport can be marketed to potential buyers.

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  14. "its the fact that having night flights will kill the area for investment opportunities"

    Where are these facts ? We have a harbour down the road in dire need of investment, just a short drive from Manston, new roads and so the infrastructure is now there.

    Places like Thanet Earth would have more opportunities to grow (pardon the pun) as there would be more options for them. The amount of fruit and veg that is brought in from Holland via Dover and then onto the roads is staggering.

    Put a well functioning airport together with a port and the new infrastructure - market the benefits and (hopefully) investment will grow.

    The anti-night flights lobby talk about no jobs being created but they need to look outside of the airport fence, if the airport grows they will employ more people both to work there and in fields such as construction, security, police etc. Places such as the aforementioned could expand and employ more people, distribution companies could set up and employ warehouse & driver staff - there is massive potential here.

    I don't have a crystal ball and nor does anyone else, I just don't feel that Thanet is in a position to turn down any opportunities.

    The talk about the quality of life and noise is a concern I grant you, but if investment doesn't happen soon then the quality of life will deteriorate more, our children will have no opportunities and will move away. People need to think of the future, not just the present.

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  15. Growing up in Thanet from 1976 to 1989 and living and going to school under the flightpath there was hardly any opposition to operations at all. If anything, it was something of a talking point to have regular - if utterly unpredictable - overflights by virtually anything the RAF wanted to throw at Manston.

    Sitting in the classrooms at St Ethelbert's or - on, even better/worse the top floor at Chatham House - when a couple of Phantoms came over is not easy to forget (and certainly drowned out some interminable Chaucer lessons allbeit at the latter, if far too briefly). By comparison, modern noise levels barely register.

    It's pure Thanet. Pure negativism and apparently, nothing more than self-interest on the part of a vocal minority uninterested in the long-term development of the area for the sake of the mdeium-term value of their property. Plus ca change.

    Oppose the airport by all means, really, carry on. But at least have the good grace to have a few ideas for something better, so the impression that all that matters is how low one's property price might (and that's a "might" not a "will") go isn't the only concern that counts...it's that or cede that invaluable moral high ground to people like me.

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  16. You can enjoy your moral high ground in a town that became famous for having 747s skimming the roof tops at all hours, flying into an automated freight hub with minimal employment opportunities, where the residents (those that weren't able to evacuate) can't get a decent night's sleep, no-one wants to stay overnight, or educate their children, where health rates are one of the lowest in the country. Bring it on, sounds Utopian.

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  17. Did the RAF need to go to consulation when the airport was in operation?

    How long has manston airport and it's associated flight paths been in existance?

    Are residents living next to railway lines consulted?

    If you buy a propoerty in a wood, you know it's surrounded by trees!

    In the normal process I`m sure I`ll be told I`m "missing the point" but here goes nothing.

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  18. And you can enjoy living in a Thanet where unemployment is over 50%, everyone leaves as soon as they can due to lack of opportunities, overspill from the London boroughs are brought in by the bus load because all we do in Thanet is build houses for them. At least they won't get woken up at night so won't be too tired to claim their dole cheques in the morning.
    We don't want business or opportunity, we want to complain about everything.

    Sounds a delightful place to live...

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  19. For every potential new business in Thanet a protest group springs up. No wonder so few are investing here!

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  20. Exactly, it won't be long before they just simply won't even bother looking anymore.

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  21. An appallingly negative place with an even more appallingly negative population. And to think that the real men once risked their lives flying and sailing from Thanet, have been replaced by a bunch of pathetic Nimbys, for ever condemned to live in a benefit dependent society totally at variance with the rest of South East England.

    Sad, sad apologies for Englishmen.

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  22. Reading the comments of this post I find it interesting and depressing that if you hold the view that Infratil's proposal is unreasonable, the night flight supporters tend not to offer any factual information relevant to the debate but simply target people with an opposing view as being child exploiting, moaning, aged, negative, self-interested, immoral, unpatriotic, pathetic Nymbies.

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  23. Outside the No Night Flight opposition group i think there is a silent majority of people who have lived with the airport for many years with no problems - and would support expansion - but i am sure if the airport was sold off for more housing - there would be another protest group within hours springing up -Thanet is the epicentre of protest without considering the positives of living here - we need jobs and ur young people to stay here with some local opportunities to look forward to.

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  24. 5.15 the lack of coherent reasoning from the people who say they are for night flights is slowly bringing me round to objecting to them.

    In Thanet we have a tendency towards getting worst case scenarios out things, Pleasurama being a good example, where we have now lost a main leisure site for ten years and all of the associate economic benefits, because the planning constraints were neither tight enough or properly thought out.

    With the night flights the worst case scenario is that we get only two night flights with none of the associated day flights that would provide extra employment.

    A night movement creates about an hour and a half’s overtime for about eight day workers, so on their own could perhaps produce a couple of extra jobs at the airport.

    I guess that some sort of day to night time ratio would be the only way of guaranteeing that allowing night flights would have a significant impact on airport jobs.

    As for the comments about children handing out leaflets, given similar circumstances I wonder how I would have been able to stop mine, there is a considerable difference between child labour and children doing the sort of thing they enjoy because they happen to be somewhere with their parents

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  25. To anonymous at 10:29,

    You say, "On the occasions that we have the jumbos waking them up at night they are literally shaken, and clearly disturbed."

    At the risk of being frank yours is a specious statement. In my childhood in London it was Sirens, Luftwaffe bombs, triple A, Doodlebugs and Bomber Command flying Lancasters low overhead. I cannot recall that this ever disturbed me. My mother told that I slept through it all, even in our Morrison shelter. All children are resilient. It is the parents who fuss.

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  26. Anon February 29, 2012 5:07 PM, said
    'I would urge everyone to respond to the consultation before Friday'

    Have taken your advice and e-mailed the Council to let them know we are not against night flights.

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  27. Am near the airport and am very much supportive of night flights and extending the operational capability. We should be giving the airport every chance to be successful.

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  28. We have given the airport every chance to be successful and it has failed. The idea that permission for a few night-flights will suddenly make it profitable is, frankly, ridiculous. It is those who lack creativity and imagination who persist in flogging this dead horse.

    For the last 20 years TDC has been relying on the airport to drive economic growth and for 20 years it has failed to deliver. At a time of soaring fuel prices and recession it is high time we allowed peole with creativity and imagination to develop a new plan for the area. Don't let the pro-airport dinosaurs condemn us to another 20 years of blight and stagnation.

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  29. "People with creativity and imagination"? The last thing we need is another f*cking art gallery!

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  30. I don't believe anybody thinks the airport is the be all and end all solution to Thanet's problems but I can see the potential benefits of it expanding.

    As I said earlier, we have the airport, the port and now, finally, the roads and infrastructure. Put these 3 together and market them well (TDC take note) and there is a massive opportunity for Thanet and Ramsgate in particular to thrive. Night Flights won't cure all of the ills but I believe it could be the stepping stone to greater things.
    I could, of course, be wrong and maybe someone will remind me of this in 20 years time. However, I could equally be correct and all of the objectors could be sitting in their houses in an area which has grown and prospered (although will probably have found something else to protest again by then).

    The simple fact is, we just don't know, but I believe that we are not in a position to turn down any business wishing to invest in Ramsgate/Thanet.

    As for jobs, my opinion is that people need to focus on jobs outside of the airport fence, not just within it.

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  31. No, we don't know, but some people with vastly more experience have commented on this proposal and have genuine concerns which I find more credible than the information I get from Infratil. I don't see how prople can read this and still be ambivalent about the issues at stake. Seems house prices are already tumbling in Ramsgate going by the Zoopla website data. Out of every town in Kent and Thanet, Ramsgate lost a whopping 7.64% (12k off the average house) over the past 6 months alone whilst Margate has remained level and Broadstairs has risen. Before the pro-night flight supporters suggest that's all I'm worried about, I quote that as an indicator that these prices reflect that people don't want to move here while there's the threat of night flights. And if people are keeping away then that means investment too.

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  32. Meant to include this link in previous comment ;)

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/83399803/CPRE-Response-to-Night-Flights-Proposal-2012

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