Friday, 7 July 2017

RSP Manston DCO Consultation Website Problems and some sort of ramble with photos

I would guess that most of the people who have tried to respond to the current statutory consultation in any meaningful way would have noticed that the rsp website has issues.

If you haven’t and you look at these two pictures and see if you can spot the difference I think you will appreciate at least part of the problem.
 picture No 1

 Picture No 2
 Picture No 1 is of what part of their website is supposed to look like and picture No 2 is a screen shot of what you actually see.

The difference is a bit strange but boils down to only half the pages are visible.

You can see pages 2, 4, 6, 8 and so on but not pages 1, 3, 5, and 7 here is the link

The whole of the website is filled with problems that makes it very difficult to use at all.

One issue is that if you have looked at the website it is very likely that you haven’t noticed anything is wrong with it and have gone on to respond to the consultation only having read the bit you can see and not realising the bit you can’t see exists, then can you be said to have responded to the consultation?

Another issue is that unless PINS deem the consultation process to be valid then I think the whole consultation would have to be done again. As this is the second consultation with the first one already deemed invalid, there is an issue of just wasting local people’s time to be considered.  

I don’t think there is a situation where local people, regardless of this opinion in terms of for or against can just ignore any major consultation like this just because they think that it has been presented in a way that makes it invalid.

The various parts of government that judge whether the consultation is valid seem to be saying that they won't give an opinion on this one until after we have all responded to it.

The next bit is my emails to rsp, pins, TDC and of course the replies from rsp, pins and tdc, I have tried to put them in to some sort of order and will try to make them different colours to make them easier to follow.

To: NI Enquiries
Subject: Issues completing the RSP Manston Consultation.
I have been attempting to read the documentation relating to the consultation provided on the website
In the first instance this looks like a normal and conventional website the first page of the consultation scrolls normally and the whole page is visible.
The first three links 1 2 and 3 have titles saying where they lead, consultation leaflet, feedback form and overview report, respectively. Going beyond this point either by clicking on the links or going down the page however is a confusing mass of badly published pages, repetitions and links without descriptive labels.
The first link leads to the consultation leaflet this is a four page leaflet which is presented as a series of 4 images of the leaflets pages, with the option (no clear link or label showing that this is necessary to make the page work properly) to open a pdf of the page in another tab. That is a searchable page of mixed images and text where the text is searchable and in some sense useable in terms responding to the consultation using normal itc skills.
There is no mobile version of the rsp website and using even this four page leaflet on anything other than a conventional laptop or desktop with a reasonable broadband signal is slow and difficult.
I write several websites one of which is a popular site local to Thanet, thanetonline and I can confirm from the statistics for this, see attached image 1. Most local people use Chrome or IE operating in a Windows or Android, and have tested this using an android phone, tablet and windows desktop, with chrome and IE on the desktop.
The second link leads to this is a four page form which is presented as a series of 4 images of the form’s pages, with the option to open a pdf of the page in another tab. That is a searchable page of mixed images and text where the text is searchable. Where this mostly falls down is that users can’t fill this form in using the free and/or conventional software they would expect to find on their phone, tablet or pc. I think the web writer may expect the user to print it out, fill it in with a pen, scan it and send it back. My own feelings is that this form should be downloadable as text document, Word, Google Doc, etc that the user can download fill in and send back to RSP as an email attachment.  
The third link leads to this is a 25 page leaflet which is presented as a series of 25 images of the left half of leaflets pages with no option to scroll to the full page width, with the option (no clear link or label showing that this is necessary to make the page work properly) to download the pdf which shows the full page width.
To clarify this further, a 50 page document has been published as a webpage of 25 pages where only the left part of the page is visible in the browser, this would be equivalent to book where all of the pages with even numbers were printed and all of the pages with odd numbers left blank.
Added to this there is no obvious and clear instruction to make the right hand pages with odd numbers visible.
After this you come to a series of links to pages where the title has no relationship to the content, the first one is labelled “PEIR Volume 1 (Chapters 1 to 6)” this opens as this is a 185 page document which is presented as a series of 185 images of the left half of leaflets pages with no option to scroll to the full page width which varies from page to page and isn’t numbered in the conventional sense. This is downloadable as a pdf.
The really impossible area is when you get to the link called “04 – PEIR Volume 4 (Figures)” this takes you to which is a series of 98 pages and as some of them are of the left side of maps and plans it is evident they are partly obscured. The link at the top of the page which was probably intended to download a pdf doesn’t work and just opens another webpage part of which is obscured. 
I had similar results with the next link and have now given up trying to read the documents and written to you instead.
Obviously it should be possible to read the consultation documents using ordinary conventional tablets, phones and computers and until this is the case I don’t think the consultation period should have started.
There should also be some conventional linking of readable web pages allowing viewers to get to the key issues. The files I have been able to open are mixture of relevant information, great chunks of legislation, which should have been linked to and not pasted in, great chunks of other repetition, areas that are obscured because of being published in the wrong way.
I have been unable to find key information like the expected number of movements involving low flying over densely populated areas like Ramsgate and Herne Bay, which were the causes of the most contention when the airport was operational. 
I was also unable to find the noise contour mapping which was one of the most comprehensible and used aspects of the previous night flights debate. 
Best regards Michael 

----Original Message-----
From: Richard Price 
To: michaelchild <>
Sent: Tue, 4 Jul 2017 17:39
Subject: RE: Issues completing the RSP Manston Consultation.

Dear Mr Child
Thank you for your email.
In respect of your concerns about the Applicant’s website, I would refer you to the principles in the latter half of the advice that I issued to you on 2 March 2017:
For convenience, my advice states that if/ when an application is submitted, the Planning Inspectorate, on behalf of the Secretary of State, has a statutory duty to invite comments from all s43 authorities about whether an Applicant has complied with its duties under ss42, 47 and 48 of the Planning Act 2008. The Planning Inspectorate must then have regard to any ‘Adequacy of Consultation Representations’ received in taking its decision about whether an application should be accepted for examination.
With that in mind, if you have concerns about the Applicant’s Pre-application consultation I would advise for you to provide your comments to the local authority(ies) (copying in the Applicant).
If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to provide them by way of response.
Yours sincerely
Richard Price | National Infrastructure Case Manager
Major Applications & Plans
Temple Quay House, Temple Quay, Bristol BS1 6PN

From: michaelchild <>
To: Richard.Price <>
CC: manston <>; <>; county.hall <>; richard.styles
Sent: Wed, 5 Jul 2017 12:08
Subject: Re: Issues completing the RSP Manston Consultation.
Hi Richard, many thanks for your timely and informative reply, I did also send the email to RSP however past experience suggests that if I get a reply at all it won’t be for a considerable time, as I don’t think writing to them is in any sense writing to an ordinary company with an ordinary administrative staff.

I didn’t send the email to KCC TDC or RTC and honestly doubt that unless I had some sort of definite contact within any of those councils the recipient would register the significance of being cc’d into the correspondence and therefore pass it on to the right officer. 

My main problem is that while I am happy to read the documents and comment on the consultation, I work full time and have three children in full time education, which also requires a considerable amount of my time.

I gave up four hours of Monday morning to read the consultation but actually spent the four hours mostly trying to deal with the need to have several of the ridiculously large documents open at one time and discus the content with other interested parties via the internet.

The most difficult of these being the figures document, where I eventually resorted to exporting the figures from the document and publishing them on an internet page at as you see there is no necessity for this page to be published in a way that both doesn’t work properly and causes most peoples phone, tablet or pc to either slow right down or crash.

I later also put the page on to a free hosting site as one of the people I was discussing the issue with had rather an old mobile phone that would only happily open one image at a time, see

Obviously if RSP intend to address the issue and publish the consultation documents as a conventional navigable website then reading the documents, discussing them with other interested parties and responding to the consultation will be much quicker and easier for me to and in terms of time – during which I could otherwise be making a living – it will be considerably less expensive for me. 

It also occurs to me that if they are not going to produce a solution and interested parties like myself don’t make a considerable amount of their time available to deciphering what is at best an absolute dogs breakfast of, repetitions, errors, pasted chunks of legislation from government websites all mixed up with the work they have actually done and the conclusions they have reached, then pins are going to assume there is little or no local interest in the DCO.

I would also remind you that much of Thanet is a depressed area with many local people on low incomes, so they would either be using cheap or dated technology which I doubt would even be able to open some of the page/files on the rsp website.

So in terms of pins advice, do you advise that I endeavour to complete the consultation trying to use the existing weebsite or to wait and see if I get some reply from rsp or tdc that results in a website that is navigable, shows whole images and text in the browser and is generally fit for purpose?   
Best regards Michael

From: []
Sent: 05 July 2017 14:12
To: Iain Livingstone TDC
Cc: richard.price
Subject: Fwd: Issues completing the RSP Manston Consultation.

Hi Iain as well as ccing the email below to TDC customer services I am forwarding it to you directly as I have just phoned the council and understand the RiverOak RTC Statement of Community Consultation is your remit.
In the simplest terms the rsp website hasn’t been written properly and therefore doesn’t view properly in any of the browsers I have tried although I think it would probably work on very old version of Internet Explorer.
Taking the document that is presumably your main remit, The Statement of Community Consultation, this is published on their website at
This is a 16 page document published in 8 landscape pages so that it is only possible to view the left hand pages 2, 4, 6, 8 
Although there is a link to download the document as a pdf the link doesn’t say anything on the link or that a download it is necessary to view the whole page, if you already know you needed to you could zoom the page to 50% which would make the whole leaflet visible but the text too small to read.  
In practice when you go to try and use the consultation pages, which are available using the non descriptive links on this page the actual pages that open are far too big for most computers to handle properly as well as being published wrongly so parts of the pages are not normally visible.
If you manage to find the unlabeled pdf download links then the file sizes are ridiculously large so they don’t function properly.
I’m not sure if there is anything you can do about this one and assume as a great many people who think they have read the overview at and then used it as the basis to summit their response to the consultation, have only read the half with even numbered pages and I don’t think there is any way of contacting them all and explaining the problem.
My own feelings are the consultation process is so badly flawed as to make it invalid, as the consultation is complex and has a deadline I would appreciate a timely reply. 

Best regards Michael
 Dear Michael,

Thank you for your comments. We will have an opportunity to raise any concerns with the consultation once the DCO is submitted as outlined by PINS, and I am aware of the issue with the size of documents.  I’m afraid we don’t have any control over the format on the RSP website at this stage, but we will consider your concerns within our Adequacy of Consultation Report.

Iain Livingstone

Iain Livingstone
Planning Applications Manager

Dear Mr Child

Thank you for your email.

I was copied in to this afternoon’s response from Thanet District Council. I hope this provides you with some reassurance about the local authority’s role in considering and making representations about the adequacy of the Applicant’s Pre-application consultation.

Without deflecting from the website problems that you report, the Statement of Community Consultation does include details of other means by which the consultation documentation may be accessed. I understand that these means may not be convenient to you (or other members of the community), but they do provide a channel for you to access the full suite of documents and make a fully informed response to them. Alternative it may be worth contacting the Applicant to ask for a copy of the consultation documents on CD or USB drive; although I do hear your reported frustrations in respect of the Applicant’s responsiveness.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to provide them by way of response.

Yours sincerely

Richard Price | National Infrastructure Case Manager
Major Applications & Plans

Dear Mr Child,

Thank you for your email. We are looking into the technical issues that you have raised regarding viewing the consultation documentation on the website.

In the meantime, we can send you a USB which contains all of the consultation materials. If this would be useful, please let me know your address.

Printed copies of consultation materials are also located in the following libraries: Birchington, Broadstairs, Cliftonville, Deal, Herne Bay, Margate, Minster-in-Thanet, Newington, Ramsgate, Sandwich and Westgate.

Please note that due to its size, the full Preliminary Environmental Information Report is only available to view at Deal, Margate and Ramsgate libraries.

If you would like any further assistance please let me know.

Kind regards,


RiverOak Strategic Partners
Manston Airport consultation team

Hi Ross
Thanks for the offer but I now have the pdf files downloaded and onto some computers, so don’t need the same files on a stick.
In this context it may be useful for you to understand that I run the local bookshop, publish and print books about the local area, so I am used to handling large computer documents.
With this issue I have been in communication with several local people, who are both for and against the DCO and who have tried to use the documents, either in the form of the website, as downloaded pdfs or from the usb drive.
I haven’t come across anyone who has managed to achieve all of the pdfs open and running properly on one computer, have you? Several people trying to do this have assumed that there is a computer virus contained somewhere on the dive or within the download although I don’t think there is, and I think the problem is size and complexity related. 
As accessing the documents has become a bit of an emotive issue locally, I will summarise the issue using buying a car on ebay as an example of the problem.
So consider trying to buy a Ferrari on Ebay with a group of friends, relations and the help of a few people who may know about cars. Nowadays nearly all of this would be done by sending links back and forth via the internet and most of the links would be accessed by people using mobile phones, tablets and laptops.
You would go to either put Ferrari in the search box or click on the link that says Ferrari, which would lead you to about three hundred Ferraris for sale at you would then fiddle about with the various options until you discovered that although ebay is an auction site there are actually only three Ferraris being auctioned and only one that people are bidding on.
After this you would send the links to the other interested parties, the chap at the garage and so on, after which in this case I would expect several of the group would go of to Epsom and kick some tyres.
An alternative would be to find that the Ebay Motors website had tuned into only ten pages of thousands pictures of pages from pdf files, which you couldn’t search. Then to find that an unlabelled link on the page allowed you to download files of an unknown size, some of which stopped your computer working properly because they were so large. 
Of course as you don’t know if any Ferraris are being auctioned this week you would need to download the entire content of all ten documents, search all of them for Ferrari, search to sift out the thousands of other makes of car for sale, copy the three hundred Ferrari listing into some other document which you could then search through to find the three that were being auctioned.
Of course you wouldn’t be able to share links to interesting cars along the way, nor would you receive appropriate links from your friends.
So it’s the same question I asked Richard Price. Do you advise that I endeavour to complete the consultation trying to use the existing website or to wait for a website that is navigable, shows whole images and text in the browser and is generally fit for purpose?     

Best regards Michael

Next a few old local pictures that I think I haven’t put up before, I have a bit of a tendency to rather randomly buy these and forget I already have them, so sorry if there are repeats from before  

Finally here are the books that went out in the bookshop today, possibly a reflection on local reading habits do you think


  1. If you can't set up a usable website, and can't organise a simple consultation, why would anybody trust you with a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project?

  2. Cheggars, Well, I would trust them. There is nothing wrong with their website and their consultations are well organised.

  3. There are lots of complaints about the consultation on the PINS website. Looks like RSP didn't advertise it properly to people living in the runway approach. That isn't good organisation.

  4. Michael, This is wonderful cheering news. Do you not agree.

  5. Bit of a score draw today I think John CPRE 1, inspector MCJ Nunn 1. I have to admit to being surprised having had no further response from Ross about the busted website, which is after all what this post is about. I think my question "Do you advise that I endeavour to complete the consultation trying to use the existing website or to wait for a website that is navigable, shows whole images and text in the browser and is generally fit for purpose?" Is a critical one, regardless of whether you are for or against the DCO

    1. Michael,

      You have asked me what do I advise. In reply I suggest that unless you are seeking to officially challenge RSP figures you should forget all about it.

      About Ross: You did not phrase your letter in such a way to encourage a response.

      Firstly, unless you know them personally do not address your recipient with a ‘Hi’. It comes across as over familiar and may be resented by your recipient. Be polite [I realise that I am not always polite to you and there is a reason for this which you know about].

      Half of your letter is wasted with an unhelpful analogy concerning a Ferrari and E bay. It comes across as patronising and muddled. It does not advance your argument. I would be surprised if Ross studied it in any detail.

      If you wish to offer advice then do so but do not lecture or criticise your reader. Do not resort to analogy unless it is helpful, concise and apt. You can soften the blow by rounding off your criticism with the phrase, ‘Perhaps I am making too much of this’. This will often encourage your reader to deny that you are and offer to explain or help.

      You should always write in such a way that your letter can be clearly understood by the reader. Get your points in order and use paragraphs for clarity and emphasis. Be clear and concise.

      Do not be overtly critical. You do not want to put your reader on the defensive. Explain your problem and ask for their help. Most people are decent and instinctively want to help and are often flattered to be asked. This will encourage an open response.

      Always keep in mind that you are seeking to draw your reader onto your side.

      You should use plain English. When writing keep in mind the words clarity and concise. It’s KISS – keep it simple stupid. It takes much longer to write a short letter but it is always worth it.

      I know I could redraft your letter in a way that would guarantee you a helpful response from Ross. But I’m not going to, even if you asked, which you never would, why should you.

      You are probably wondering why I have had temerity to say all this, and I would not blame you. In my defence let me say that in an official capacity I have written many letters to the public and others. This includes explanatory statements to lawyers and the appeal courts, I have drafted letters for signatures by Ambassadors and government Ministers. Which they signed and sent. They trusted me.

      I no longer write to this standard because I do not have to and cannot be bothered.

      Michael, I leave you to your enduring endeavour to defeat RSP.

  6. John and with respect, I thinkyou have missed the point here which is there are faults with the rsp website, the most glaring of which is that on many pages only the even numbered pages appear.

    The existence of the faults are plainly acknowledged by pins, tdc and rsp within the correspondence above, which also contains what I take to be an intention to resolve the issue from Ross at rsp. “We are looking into the technical issues that you have raised regarding viewing the consultation documentation on the website.”


Please note comments that may be libellous, comments that may be construed as offensive, anonymous derogatory comments about real people, comments baiting internet trolls, comments saying that an anonymous comment was made by a named real person, boring comments and spam comments, comments in CAPs will be deleted. Playground stuff like calling real people by their time stamp or surname alone, referring to groups as gangs, old duffers and so on will result in deletion. Comment that may be construed as offensive to minority groups is not allowed here either, so think before you write it, remember that the internet is a public place, that it is very difficult to be truly anonymous and that everyone who uses it leaves a trail of some sort. Also note the facility to leave anonymous comment will be turned of during periods when I am unable to monitor comment, this will not affect people commenting who are signed on to their blogger accounts. When things are particularly difficult on the commercial spam front I may turn comment moderation on for periods.

If you feel that someone has left a comment that is offensive and directed at you personally please email me (link on the sidebar) asking to have it removed, you will need to tell which post and the date and timestamp of the offending comment. Please do not reply to the offending comment as I will assume you continuing the dialogue as meaning that you want the comments left there.