Friday, 3 February 2012

Night-time flying policy for Manston Airport Public consultation is now open until Friday 2 March 2012

Thanet District Council has some information about how to take part in this consultation at

I will try to put together what I can on this post during the day, a problem here is that the councillors seem to see this as political issue so it is a bit difficult to find an impartial view on the subject.

As far as I can see it is a case of both previous Conservative and Labour administrations not addressing the problems relating to the airport and this is giving both sides a bit of a field day when it comes to criticising the other party.

I think what happened in reality was that because the airport developed on an RAF site that the government was keen to see used, wanted to see a financial return on and so on, the normal considerations that would apply to regulating a new civil airport were never really addressed.

Essentially the problem is one of balance between any economic gain for Thanet in terms of jobs created by having an airport weighed against the economic and social losses caused by the noise and other pollution associated with an airport.

Added to this is the problem of not really understanding what it is that the airport operators really want. At the moment the airport operators Infratil are a New Zealand company that seem to be mainly profit orientated and yet they seem to be subsidising Manston Airport with an annual six figure sum. 

Added to this quite a lot of the business that they have engaged in recently appears to be business that no other airport wants, the fuel sanctions business being the latest.

Attempts to make the airport a viable passenger transport hub have been going on since 1959, the fundamental problem has always been the wheel surrounding this hub, more the three quarters of which is over the sea. Obviously as fish don’t do much in the way of air travel, this has been something of a hindrance to the airport’s development.

My guess is that this foreign company bought the airport based on the knowledge the southeast of England is prosperous and that an airport in the southeast of England would therefore be prosperous. Perhaps a history lesson would have been better than a geography lesson before buying the airport, perhaps a better understanding of attitudes to travel in the UK would have been helpful.   

There is a sense in which we could give the airport what they say they are asking for in terms of night flights, which is to offer them the same proportion of night flights to day flights enjoyed by the major UK airports.

 I think say that Heathrow is allowed about 16 flights per night and have about 1,200 day time flights, so if Manston developed to the point that it 120 flights during the day then they would be allowed one night flight per night, which given the potential employment could be beneficial to the area.

My guess though is that the operator is trying to get as lax a set of rules as they possibly can prior to trying to sell this loss making enterprise, having one loss making European airport isn’t something that seems to make much sense.

I think if Manston is to continue in the short to medium term as an aviation facility, then the way to go is to expand the historic aircraft operation there, pumping all that money into something that often earns them poor publicity combined with considerable losses doesn’t really seem to make much sense. Nor does trying expand as a freight hub in place where there is nothing much to export freight wise.

However if they really are serious about keeping Manston, long term, then an air heritage centre makes considerable sense as It would be likely to generate less of a loss almost immediately, generate good publicity and of course retain their option to expand as a passenger and freight airport if the demographics of southeast England change considerably.  

I guess the sanctions breaking flights must have hammered this home to anyone who failed to understand it. By this I mean that if a flight has to land at Manston for fuel and yet they can’t persuade the passengers to use the airport so the flight has to do the hop to Gatwick or Heathrow, then it means that at the moment Manston isn’t a viable passenger airport location.    

As I said before, it is very difficult to get an informed unbiased view on this one, the only local aviator I know of, who doesn’t appear to have a vested interest in Manston is Simon Moore,s so I asked him for his opinion when he posted about this the other day, see

This is one occasion where I wish he wasn’t a local councilor, as a sensible appraisal of the viability of Manston, from a local with considerable experience in aviation, would be beneficial all round.   

Ken Read who has a professional training in area of planning and developments has recently written several posts about this matter on his blog, see

Ken casts doubt over the legality of the present planning status of the airport especially the validity of the 106 agreement.

We now come to what the senior Thanet politicians have to say, my guess is that many of them understand the situation better than I do, but for reasons of their own they seem to more interested in saying what the other party has done wrong than helping us to understand how to deal with the situation now.

This is a sample of what they have to say

The major factor here is what effect or affect the consultation has on the situation and whether the council have any powers to control the activities of the airport, either now or at some later date.  

With all of the online information about this, what is lacking is a coherent argument from those supporting increased night flights that local people engaged in the consultation process can follow.

The Manston Airport website only seems to have a response to the council’s consultant’s report, which presupposes one has read it and understood it, see

As far as some sort of reasoning that would encourage a member of the public to respond to the current public consultation in favor of night flights, there is really nothing apart from a few anonymous blog comments, which to me is strange.

We now come the information that has been written and may be worth reading in order to understand the situation better.

The original document setting out the position of the airport is the section 52, I haven been able to find this yet.

There was a court case about this, here is the link

Then there is the 106 agreement, this may or may not be valid, because it isn’t related to a planning consent, no one seems certain if it is or it is the previous section 52, that I can’t find that is the valid document.

Here is the link to the 106 agreement

This was followed by a court appeal, here it is  

This rather takes us to the point of not really knowing what the situation is regarding night flights. It is important to understand here that the government stood to lose £20m if they couldn’t facilitate the sale of this RAF owned airfield to Wiggins.

I don’t really see that TDC would have had that much say in the matter so I have my doubts about apportioning blame for the situation then.      

Then back in September 2010 the airport put forward their case for night flights and the council responded, here are the documents.

The airports night flight consultation pages

TDCs night flight consultation pages I think these are the same, a little easier to follow as the links have titles.

My own simplified version, this should be the same but much easier to open, please let me know if I have missed anything

Other related documents are
Manston, Kent's International Airport Master Plan

Comments and Responses to the draft Master Plan

So we now come to the situation at the moment and the council’s consultation, here is the link again

Now I had expected the council to explain the situation, both in terms of the information they want to know and what the results of this consultation would lead to in terms of night flights.

I had also expected them to explain the situation with regards to the regulation of night flights that is in force now.

What the council seem to be saying is read these documents submitted by the airport:

Infratil documents 2011
Main proposal document:
Supporting documents:
Figure 1 Routes (PDF, 692kb)
FIG 2.1 LAEQ8 2010 (PDF, 687kb)
FIG 3.1 SEL 738 28A (PDF, 470kb)
FIG 3.2 SEL 738 28D (PDF, 520kb)
FIG 4.1 SEL 744 28A (PDF, 472kb)
FIG 4.2 SEL 744 28D (PDF, 715kb)
FIG 4 4 SEL 744 10D (PDF, 437kb)
FIG 5.1 SEL MD11 28A (PDF, 471kb)
FIG 5.2 SEL MD11 28D (PDF, 515kb)

Then read these documents written by our consultants that refute what the ones submitted by the airport:

then say something to us.

When it comes to understanding what has gone wrong and why the council don’t know where they stand, the bit to read is pages 13 on of the PB report that has been prepared for the council.

I think the important thing here though is to stop playing the blame game and try to find some workable solution, preferably one that isn’t horrendously expensive.

As far as I can see, at the moment the situation is that the amount of night flights that the airport is allowed is unspecified in law, but if the airport were to carry out a considerable but unspecified increase in night flights, this would trigger a situation where the amount of night flights would be likely to be decided by the council.

I am not sure anyone benefits from this situation, airport, council or local people. It may be that finding the missing documents would clarify the situation, I don’t really think anyone knows.    

Sorry about this being so long and complicated, I did genuinely try to find out what this consultation is about, spent most of the day at it, discussed it with council officers, I am hoping that by early next week they will have clarified the situation as much as they can and will have found some or all of the missing documents.  

The photos in the post are from the book I publish, “Twilight of Pistons” see  


  1. Last week Windsor and Maidenhead council announced they are cutting Council Tax for the third year in a row. There are several councils planning to ignore Government funding for a Council Tax freeze so that they can raise it. But Windsor and Maidenhead are cutting theirs by 1.5 per cent cut. This follows a 4 per cent cut in 2010 and a 0.5 per cent cut in 2011.

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    While making these savings the council has actually increased spending in other areas, like an additional £2m in adult services, an extra £1.2m for highway resurfacing and £400,000 for street lighting repairs.

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  2. I think Michael should check his grammar. Bob Bayford's was correct!

  3. Effected or affected, I really don't give a fig! TDC has certainly afflicted us all with a Large stinking Dodo that is Manston Airport.


    A Clown

  4. 2.58 I suppose he could have meant affected or you could have used the internet for a definition instead of an English dictionary, golly gosh did he really mean we go all posh and la-di-dah when subjected to aircraft noise?

  5. That type of affected is an adjective or adverb. The correct verb is affected. The verb effected is to get something done. Your confidence whilst dispaying your ignorance is hilarious.

  6. Sorry Michael, he's right and so was Bob. It is "affected" in this context.

  7. Thank you Tim Clark, and Michael next time you make a joke at someone's grammatical expense, trying to humiliate them, make sure you are on solid ground, eh? And quite a distraction from the issue methinks.

  8. Sorry about the delay in replying here Tim 8.20, I have been reading the airport reports, I am sure I am totally wrong about the grammar, please accept my apologies it isn’t really something I know anything about.

  9. It is sad that such a serious issue gets dragged down into such a load of tosh. I'm not only talking about the postings on this site. I'm also referring to the garbage published in the letters columns of the Gazette this week.

    The issue of night-flights is a very serious matter for the residents of Ramsgate. It could ruin people's lives, destroy the value of their homes and cause irreversible economic damage to the town. It is absolutely essential that any consultation is conducted in an environment where those being consulted have all of the relevant facts in front of them.

    So, what do we get instead? We get yet another diatribe from the unelected voice of the fringe, Gerry O'Donnell. Mr. O'Donnell throws together a letter, in which he rubbishes people (all of them)who give expert opinions. This allows him to conveniently ignore all of the downsides which have been identified by Parsons Brinkerhoff; not least of all the fact that permission to conduct night-flights will not create any significant number of jobs. I wonder if the Gazette feels it has some kind of duty to publish such a ridiculous viewpoint.

    We get Mike Harrison rewriting history in a vain attempt to convince us that the useless Section 106 Agreement, which is being used to authorise night-flights without going through the formality of planning, was one of his party's great achievements. No, Mr. Harrison. You were directly responsible for agreeing and signing up to one of the worst drafted, and most ineffective pieces of tat that TDC has ever produced, and that's saying something. I agree that the Tories were useless when they were running the Council but your party was useless as well. I'm afraid you are in denial.

    We get Frank Thorley telling us that we knew there was an airport here when we moved in, so we should expect to be woken at all hours of the day and night. Thanks Frank. I'll be crossing all of your taverns off my list.

    Anywhere else in the country ordinary, decent people would be getting off their sofas in droves to speak up in defence of their town and their way of life. Only in Thanet could a tiny cartel of petrol-heads succeed in dumping something so damaging on the town without even asking for planning permission.

  10. 9.06 I think sadly the comments above show how carefully members of both sides of the political divide have read this and how they would have picked up any significant errors.

    People in Thanet often have such peculiar agendas, I did read the Gazette letters about the airport too, it is difficult to see where either some of the people who wrote them or the paper are heading on this one.

    Ultimately I doubt that Infratil would want the adverse publicity associated with the environmental implications of unrestricted night flights over an area of dense population.

  11. Michael, continuing the "toilet" humour, I know I do most of my best thinking there but I think you meant "blog" not "bog"

    Seriously though, I am lead to believe that the missing Section 52 agreement was attached to a real planning permission for the terminal and apron areas and its contents prohibited night flights, this is only hearsay at present though without the document to prove it.

  12. Ok Ken I have read through the post and amended the worst of it, any more corrections appreciated.

    I think the planning permissions for the airport are on uk planning some under the airport and some under Manston and maybe some under some other heading, I will have a look if I get a chance.

  13. Affect - This word has won an undeserved popularity because it is colourless – a word of broad meaning that saves a writer the trouble of thought. It is a useful word in its place, but not when used from laziness. It may be easier to say 'The progress of the building has been affected by the weather', but it is better to use a more precise word – 'hindered', perhaps, or 'delayed' or 'stopped'.

    Taken from 'The Complete Plain Words, Sir Ernest Gowers'. This is a helpful book.


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