Thank you to a friend for sending me this story which has also been picked up by SMEG. The published date of the story is 12th February, so the information will have been with Infratil (Manston's owners) some time before. In a way it does not matter whether it is days or weeks. What matters is that Kent International Airport/Infratil’s management/public relations decided not to draw the public and Thanet Council’s attention to it (happy to be advised if I have missed something).
I find it hard to understand the thinking. You know a news piece is going to appear in the industry press, so will be in the public domain. You know BEFORE the Thanet Council meeting on 12th February on extended night flights, that this will be a matter for public concern. You know the story will be published anyway. Surely you go out and brief openly? You avoid speculation and provide clear facts.
The only other interpretation I can think of is that you are uncertain that the expansion plans will go ahead. You are worried that announcements of greater traffic at the airport will influence people, and change how they might vote. You decide to say nothing and let the information come out later.
In my judgment I think prior knowledge of this information would have made no difference to the outcome of the vote. The question though is what kind of neighbour do those who run the airport want to be. I accept commercial sensitivities, but this was a done deal so that does not apply here. Does the airport want to be an open good neighbour or not? I would advise it to explain what it knew when, and why it did not put the information out at the earliest opportunity.
Virtue is its own reward. Of the 3 major controversial planning matters in the last year, Manston Expansion, China Gateway and Thanet Earth; only the last named applicant has been in my view open and welcoming to questions and scrutiny. Thanet Earth is powering on to success, I do not think this is a coincidence.
Having seen the Kent International Airport application go through in 2 weeks flat, I note the contrast at Lydd Airport (London Ashford International), where although the application is different and much more complex. The planning and local consultation process for expansion looks likely to last at least 2 years! Click here for the latest news.
It makes Manston look like the hare and Lydd the tortoise, and we all know how that race turned out.