Wednesday, 11 February 2009

MY VOTE ON MANSTON EXPANSION

Firstly, the application has been unnecessarily rushed. A major airline will have contingency plans for when the runways they use are ever out of action. Manston Airport (kent international Airport) is used when there is fog elsewhere so the sense of rush is wrong. Then the Conservative leadership failed to share information for a week with opposition councillors giving only a week for public debate and consultation.

My observation is that when Thanet Council has to deal with any big development it is so desperate to do a deal that it negotiates poorly on the terms offered. Residents of Margate Road, in my Northwood ward and surrounding streets are still suffering years after Westwood Cross was opened because of hasty decisions, poor planning and an inability to negotiate hardball with the private sector.

Other thoughts from constituents are why are the charity flights always the late night ones? Are they genuinely so? Is there a register to demonstrate this? Why are details not provided as to why these flights have to travel at this time? Would it not be cheaper than airfreight for road freight for these charity flights? I do not know but some residents are suspicious that the word “charity” is used to avoid closer scrutiny.

There are a lot of people with maritime experience in Ramsgate. They tell me that frequently when planes could fly in/out away from Ramsgate they fly over the town. They know this because they are pretty clued up on wind speeds. I have started checking this as I live under the flight path. It seems pretty clear to me that the Airport has flights that unnecessarily take off or come in over Ramsgate. The reason for this is money. Most of the flights are heading out across Europe, so it costs extra money for fuel, and extra time, increasing staff costs for flights to take off away from Ramsgate; and to then have to effectively do a U turn to head back towards Europe. I think this is unacceptable and I would like to see this banned on Thursday night.

The late night and early morning flights are again about money. The longer an airplane is on the ground overnight the less money it makes, it’s a simple equation. Late night/early morning noise versus company profits. This is where with more time and a more rigorous, robust and realistic approach Thanet Council should be pinning down the applicant so that all our lives are made more bearable. Instead like some eager naive car buyer Thanet Council has gone for the first car it liked the colour of, and is now being sold all those extras it does not really need. This will cost the community in the long term.

A friend who knows more about aviation than me says that one of the key things we need to know is which airports will the planes be flying into Ramsgate from. If it is from low volume airports like Manston we can expect regular on time flights. Although it will be a pain we will know that once the 11pm flight has come over we can settle down for a night’s sleep. If the planes are coming in from busy airports like Frankfurt we could frequently have problems as freight will generally get lesser priority to take off than passenger flights. So when there are delays or bad weather, flights will back up one after another meaning we could have freight flights coming in at midnight, 1am or later. Running late will they take the long way in or will they come in over Ramsgate? It is not hard to see where the commercial pressures will drive decision making. All the more reason in my view to find out this information, and negotiate hard now, when Thanet Council is in a position to do so. Another option would be to grant the application but only for say a year, or to require regular reviews to continue the granting of permission to fly at night. Some monitoring and some checks and balances please.

Instead Councillors are hastily being asked to just trust. I do not think this is the right way forward.

However, depending on debate, fresh late information on the night, and amendments I will still be inclined to support the proposal. I have a number of concerns as listed above, but I am also a representative. I am quite clear from discussions with Northwood constituents since I was elected that the majority of my constituents support airport expansion even though know the effects of noise. I have been surprised at how few emails or letters I have had as a Councillor opposing the application, not even double figures yet.

The jobs argument resonates even more in the current economic circumstances. It also is an advert for the airport and what Thanet has to offer. Ideally we would tax airline fuel so that it was not as economic to have air freight, and would educate people away from wanting flowers and beans from Kenya in winter. That though is not the world we live in for the moment.

I am writing all these thoughts now because I would hope they can be considered at Thursday’s meeting. My work commitments mean that I may well not make the meeting, or will be late and I will not know until on the day whether I can attend because of the early 5.30 start. I have seen no reasonable explanation for this timing. My best guess is that with the Cabinet meeting scheduled at 7pm the same evening it has been timed for the convenience of Cabinet members.

Whilst I understand it is more convenient for them to spend one long evening at the Town Hall it does not serve local democracy well. I have written complaining and have had no explanation.
I know a number of councillors will be absent due to the short notice and the early start. Too often there seems to be an assumption that councillors are either not economically active, or have businesses allowing them to come and go as they please. See my previous blog on how unrepresentative this makes the Council.

In my view if the Airport decision could not wait until 26th February when there is a Council meeting already scheduled (and I have seen no evidence yet to see why this decision needs to be taken so urgently) then there should have been a Full Council at the normal time of 7pm, and not limited to 90 minutes for what may be a long debate.

The Cabinet could have met the previous or the following evening. The decision to meet with barely a week’s public notice at 5.30pm for only 90 minutes will weaken local faith in the democratic process.

13 comments:

  1. the reason you do not receive much opposition is the airport has not been properly debated. People are apethetic because it's not used. Proper public debate, tell people what a busy freight airport sympathetic to night flights will really be like to live near.

    It's a shame you haven't shared your feelings and findings with your constituents. You accuse sandy of not leading from the front yet you don't yourself offer advice when you can clearly see the downside.

    I have made plans at financial detriment to be there tomorrow and I do not even have a vote to cast.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Please we must stop flights over ramsgate. The flights make my house shake. More flights would be unliveable with. It would mean death for ramsgate.

    ReplyDelete
  3. oh dear oh dear...your house shakes and as a result the economy for Thanet shouldn't grow...get real! Support your airport.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "I have been surprised at how few emails or letters I have had as a Councillor opposing the application, not even double figures yet."

    S.M.E.G., what does this tell you?

    Mark (contary to what some people may think) I also have reservations, but after weighing up the pros & cons I think you're doing the right thing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Heh go easy on him smeg I think he's on our side!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Poorly researched Mark and reflecting a very limited grasp of aviation. Very disappointing!


    "It seems pretty clear to me that the Airport has flights that unnecessarily take off or come in over Ramsgate. The reason for this is money. Most of the flights are heading out across Europe, so it costs extra money for fuel, and extra time, increasing staff costs for flights to take off away from Ramsgate; and to then have to effectively do a U turn to head back towards Europe"

    ReplyDelete
  7. The economy of Thanet will only grow if we protect our key assets. look at how Ramsgate has improved in the last few years. When the rail link is in there will an influx of investment from elsewhere. being under a flight path is unhealthy and ruins quality of life. This cannot be good for the economy of Thanet.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The public just have not been consulted. TDC and Infratil have been able to define the debate for too long. It is easy to link together those who are 'anti' with those who just want a grown-up debate. TDC has a history of ill-thought out, quick non-fixes. Where is the leadership, where is the vision? This issue could possibly be the one that witnesses the end of many local political careers.

    There are a growing number of influential groups, some long-term residents, some relatively recent. It's easy to knock us DFL's but we put our money where our mouth is in terms of spending our wealth locally.
    How many of the local wind-up merchants (you know who you are!)even have a disposable income, let alone contribute to the good of this beautiful town financially or otherwise. That said, there IS common ground - neither the pro's or anti's are really listened to by TDC. I think you are open minded Mark, but if TDC carry on like this, the groups of which I've already mentioned, will make their voices heard. This council has been run for too long by a narrow coterie of party-swapping time servers. There is a coalition of legal, financial, professional and media savvy residents that have had enough. This could be the turning point in local politics for Thanet.

    ReplyDelete
  9. WEst Cliff GB, you sound somewhat sinister and threatening

    ReplyDelete
  10. Apols. Really not meant to. (I find anyone posting as 'Anonymous' quite Big Brotherish by the way)It's just that there's a feeling afoot that TDC have taken residents for mugs for years. Whether you like it or not, many of us come from areas where there is real scrutiny of council behaviour and dare I say it, the council therefore has more respect for local residents. There isn't a council in London that would even dare consider pulling a stroke like the one that is happening in Margate tonight. How much notice? What time of evening? What consultation?

    You just get the feeling that some people have forgotten that they are there tonight in Chamber, by consent.

    For too long, local residents have resembled frogs in saucepans - the point is that a new, fresh generation is too smart to want to hop in with them.

    There are too many vested interests holding this place back. We deserve better.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Westcliff GB - let's hope that you are right!

    ReplyDelete
  12. WestCliff GB is completely correct - as a DFL myself I know that my former local council would not have received so much local scrutiny as Thanet because the electorate tended to feel that the council were genuinely working on their behalf. Here, most local politicians seem to be largely in awe of big business and appear to be self-serving, docile and unable to differentiate between facts and utter bull. Councillors Green and Wells appear to be the exceptions to this rule

    ReplyDelete
  13. SMEG I wonder if you have gone door to door on a regular basis talking to local people? I will be doing this on Saturday morning and do it regularly. I think that it would be arrogant for me to tell the majority of people in my ward that they are wrong and I am right.

    Simon Moores, you are an aviation expert. I do not pretend to be, I said so in my piece. On politics why do you not question the way the Conservative Group you are a member of withheld information on this matter?

    WestcliffGB and Anon 14.40 I am a DFL albeit to marry my wife. I was also a councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham for 12 years. You are wrong. I have seen some dodgy councils in London (I work in politics across the whole of London). Having said that your general thrust is correct and the conduct and calibre of several fellow councillors is disappointing, and in a few cases shameful.

    Both parties need to address "rotten apples" and poor performers in a more robust way.

    ReplyDelete