By Councillor Kim Gibson
We now have another independent report about night flights that even Charles Buchanan today on radio could not argue was wrong. The document shows quite clearly that his report that said how many thousands of jobs Infratil could create is wrong. Do keep in mind that when he went to the Government for a regeneration grant he said then that a subsidy of £600,000 to entice a new airline to use Manston would only create 23 jobs and even that was speculative as his staff who are already employed have agreed that they could cover the extra work by working a bit of overtime.
The new independent report also proves the other fact which is that the environment would be harmed by night flights – that means people, lots of them, living under the flight path. Despite all this new evidence that night flights will be a bad thing for the area and that they won’t provide jobs, we will be asking for peoples’ opinions on night flights. Why? Because the Conservatives have left us in this position.
I believe that spending more money and more time on consultation about something that the experts say is clearly not for the good of Thanet is wrong but legalities are what they are so thank you Conservatives you wasted money again. I believe that each independent report on night flights report cost approx. £20,000 and we’ve had to have two - the Bureau Veritas report 2010 and now the Parsons Brinckerhoff report in 2012. That’s your money. Both reports say night flights are a non-starter and yet because the Conservatives for some reason agreed to consult with the public that is what is we are now going to do. Funnily enough, Bob Bayford stood at the last KIACC meeting stating “we do not have to consult” like he was doing the public a special favour in saying we might be consulted. My predecessor Jill Kirby stated to me “it is just a consultation - even if the answer was no to night flights we don’t even have to take heed of what people say”. So, the Conservatives were prepared to spend thousands on the consultation then ignore what the consultation said if it came back with the wrong answer.
I for one feel that a consultation would make sense if there was the slightest chance that night flights would not harm our people and our town and if there was proof that they would create jobs. But in the last eleven years that has not been the case - no one yet has managed to make this airport viable. Why not? It’s in the wrong place. Not enough people live near it to make it profitable. Anyone living the other side of Maidstone would not want to pass City, Heathrow, Stansted, Luton, or Gatwick to come here and the catchment area for this airport isn’t sustainable hence Flybe and all the other airlines that have pulled out. Easyjet and Ryanair have looked at Manston and said no. They’re not fools, they are astute business men and if they thought for one minute this would be viable they would have been in here like a shot.
People say they want cheap flights but Manston isn’t planning cheap passenger flights – it wants freight business. If you want cheap flights there are plenty of other airports to fly from. But then people say “but I don’t want to travel to Gatwick, it’s too far”…and yet the same people are expecting people in London and Surrey to travel here when they already have airports with lots of destinations on their doorstep!!!
We’ve been told that night flights won’t deliver jobs. We’ve been told night flights will cause real harm to residents and towns. We’ve got the expert reports that say so – both commissioned by the Conservatives. It seems daft to consult on something we are advised would be bad for this area. But that’s where we are and that’s what we’ll do.
Do read the independent report before you send in your comments during the consultation.
Be afraid - you sometimes get what you wish for but it isn’t always what you want.