Thanet District Council Report Pans Manston Night Flights Proposal

A report by consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff for Thanet District Council has been long awaited. Some key findings from the Parsons Brinckerhoff report are that:  Manston wants night flights for freight.   If this was a planning application, it would be rejected.  Having night flights will not generate passenger growth.  The noise analysis supporting Manston’s application is flawed.  The economic analysis supporting Manston’s application is flawed.  The S106 agreement and the planning status of the airport is a shambles. They say Manston airport is in the wrong place and that given its geographic location,” it is unlikely that carriers would show much interest for inbound traffic from key European city links – we would argue this would only be relevant if Manston was strategically placed near to a large city or a region with a large catchment area.”

Council Report Pans Night Flights Proposal

25.1.2012   (No Night Flights at Manston)

It’s grim reading for Manston, but it could be good news for East Kent – depending on Thanet District Council’s priorities. Yes folks, the Parsons Brinckerhoff report has finally arrived, and you can read, print and download your copy HERE.

This summary is in handy bite-sized chunks – just click on the “next installment” at the end of each post to work your way through…

Shortly after Manston submitted their most recent night flying proposal last autumn, TDC commissioned independent experts Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) to look at all the paperwork. Manston’s application was supported by a noise impact report from Bickerdike Allen Partners (BAP), and an economic assessment from York Aviation.

TDC’s brief to PB was:

[p2]  To assess the suitability of the methodology used in the application; To test the assumptions made; To review the Planning situation

I have no idea why they asked for the third point – this is clearly a matter for planning lawyers. PB spend about a third of their report rehashing the history of planning problems and then throw up their hands in resignation and say “ask a expert”:

[p22] It is recommended that Legal Council [sic] Opinion is sought on the question of intensification of use.    […. meaning legal counsel…]

Some key findings from the PB report:


Much more on the No Night Flights website at

and also

Location, Location, Location

25.1.2012 (No Night Flights)

It’s refreshing to see an independent review of Manston’s present and future prospects that doesn’t shy away from stating the obvious – a successful passenger airport needs plenty of passengers within a convenient distance, and a successful freight airport needs plenty of customers within a profitable distance.

The Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) report says Manston airport is in the wrong place:

[p5] Given the geographic location of Manston it is unlikely that carriers would show much interest for inbound traffic from key European city links – we would argue this would only be relevant if Manston was strategically placed near to a large city or a region with a large catchment area.

Heathrow has queues of carriers wanting to use the airport, so they can afford to pick and choose who they let in. Over the short to medium term, Heathrow airport will carry less freight and more passenger traffic, as passengers are more profitable. This will displace freight traffic to other UK airports.

The PB report says York Aviation is wrong when it says that Manston is“ideally geographically located” to benefit from this displaced freight traffic.

[p5] Stansted, and Gatwick to a lesser degree, have significant capacity to accept additional freight volumes and are strategically better located close to motorways and major conurbations.  For this reason we would disagree with York’s contention that “It is for the relocation of these services that MIA is ideally geographically located”.  MIA, whilst only 50 minutes from the M25 at Junction 2, is not strategically positioned for freight to be dispatched anywhere other than the far South East of England.

On p15 of their report, York Aviation claim that a night time ban prevents Manston from accepting freight traffic from much of the rest of the world (based on an arbitrary departure time of 2300).

The PB report says Manston is only excluded from 9% of the scheduled air freight market…

[p6] … we do not believe that this provides a compelling argument for significant economic benefit to the region as a result of the introduction of a night flying quota system.


Council breaks its silence

 25.1.2012 (No Night  Flights)

Thanet District Council have created cock-up out of chaos – a half-arsed consultation, then playing put the genie back in the bottle. It would have been so much simpler just to bat Manston’s proposals straight back to them, just as the previous administration did, and for exactly the same reasons.

Originally, the consultation was to last 90 days, be carried out by MORI (for example), and cost £50-£80k. Councillors and members alike have been getting twitchy about the cost, and so they’ve opted to do it in-house, i.e. on the cheap. There’s no suggestion that this will produce a better consultation.

Manston have dragged their feet for years over this, to the extent that even the Council has been appeared quite nimble in comparison. Nonetheless, Clive Hart has tried to allay our impatience by acting swiftly. Personally, for an exercise of this importance, I would rather he did it right than did it soon.

Having just realised that the S106 agreement means that Manston can proceed with whatever night flight policy they like, TDC have decided to wait and see what effect the night flights will have. Erm, quite apart from what their native common sense should be telling them, TDC have now commissioned two independent reports, both of which conclude that the costs of night flights outweigh the benefits.

They are also waiting to see if night flights would result in an “intensification or change of operation” at the airport. Hmmm… tricky one. Currently: 16 hours a day, with scheduled night flights forbidden. Proposed: 24 hours a day, with no limit on night flights. You know what – I think there will be a difference.

and there is more at ….

Airport and Council to break silence

Charles Buchanan, CEO of Manston airport, has had the newly published Parsons Brinckerhoff report since Thursday. So far, he hasn’t made any public comment and has stuck to the line that he is biding his time pending a more considered response.

Translating from the business-speak/PR jargon, I think this means he’s been trawling through the report with a fine-toothed comb and a magnifying glass, looking for the good news.

Thanet Disctrict Council have, of course, also had the report since Thursday. They probably would have had at least one draft report before then. (If anyone would care to send me a draft, I would be intrigued to play spot-the-difference.) Similarly, they haven’t made any public comment, although Bob Bayford – now settling into his opposition role as heckler-in-chief – has been pressing TDC Leader Clive Hart for “clarification“.

The good news is that they will both break cover and go public tomorrow. Apparently. Allegedly.

I’m sure they’ve both got something to say, and lots of people want to hear it – this is no time to be shy.


Night Flights are for Freight

24.1.2012  (No Night Flights)

Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) put Manston’s request in the context of increasing demand for aviation services, particularly in the south-east of England:

[p3] … the demand for aviation services is set to dramatically increase in the next 20 years. The conclusion is therefore that better use needs to be made of the existing facilities.

The obvious solution would be for Manston to use its daytime capacity, but this never gets a mention.