Councillors will decide tonight whether to back plans for passenger jet night-flights in and out of Thanet in Kent. Approval could mean a massive increase in air traffic at Manston Airport. The issue has furiously divided Thanet Council and local residents. Some argue it would bring jobs and prosperity, others that it would be a blight on Thanet from which the area would never recover.
Manston Airport may be for sale but it still has ambitious plans for growth. Its dilemma is simply stated, by the man who runs it, Charles Buchanan:
"The airport needs some flexibility in its operating hours in order to be able to attract airlines to come and operate here.Other airports have that flexibility; we need to be able to offer the same."
And that means some night-flights, a prospect that horrifies local campaigners like Janet Fielding from Ramsgate.
"If an alarm goes off, a burglar alarm near you, once every hour as you're trying to sleep, do you wake up? It's louder than a burglar alarm, a night flight going over Ramsgate."
And the Labour-led council has reservations too as the top man, Councillor Clive Hart explains:
"We're right behind the airport, everything they do we really want to support them, they're a key local employer , we want them to succeed but not at any environmental cost."
But their opposition disagree:
"We just think that there should be some flexibility offered to the airport in order for them to be able to maximise the opportunity that's out there" says Tory councillor Bob Bayford.
The airport can run nightflights regardless of the council's opinion; but they have an agreement to discuss it, which is why the issue's on the agenda at a meeting tonight. Campaigners insist they must be heard, saying 73% of the local population do not want night flights.
The airport says expansion would mean more than two million passengers a year by twenty-eighteen, and over two-thousand local jobs. And their consultants say no nightflights puts a "severe restraint" on the business, which is currently losing three million pounds a year. Clearly the argument is not going to end after tonight's meeting.
See our Meridian Tonight report below:-