Sunday, 5 February 2012

Ramsgate Town Council Response to Night Flights Consultation

Ramsgate Town Council
Night-time Flying Noise Policy Application
Ramsgate Town Council Response
Ramsgate Town Council understands that Thanet District Council has been asked by the operator of Kent International Airport to give an opinion on the operator’s plans for scheduled night time flying under schedule 2 of the Section 106 agreement between the Airport operator and the Council.
Section 106 agreement between the Airport operator and the Council
Schedule 2

1.      Night-time Flying Noise Policy.
1.1 The Owner agrees not to cause suffer or permit any Regular Night Flying Operations at any    time (subject to paragraph 1.4 below) before a Night-time Flying Noise Policy shall have been prepared and a copy lodged with the Council.

1.2. The Owner will prepare the Night-time Flying Noise Policy at least six months before the commencement of any Regular Night Flying Operations after consulting with the Council in accordance with paragraph 1.3 below. The policy will specifically address the following matters:

1.2.1 the restriction on those aircraft likely to cause unacceptable disturbance, such that no `     aircraft with a noise classification in excess of Quota Count 4 shall be permitted to take off or to land during Night-time.

1.2.2 a process for the sharing of data on details of aircraft operating during Night-time; and

1.2.3 the embodiment of the principles of UK best practice at the time and the appropriateness of those principles to prevailing local conditions.

1.3.    The consultation process shall include providing all relevant information to the Council and  affording an adequate period within which the Council may consider the issues arising and formulate its views which shall be taken into account by the Owner and due weight given to such views; in the event that the Owner does not propose to accept the views of the Council in formulating its policy it shall first provide to the Council a reasoned justification and shall take into account and give due weight to such further views of the Council as may be expressed.

1.4 The Owner shall not be obliged to prepare a Night-time Flying Noise Policy where Flight Movements during Night-time will involve:
1.4.1 Departures to European destinations or arrivals from North America by solely passenger carrying aircraft scheduled to occur between 0600 and 0700 on any day where the aircraft involved in the operation have a noise classification of Quota Count 4 or less; or humanitarian mercy or emergency flights by relief organisations on not more than 12 occasions during any calendar year.

1.5 The Owner will:
1.5.1 (and whether or not a Night-time Flying Noise Policy has been prepared but subject to paragraph 1.6 below) pay £1,000 for the first occasion when an aircraft with a noise classification in excess of Quota Count 4 undertakes a Flight Movement during Night-time and during the following twelve calendar months to pay an amount increased by a factor of two for each successive occasion by the same aircraft (namely £2,000 for the second occasion £4,000 for the third occasion £8,000 for the fourth occasion and so on) and at the end of such twelve month period the payments shall recommence at the level of £1,000 and a further period of twelve months as aforesaid shall follow and such increasing payments shall be made
1.5.2 not cause suffer or permit any training flights during Night-time by any jet or large aircraft (being an aircraft with a maximum take-off weight in excess of 5700 kg) and to pay £10,000 for each and every occasion when a contravention occurs
1.6 The Owner shall be under no obligation to make any payment under paragraph 1.5.1 above where the Flight Movement concerns the type of flight referred to in paragraph 1.4.2 above and whether or not the aircraft had a noise classification in excess of Quota Count 4.

2. Airport Master Plan

Ramsgate Town Council further understands that the Airport Operator has produced a Master Plan for the future development of the Airport. Thanet District Council has noted the Master Plan, but not adopted it as policy.

3. Bickerdike Allen Report

The Airport operator has submitted a report that it has commissioned in support of its application for night time flying noise policy (Bickerdike Allen).

4. York Aviation Report

Following the submission of the proposed Night Flying Noise Policy and following consultations, Thanet District Council requested further information on the economic benefits that would be derived from the plan as proposed. The Airport operator commissioned York Aviation LLP (YAL) to provide an overview of the likely economic benefits which could be derived by Thanet District and the wider East Kent region.

5. Bureau Veritas Report

Thanet District Council commissioned an independent specialist technical review of Bickerdike Allen from Bureau Veritas. This report resulted in Thanet District Council requesting the operator revise its request for a Night Time Flying policy. They have now resubmitted.

6. Parsons Brinkerhoff Report

A further report on issues surrounding the application, authored on behalf of Thanet District     Council by Parsons Brinkerhoff, a leading transport consultancy - has just been published.

7. Proposed Night-time Flying Policy

    The revised proposal by the operator for a Night Time Flying Noise policy is:

32.  In order to regulate Night-time flying at Manston Airport, it is proposed to adapt the Noise Quota system in regular and successful use at other airports (Bristol, Birmingham, Gatwick, Heathrow, Liverpool, Doncaster, Manchester and Stansted).
33. This system allocates a Quota Count (QC) to each arrival or departure, based on the aircraft manufacturer’s certification operating at maximum weight. The total of these QC’s as set out below, gives the Annual Quota Count.
34. In line with the comments received during the Master Plan consultation period from, amongst others, TDC’s Airport Working Party and the Airport Consultative Committee, the proposed system has been devised to be simple and easy to apply, straight forward to monitor and to provide clarity and certainty for the local community, the Council and the airport operator.
35. The proposed Quota Count System for Manston Airport is as follows:
a. Night-time Period will be 2300 to 0700 local time.
b. Night-time Quota Period will be 2330 to 0600 local time.
c. Annual Quota Count will be the sum of the individual Quota Counts (QC) of all flights arriving or departing during the Night-time Quota Period within a calendar year (January to December).
d. Aircraft movements greater than QC4 will be prohibited during the Night-time Period.
e. Annual Quota Count not to exceed 1,593.
f. The total annual number of aircraft movements during the Night-time Quota Period will not exceed 659.
g. Preferred Departure Runway and Noise Abatement Routes as set out in clauses 4 and 5 respectively of the Second Schedule to S106 dated 26 September 2000 (runway 10 for arrivals and runway 28 for departures), to be used whenever possible during the Night-time Period consistent with safe operations.
36. To improve the current monitoring and reporting of night flights, each flight that operates during the Night-time Period will be reported monthly to Thanet District Council and the Airport Consultative Committee.
37. The airport will publish monthly noise data on its website to ensure that this is accessible to members of the public.

8. Consultations

Ramsgate Town Council has consulted the public on two occasions following the initial indication that the Airport operator wished to request a night flying noise policy.

At a public meeting on October 25th 2010, attended by 400 plus residents, no binding vote was taken but the show of hands indicated there was a substantial majority against any introduction of night flights.

At a following regular Council Meeting, 3rd November 2010, The Chief Exec of the airport operator, and members of the public were invited to speak. On resuming, Council came to the following resolution.

‘That Ramsgate Town Council does not support the current night flying noise application by Infratil Ltd on behalf of Manston Airport and that Ramsgate Town Council requests that Thanet District Council asks its Manston Airport working party to review the current implementation of the existing s106 agreement for Manston Airport’.

9. Thanet District Council Airport Working Party

As well as the information listed above and the various reports listed, Ramsgate Town Council is aware of the published minutes of Thanet District Council’s Airport Working Party.

Meeting 18 July 2011

1.    In respect of night-time flying:-
(a)      The Council adopts a policy of not allowing scheduled, pre-planned or otherwise timetabled flights between the hours of 23:00 and 07:00;
(b)      That a period of 1 hour at either end of the flying day be allowed for late/early arriving flights only;
(c)      That a penalty be applied to any flights arriving during the 1 hour periods;
(d)      No take-offs will be allowed between 23:00 and 07:00 hours;
(e)      A schedule of exceptions to the above be prepared to include ‘mercy flights’, and flights, medical emergencies, coastguard movements etc.
2.    In respect of aspirations to be carried into a successor to the current Section.106 agreement;
(a)   Consideration be given to requesting the Airport owners whoever they may be at any given time to contribute to the cost of a TDC Airport Officer and that requirement is included in a new section 106 Agreement;
(b)   A new Section 106 Agreement is negotiated within 12 months.

It is understood that the recommendations 1 and 2 above were adopted by the Council’s Scrutiny Committee, but rejected by the then Thanet District Council Cabinet.

TDC Meeting 28 Sept 2011
Members challenged officers to develop approaches for monitoring that were both independent and transparent to the public.
Madeline Homer said that Council received log books from Infratil monthly and an officer checks the log books for compliance and where there were breaches checks whether fines were charged to the responsible Airline.

Unscheduled Movements
Members were concerned that there were a number of planes landing outside the scheduled hours, when the fire services and air traffic control were off-duty.
Madeline Homer said that she would investigate that issue and report back. Penny Button explained that air traffic control and fire services are called each time there was an unscheduled flight. Members asked that there be an explanation as to why these flights are unscheduled in the first place and whether it was acceptable that when a plane lands at unscheduled times as a QC4, it can then take off at unscheduled times as a QC8. There was no definition of “unscheduled flights” in the current S106 Agreement.
Madeline Homer was asked to check for the definition with Civil Aviation. She will also check with Infratil whether it was permissible to publish the information on unscheduled flights at Kent International Airport and report back to the Working Party. Madeline said that her team would from now onwards be checking for consecutive breaches of unscheduled flights. The team will carry-out a historic trawl through and report back to the Airport Working Party on what could be done with the historic information.

General Noise Limitations
Members said that because contour maps are often updated, there was need to review the General Noise Limitations.

Preferred Departure Runway
Madeline Homer said that there was no evidence to indicate that TDC has been monitoring the 70 % compliance in relation to runway utilisation. She said that there was no penalty in the S106 Agreement in case of non compliance but Council could apply for an injunction to get compliance since this issue fell under Schedule 2 Obligations and was therefore a planning matter.

Noise Abatement Routes
At the moment the radar at the airport cannot monitor the Noise Abatement Routes accurately. There was no way of recording the information on compliance and there no way of checking and verifying the information. The Airport was expecting a new radar system to be installed in the next few months.

10 The Quota Count System

A briefing was prepared for MPs on the ‘Night Noise Quota Count Scheme’.
The briefing was prepared in connection with the Civil Aviation Bill in Oct 05, but is of general relevance to the night flights issue.
The Night Noise Quota Scheme professes to be a regime that will encourage the uptake of quieter aircraft but its numerous shortcomings in fact allow far more planes to fly at night, while maintaining the same supposed ‘noise climate’. While these planes may indeed be marginally quieter, it is the number of noise events, rather than a token reduction of a few decibels, that causes the misery of sleep deprivation to residents living under flight paths. It is essential, therefore, that the cap on numbers of movements at night is retained.

The Scheme rates all aircraft types according to their respective noisiness of landing and take-off using a measure called EPNdB ‘effective perceived noise’ in decibels. Band of EPNdB are assigned a Quota Count (QC) rating, this being done on an exponential scale.
For each reduction of 3 in EPNdB   the QC is halved:

EPNdB over 101.9 is QC/16

EPNdB 99 – 101.9 is QC/8

EPNdB 96 – 98.9 is QC/4

EPNdB 93 – 95-9 is QC/2

EPNdB 90 – 92.9 is QC/1

EPNdB less than 90 is QC/0.5

EPNdB less than 87 is exempt (i.e. QC of zero).

A limit is placed on the total number of QC points per 6 month season (how these are assigned per night is at the discretion of the airport operator). Thus under a pure quota count system, if planes rated at 96 EPNdB were replaced with planes rated at 95 EPNdB, twice as many could be flown during the restricted period.

The environmental objective is to keep within a given ‘average noise’ limit for the whole night, measured in Leq. Leq stands for Level equivalent and is calculated by adding together the noise energy of all the noise events across a given time period and then taking the continuous level (i.e. it irons out the peaks and troughs).

 An extreme case will illustrate the way Leq works. One Concorde on departure had equivalent noise energy to 120 Boeing 757s – so one [Boeing 757] plane every 2 minutes for 4 hours, produced the same Leq as 2 mins of Concorde followed by 3 hrs 58 mins of silence.

There is no official noise index for showing night noise in the UK (although Leq is officially recognised during the day period between 0700 and 2300). However, the Government believes that producing ‘noise maps’ for airports at night using Leq contours is an adequate way of expressing aircraft noise, and has produced maps for the London airports in its recent consultation on the night noise regime.
 This method is an inadequate as a way of assessing the impact of a small number of noisy events distributed over a long and otherwise tranquil period. This is explicitly stated by the World Health Organisation in their guidelines for noise levels:

“Where there are no clear reasons for using other measures, it is recommended that LAeq,T be used to evaluate more-or-less continuous environmental noises”.
However, when there are distinct events to the noise, as with aircraft or railway noise, measures of individual events such as the maximum noise level (LA Max) or the weighted sound exposure level (SEL) should also be obtained in addition to LAeq,T. [NB: ‘LAeq,T’ is simply a fuller description of ‘Leq’ – the ‘A’ indicating the weighting scale used and T specifying the time period” (WHO Guidelines for Community Noise, Executive Summary, p2.).

As planes get marginally quieter many more will be allowed to fly at night under a pure quota count scheme. But it is the frequency of noise events that can ruin a night’s sleep. If I am woken up by all noise events over 90 dB, I will not be pleased to hear twice as many, even if they are 92 dB rather than 95 dB. Hence it is essential that a numbers limit on night movements is retained.

Other problems with the QC system:
It is misleading to equate a 3dB reduction with a halving of ‘annoyance’, even for the individual event. EPNdB is a measure of ‘noise energy’ and it is by no means certain that a halving of noise energy results in a halving of noise heard by the human ear, despite the name.
Research over many years has show that halving the noise energy, i.e. reducing the noise level 3dB, by no means halves the perceived noise. The ear detects it only as a slight reduction. For noise to sound half as loud, the noise level must be reduced by about 10dB. It is because the perceived loudness is not proportional to noise energy that the ‘logarithmic’ scale of decibels was introduced into the science of acoustics.
QCs are assigned according to certified rather than actual measured noise. There is evidence that actual practices are often noisier – sometimes one whole QC band noisier. DfT applies a reduction on arrival noise by 9 EPNdB. This has some justification given the way noise is certified, but it fails to account for the different quality of noise and the different set of people affected by departures. It has the effect of artificially lowering the QC of arrivals – and most of the movements at night
are arrivals. A fuller explanation, with reference to the most recent change in quotas at Heathrow,
Gatwick and Stansted are given on the DfT web site. While this is informative and factually correct, it does not (of course) explain the flaws inherent in the system.

11. Planning Considerations

The Council’s planning control appears to be limited to finding that in operating the proposed night time policy once issued by the operator,  could lead to intensification in the use of the airport; to the extent that a material change of use will take place, and that such a change of use would require planning permission. The key issue for the Council now therefore must be what level of night time flying is happening, and thus what could be considered to be lawfully established. This would then effectively establish the benchmark against which to test whether the new proposed night time flying would in fact be intensification.
The Bickerdike Allen report, gives the monthly movements from January 2009 to September 2011, compared with the level of night‐time activity between 2300 and 0700, and between 2330 and 0600. In the 12 months to September 2011, a total of 43 aircraft movements were recorded between 2300 and 0700, of which 31 occurred between 2330 and 0600.

Using the Airports Master Plan, the report calculates the estimated average daily movement profile for 2018

Estimated Average Daily Movement Profile
Cargo Type 0700‐2300 2300‐2330 2330‐0600 0600‐0700
Passenger 49.6 2.8 0.6 2.8
Freight 5.1 0.4 1.2 0.4
Total 54.6 3.2 1.8 3.2

It can be seen that combined passenger and freight flights would be 2 per night from 23.00 until 06.00.  This would appear to be around 60 flights per month or over 700 for a year. This compares to the figures set out above that in the 12 months to September 2011, there were 31 pa movements during these hours.
 RTC believe this would represent a significant intensification of use from that arising from the Section 106 prior to the night flying noise policy application.

We urge TDC to opinion that such intensification requires planning consent.

12. Impact on Ramsgate

It is clear that, from the consultation meeting and by resolution of the Council that there is a strong preference for the continuance of the ban on night time flying at the airport.

Ramsgate Town Council urges Thanet District Council to reject the current application.

Ramsgate Town Council believes that Ramsgate’s future success lies in creating an environmentally attractive destination to live in, work in and visit. It believes the potential for job creation within Ramsgate lies in tourism, using the town’s natural assets including the beach, marina and historic built environment, and in encouraging the environmental and creative industries to ensure that economic success does not solely rely on a low wage part time seasonal industry. Ramsgate’s proximity and position in relation to the runway means that any permission for night time flying threatens that ambition.

The Parker-Brinkeroff report, commissioned by Thanet District Council is clearly sceptical of the Airport operator’s claims concerning the potential for job creation. Nevertheless, an operational airport will create some employment and potentially facilitate attracting other employers to locate in the immediate area.

In anticipation of possible future applications for developments at the airport Ramsgate Town Council believes that:

12.1. Thanet District Council needs to show in its Local Development Framework that it has considered the broader economic and environmental impact of the airport.
12.2. Thanet District Council needs to convince the public that in can and will monitor activities at the airport, including runway usage, flight paths, actual noise levels at take-off and landings, and up to date noise contours.

13. Recommendations

13.1 Ramsgate Town Council urges Thanet District Council to reject the current application for night flying.

13.2 Ramsgate Town Council urges TDC to opinion that such intensification that would be allowed under the proposed night flying noise application requires planning consent.

13.3 Ramsgate Town Council requests that Thanet District Council fulfils its obligations in respect of 12.1 and 12.2 above.

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