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Claims of 'secret' flight paths in and out of Manston when it reopens denied by airport boss

Claims of secret flight paths in and out of Manston when the airport reopens have been denied by bosses who insist they have no say over the routes.

Director of RiverOak Strategic Partnership (RSP) Tony Freudmann, who last month won the backing of the government to relaunch the site as a freight cargo hub in 2023 in Thanet, says it “can't just put aeroplanes in the sky" and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) makes the final decision.

Tony Freudmann says the aiport will significantly boost the local economy
Tony Freudmann says the aiport will significantly boost the local economy

He insists the only thing he is pushing for is that more flights come in over Herne Bay than Ramsgate, due to the latter being closer to the runway and therefore more likely to be disturbed by noise.

“We’ve had two focus groups with representatives from councils in east Kent, we’ve suggested some flight paths and these will be sent in a report to the CAA,” he said.

“All we do is make proposals.

“The CAA makes the final decision - it wants flights that are safe, as safe to the environment as possible and cause as little disturbance through noise as possible.”

His comments come in response to a campaign calling for transparency over where the flight paths will be.

Manston airport site. Picture: Alan Langley
Manston airport site. Picture: Alan Langley

Critics claim some 30 locations in east Kent will be affected by those proposed, including Thanet towns and villages, Herne Bay, Beltinge, Swalecliffe, Folkestone, and villages across the area such as Ash, Wingham, Challock, Fordwich and Chillenden.

There are also fears that one proposal for a holding pattern - when an aeroplane can’t immediately land and has to circle in the sky - will be over Faversham.

Ramsgate town councillor Cllr David Green is backing a petition by pressure group CARMA (Campaign Against the Reopening of Manston Airport) asking the CAA to be transparent about the "secret" routes.

He says he is also “not convinced” RSP is being open about the paths with all the relevant authorities.

“The developers claim these new routes have been shared with key stakeholders who can ‘offer early views on behalf of their local communities, including elected community representatives’,” he said.

Cllr David Green
Cllr David Green

“The consultations I have been to have been sparsely attended by councillors and local representatives from east Kent. There were only half a dozen in the last one.

“You have to ask if the relevant community representatives are being properly informed.”

He says he has written to all parish councils asking if they have been contacted regarding the proposed flight paths.

But Mr Freudmann says there hasn’t been a consultation, but two focus group sessions, involving local representatives.

“There will be consultations, but not yet,” he said.

'You can’t just put an aeroplane in the air and fly where you like' - Tony Freudmann

“At the moment there is no air space allocated, because when Manston was closed in 2014, the then-owners surrendered the air space.

“So we have applied to the CAA for Manston to have its own air space.

“We have to go through a process which is highly regulated, whereby we go through focus groups in which we suggest possible flight paths to the local community and ask them for their response and then go through a consultation process - which hasn’t started yet.

“We don’t set the flight paths, the CAA sets them.

“You can’t just put an aeroplane in the air and fly where you like.”

The site of Manston Airport. Picture: James Stewart
The site of Manston Airport. Picture: James Stewart

He says holding patterns will likely be over the sea, except for quieter light aircraft which would potentially be over land.

Mr Freudmann says the criteria they are working with is for as many arrivals and departures as possible to be over Herne Bay, at the eastern end of the runway.

“Ramsgate is closer to the runway than Herne Bay which means that aircraft landing over Ramsgate or taking off are lower and therefore noisier than they are over Herne Bay, because they’re higher in the sky over Herne Bay.

“So what we’ve been trying to do is ensure that as many arrivals and departures are over Herne Bay and not over Ramsgate.

“Lets say there are six movements an hour, three arrivals and three departures, what we hope to achieve is of those six arrivals, at least four or even five will be in the direction of Herne Bay.”

To see the petition click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Thanet

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