The member of parliament for Riveroak

What to make of Sir Roger Gale?  Is he the tame member of parliament for the Belize-owned Riveroak Strategic Partners? What is his obsession with RSP and with Manston about? What is his position NOW?

Gale has aimed to set the record straight on this just this week.

From around 21minutes into the Friday 23rd February 2018 Paul on Politics Show, listen to Sir Roger Gale say:

“I’ve been called the member of parliament for Riveroak, I’m not, I’m the member of parliament for Manston!”

Strange.  Isn’t he supposed to be the member of parliament for North Thanet? Representing ALL the residents of North Thanet.  We’ve long wondered why, as Paul Francis asks here, he’s been like a ‘dog with a bone’ over Manston.

Sir Roger, or Sir Riveroak as many call him locally, isn’t always so quick to deny that he has an intimate and strong relationship with RSP.  In this video clip from the Save Manston Airport Group’s AGM in January 2016 (1.45 minutes into the clip) , Gale says:

” I know I’ve been called the member of parliament for Riveroak and I actually wear that as a badge of honour!”

As a member of parliament, Sir Roger is held to high standards.  We are all entitled to hold him to those high standards.  Telling the absolute truth about RSP and their proposals regarding Manston is the very least we can expect.

Gale has told residents time and again, very publicly on radio and TV, that there will be no night flights.

On his Facebook page, in a post, dated August 9 2016, Sir Roger, stated:

“To set the record straight RiverOak has confirmed that they have no plans to operate scheduled night flights…”

“…I for one would not countenance, and would not expect the Conservative Group on Thanet District Council to support, any proposal that involved scheduled night flying.”

In an interview with BBC Radio Kent, on 25th April, during the 2017 General Election campaign, he was questioned by presenter Maggie Doyle he was asked directly if freight would be flown in during the night. He answered:

“No, there is no proposal and no need to fly freight in at night.”

In the same interview, he added:

“The RiverOak Strategic Partnership has made it absolutely plain that they have no desire to fly planes in in anti-social hours, I am content with that.”

In RSP’s ‘clarification’ on their night time flying proposals, they continue to insist that they won’t schedule night flights but, at the same time, say that some non-scheduled night flights ‘cannot be ruled out’.  They also state that they will accept what they call  flights ‘carrying time-sensitive cargo with a very specific delivery window’. In addition, they say they will schedule up to six passenger flights between 6am and 7am which still falls within the accepted definition of ‘night time’ (11pm -7am).

Not so clear then.  Quite contradictory, in fact.

In addition, what they have been very clear about is that they are not putting any limit on the overall numbers of night flights.  The quota count, or noise budget, they have asked for exceeds that of Heathrow and what they have asked for would allow noisier planes that allowed to land at Heathrow.

Excuse us, Sir Roger, member of parliament for Riveroak or Manston, whatever?  Doesn’t this all directly contradict what you have been so vocal in telling your constituents and the wider public for many years now? 

What exactly is Sir Roger’s position? Will he now turn against RSP given that they are directly asking for night flights?

We’ve been given further very useful clarification this week with this response to a member of the public from the Planning Inspectorate (our highlighting):

Thank you for your email. I apologise for the short delay in providing this response. Beyond the acceptance tests applied to a submitted application for airport-related development (as set out in s23 of the Planning Act 2008), the Planning Inspectorate does not dictate the operational characteristics of airport-related applications made to it. It is for an applicant alone to decide whether or not its airport-related development needs to allow for night flights to be operated. If an airport applicant intends to operate night flights, its Environmental Impact Assessment will need to include an assessment to identify the likely significant effects arising from those night flights, along with a description of the measures envisaged in order to avoid, prevent, reduce or offset them. If an airport applicant does not intend to operate night flights, or have the option to operate night flights, there will be no need to assess the impact of night flights as part of its Environmental Impact Assessment. An applicant must submit a draft Development Consent Order (DCO) with its application and the draft DCO must set out the authorised development that the Applicant is seeking consent for. If an applicant chose to do so it could include within a draft DCO for airport-related development provisions which set out, for example, the parameters associated with any night flights that an applicant wishes to operate (eg their frequency, the circumstances under which they may operate etc). The draft provisions provided in the draft DCO submitted with the application will be subject to examination by the appointed Examining Authority (ExA). Anybody who registers to become an Interested Party at the appropriate time in the Pre-examination period (as advertised by the Applicant) will be able to make representations to the ExA about any of the provisions in the draft DCO. The ExA will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State about whether development consent should be granted, and if so, what provisions are to be included in the DCO, including any provisions relating to night flights if the applicant requested these in its application. The Secretary of State will make the final decision on these matters. The authorised development will be prescribed in a Schedule to the DCO, if development consent is granted. If you have any further questions about the process, please do not hesitate to contact us again.

Kind regards Richard Price |
National Infrastructure Case Manager
Major Applications & Plans
Temple Quay House,
Temple Quay,
Bristol BS1 6PN

RSP are actually being a lot clearer than Gale is.  RSP has said in their documentation that their plans for night flights mean ‘a permanent, major, adverse impact on the quality of life’ in our communities.  Isn’t it about time that he came out and said this himself if he continues to support RSP? Isn’t it time he came clean and admitted that the outfit he is so proud to support is intending night flights?

 

“We want the airport so there are no houses.”

It’s something we’ve heard over and over.  Of course, we are used to the concept of telling a lie often enough that it becomes the truth in people’s minds.

Famously, Joseph Goebels, mastermind of Nazi propaganda, said of us:

The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

We at NNF are in the business of contradicting lies, especially big fat ones that have grown a life of their own.

Any plan at all to build an airport at Manston would not mean that new homes would not be built in Thanet.  We’ll say that again.  Building an airport at Manston would not reduce by one the number of new homes that have to be built in Thanet over the next 20 or so years.

Why?

  • Because there is a national housing shortage.
  • Because that housing shortage is particularly bad in the south east.
  • Because each local council has to have a local plan where they show where they intend to allow new homes to be built over the next 20 or so years.
  • Because all local plans have to be evidence-based and the evidence of census details on our local population show that we are going to need around 16,000 new homes between 2011 and 2031.  That’s right – our own local population even without new people moving into the area.  Doesn’t make sense, I hear you cry. Well, population needs have increased because we are living longer and longer (not freeing up homes for the young) and more and more relationships and families split meaning the need for greater numbers of homes than ever before.
  • Because the national government rejects local plans that don’t indicate in detail where the projected new homes will be built.
  • Because if we don’t plan for this number of homes then the plan will be rejected and developers can then put in for planning on any site they wish.  It’s surely better for us to plan where we want those homes to go.

The population in Thanet has been consulted on this before.  We’ve told Thanet District Council that we would rather have homes built on brownfield sites.  We’ve told them that we would rather they were clustered in developments on larger sites rather than have endless piecemeal developments on the fringes of our villages and towns.

Manston is a massive brownfield site.  Any houses built there mean that there are fewer houses built on green fields.  Many will have to be built on green fields anyway because there’s just not sufficient brownfield sites but no homes at Manston means another 2,500 that will inevitably be built on a green field site somewhere near you.

“It will devastate the town we cherish.”

At No Night Flights, we’ve always argued that any serious plan for a cargo hub airport would inevitably mean night flights.  Time and again, airport supporters have told us “no, no, RiverOak (and now Belize-registered RSP) have no plans for night flights, you are just scare-mongering”. Time and again, RiverOak and now RSP have fudged on this or outrightly denied that their plans would include scheduled night flights whilst slipping in comments on their reports etc which clearly show that this has always been part of the plan.

Now it is all out in the open.  This is a game-changer, of course.  People have been persuaded over the years that ‘getting our airport back’ meant small and with no scheduled night flights.  There’s no pretence now and many who felt they were able to support an airport with no night flights are increasingly angry at this prospect and the fact that they feel they’ve been lied to.

We’re delighted at NNF that The Ramsgate Society are loud and clear in their condemnation of RSP’s plans and that they’ve urged residents to complain during the consultation.  in a clear statement, a spokesperson said this week:

“The UK’s only successful cargo-focussed airport, East Midlands, has more than half of its cargo flights come in at night – in other words, between 11pm and 7am.

“That is the nature of the air cargo market. To persuade cargo airlines to move to Manston, RSP will have to offer night flights.

“Whatever your views are about the current owner’s plans for a mixed-use redevelopment of the site, RSP’s plan has to be resisted.

“It will devastate the town we cherish and which the society, the town council and others are all seeking to regenerate and conserve its rich heritage.

“The noise impact alone of heavy, probably old, 747s flying low in and out of the airport, roughly every 20 minutes, will be enormously intrusive and destructive to the lives of all those residing and working in and around Ramsgate.”

In response, naturally, RSP bluster about not wanting scheduled night flights and seeking to minimise the number.  Don’t be fooled.  They want a cargo hub.  A cargo hub means lots of scheduled night flights.

RSP have kept communications on the details of their consultation  very quiet.  Do you live under the flight path?  Have you had a leaflet or letter from them? Probably not as their zone of those impacted by their plans is a very narrow one either side of the runway and doesn’t include most of Ramsgate, for example. Outraged? You should be.

Find RSP’s consultation information here.

What is the position now?

The No Night Flights group has campaigned successfully since 2009 to prevent the introduction of scheduled night flights at Manston and, with the airport’s closure in 2014, it seemed as though this threat had gone away.  Sadly, this isn’t the case.  The clear blue skies shown here are under even greater threat than in years gone by.

Almost as soon as the airport had closed, the possibility of a Compulsory Purchase Order (COP) arose. In other words, taking the land from its owners.  A support group was formed with the aim of preventing the airport’s closure.   The group was started by people not even living in Thanet or under the flight path and quickly appeared to gather vast numbers of members on social media.  NNF did plenty of research in to this.  Many members were added to this Facebook group without their knowledge. Many members were airplane enthusiasts from around the world. Many lived nowhere near Manston or Thanet.  Indeed, many of them lived nowhere near Kent.

The new owners, Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner immediately started talking about the plans they had for the 800 acre site.  Experienced in regeneration, they were certainly taken aback from the vocal, and increasingly aggressive, campaign being waged by some against them.  Instead of being welcomed and courted by local politicians (as they have been in other parts of the country where they have created a new community and new jobs), they were slandered and libelled and rebuffed.  They must have been more than a little surprised to be told that we are the only community in the entire country that wants an airport in our midst and planes flying low over our heads!

On the scene in November 2014 was Riveroak Investment Corp LLC, an American investment company.  Despite the claims of its supporters, Riveroak had no aviation experience whatsoever.  Their experience is in real estate investments in the USA, not all of them successful.  RiverOak wanted to be an indemnity partner for Thanet District Council (TDC) in a CPO process. TDC rightly needed proper assurances that any indemnity partner was credible, especially in terms of the finance required to get a new airport off the ground.  RiverOak was found not to be credible and the process failed.  The Labour administration at TDC was met with a hostile reception from the airport supporters.  An election soon after saw both Conservatives and UKIP promising to ‘bring back the airport’ and offering full support to RiverOak.

With a UKIP council elected, the process began again. The newly formed TDC quickly began the process again to find a credible indemnity partner.  RiverOak put themselves forward again. And again, they were found wanting.  Not credible.

Still they came back.  This time with a plan to get round TDC and to go straight to national government – to the Planning Inspectorate – to seek a DCO or Development Consent Order.  This is  a process to compulsorily purchase land for a nationally significant infrastructure project which RiverOak claimed Manston to be.

In order to be deemed a nationally significant infrastructure project, an airport at Manston would need to be a huge airport with at least 12,000 cargo flights a year and it would need to be seen to be in the public interest.  You can find out more about a DCO process here .

Meanwhile, at some point during 2016, RiverOak, the American companydecided it wanted nothing to do with the idea of a new airport at Manston  By December 2016, RiverOak had slipped away quietly.  Finally washing their hands of the whole thing, the process was carried forward by RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP), a newly formed company – newly formed in Belize – led by Tony Freudmann, the former MD at Manston from the Wiggins era.

It was Tony Freudmann who brought inRiverOak, the American outfit, in 2014. It was Tony Fredumann who set up the new RSP company in the summer of 2016 together with two ex-employees of RiverOak.  All trace of the three of them seem to have been wiped from American RiverOak’s website.

Alongside this continuing saga, TDC needed to complete their local plan.  A local plan outlines plans for the area including where projected housebuilding will take place.  The old local plan had Manston designated for aviation use only.  TDC, having failed to find an indemnity partner twice and having received independent, expert reports stating that the likelihood of success of an airport on that site being slim to nothing, felt that it could no longer continue to designate it as such.  However, a local plan must be evidence-based and so a new independent report was commissioned.  Aviation industry experts, Avia Solutions, conclude within their report that ‘airport operations at Manston are very unlikely to be financially viable in the longer term and almost certainly not possible in the period to 2031’.  Read their report here.

So, an airport is not viable.  Yet still RSP continue their bid for a DCO of the site.  We continue to wonder why.

It is vitally important that we all understand exactly what the RSP offer is and what it is not.

  • To even have a stab at being seen as a nationally important infrastructure project,  there would need to be a minimum of 12,000 cargo flights a year.  That’s a huge number.  The old airport had 500.  RSP says they aspire to have at least 17,000 cargo flights a year.
  • RSP propose a 24/7 cargo hub.  A dedicated cargo hub inevitably means scheduled night flights as all the major carriers like Fedex and DHL demand it.  It’s how they do their business.
  • RSP flip flop when it comes to passenger operations.  They are not part of their plan, they’ve made that clear at consultations in the past but every now and then, to keep the airport supporters on board, they claim that there will be SOME passenger flights at SOME point in the future.  Successive reports have made it clear, as has a 15 year failed history as a commercial airport, that Manston is simply in the wrong location to be able to attract sufficient passenger numbers to make it financially viable.
  • SO the RSP offer is not to bring back the little airport with a few flights a day and none at night that Thanet used to have and which, frankly, did not bother the vast majority of people (until night flights were threatened). We know that when people say they want the airport back – that’s exactly what they mean – they want that old airport back.  But that airport lost £3 to £4 million in every year of operation.  The overall loss for its fifteen year history was over £100m of operational losses and lost investments. It’s never coming back.
  • RSP are offering a dirty, noisy, polluting cargo hub that will have scheduled night flights and which will blight the health and wellbeing of local residents as well as destroy our growing local economy – particularly with regard to tourism.

We urge all residents to submit their views during the RSP consultation which runs from 12th June 2017 for 6 weeks.

 

Night flights – the what, why and why not

What is a ‘night flight’?

Night is defined as 11.00 pm until 7.00 am.   This is the standard definition of night time as used throughout the aviation industry globally, nationally and locally.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends an 8 hour curfew every night when planes do not fly as this protects around 50% of the population.  You’d need a period of 10 hours to protect 80%.

Some airports try to define night as 11.30 pm until 6.00 am, however, in contravention of these recommendations and from 6.00 am to 7.00 am can be the busiest times for airports.

Some flights are at night simply by being delayed.  This is an unscheduled night flight which is quite different from flights that are scheduled throughout the night.

WHO published a study in 2009, Night Noise Guidelines for Europe, which found:

  • If sleep is regularly disturbed for any reason, it has an effect on people’s health.
  • There is some, but “limited”, evidence that noise at night can cause heart problems, depression and other mental illness.
  • Children, including babies, because they spend longer in bed, are “considered a risk group” even though they usually sleep through noise better than adults.
  • Even if people don’t wake up, there is “sufficient evidence” to show that noise increases people’s heart-rate, exactly the same finding as the HYENA Report.People whose sleep is regularly disturbed take more medicines.
  • Since older people, pregnant woman and ill people find sleeping more difficult, they are particularly vulnerable to being disturbed by night noise.

The WHO guidelines for night noise suggest a staged approach to the reduction of night time noise.

  • an interim target where outdoor noise averaged out over an eight hour night should be no higher than 55 decibels (what is called 55 Lnight).
  • leading to a final target where the average outdoor noise should be no higher than 40 decibels (40 Lnight)

Are night flights needed?

“If the same restrictions apply to all the competing airlines flying the European long-haul routes, they do seem to be able to adapt their schedules and get over slot availability, congestion, and connections, and fly by day.” European Commission 2005

The HYENA study – Hypertension and Exposure to Noise Near Airports.   This study found that:

Our results indicate excess risks of hypertension related to long-term noise exposure, primarily for night-time aircraft noise and daily average road traffic noise.

Find the research here.