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Report-KentInternationa lAirport, Nighttimenoise Policy


To:     Extraordinary Council - 12 February 2009

Main Portfolio Area:     Economy and Culture

By:     Director of Regeneration

Classification:     Unrestricted

Ward:     All

Summary:     This report informs Members of a request from the Airport owner (Infratil) for a variation to the S.106 Agreement relating to night-time flying at the airport.  The purpose of the variation is to enable the company to reach agreements with a major European airline wishing to relocate its hub at Kent International Airport.  In order to enable the immediate relocation of the activity, it is proposed to approve a variation for an 18 month period with the next objective of producing a comprehensive Night-time Flying Policy for the period 2010 to 2018.  This timeline is consistent with the first period described in the draft Masterplan for Kent International Airport's planned growth.

For Decision

1.0     Introduction and Background

1.1     This application from Infratil has been received at very short notice.  Hence the calling of an Extraordinary Council Meeting.  Late on 29 January, 2009, I was informed by the Chief Executive of Kent International Airport that he had been invited to an urgent meeting with a major airline operator and informed that because of various changes in the air transport sector at the present time, it is required to make an immediate decision on whether to relocate its long haul international freight aircraft to Kent International Airport.  The Board of the Company concerned will take a final decision on this matter this month and it has a final meeting with Infratil on the 12th of February.  For commercial reasons, this report is not able to include the name of the aircraft operator.

1.2     Infratil has been asked to do two things to facilitate the relocation of this company to Kent International Airport.  First, some infrastructure improvements of a technical nature are required.  None of the works require planning consent, and if the contract is agreed, they will be refunded by the airport operator.  Second, and crucially from the Council's perspective, the carrier seeks confirmation that they will be able to operate to their current schedule.  This schedule requires 11 aircraft turnarounds each week some of which would be between 0600 - 0700, with the potential for 2300 - 2330.  Infratil has proposed that the existing s.106 agreement be varied to permit the additional aircraft movements.  The proposal envisages that there will be an 18 month period during which these operations will be reviewed at three monthly intervals, and at the conclusion of which a prospective night-time flying policy covering the period from 2010 - 2018 can be agreed and put in place.  A copy of the proposal is attached at Annex 1.

1.3     The timescale available to both Infratil and the Council itself was such that it was not possible for Infratil to produce the draft text of a proposed variation before this agenda was dispatched.  However, the draft text of the variation will be available to Members for consideration at the meeting.   The final meeting between Infratil and the aircraft operator is on 12 February, this report will be available to that meeting, with the decision taken by Council available the following day.  A later Council meeting and decision would have meant that the opportunity was lost to Infratil.  

1.4     The planning policy framework does support airport growth.  But there are important caveats on environmental impacts, one of which is night-time noise.  Therefore, in considering this report, even at this stage, Members need to be mindful that they balance the wish to create new jobs and wider economic benefits in Thanet with the interests of the environment, and those who may be affected by night-time flying.  Although it has made recent progress with the creation of a considerable number of new jobs in the district, the unemployment and social deprivation figures for Thanet are the worst in the South East, and amongst the worst (for certain electoral Wards) in England.  There is clearly a need to create new jobs, but it must not be at the expense of unacceptable environmental impact.

1.5     Since its acquisition of the airport Infratil has invested approaching £10m in the restoration and provision of infrastructure.  During the period the airport has not produced for its parent company, chiefly because of the unusually low level of aircraft movements.  Production of the draft Masterplan represents a major step forward in setting out how the owner proposes to develop the airport and expand business in a measured way, taking full account of its strategic position and the requirements of environmental law.  A Masterplan, if well connected to planning policy, and taking account of opinion expressed during consultation, can be given significant weight when considering planning issues. Council is scheduled to receive a report regarding the draft Masterplan at its April meeting.

2.0     The Current Situation

2.1     Though not tied to a grant of planning permission, the s.106 planning agreement, from 2000, provides background to how the airport owner is to address its environmental responsibilities.  A copy of the agreement is attached as Annex 2.  Members will recall that no night-time flying can take place on a regular basis without there being in place a previously agreed Night-time Noise Policy prepared by the owner at least six months before the commencement of regular night-time flying.  The requirement is so that the Council has an adequate period to consider the issues and formulate its response to a significant change to night-time flying before its implementation.  In 2005, when a proposal for a certain number of night-time aircraft movements from Planestation was received, with the introduction of EU Jet to the airport, a Night-time Noise Policy was agreed for a six month period on the basis that comprehensive monitoring with review took place.  In 2005, the six month consultation provided to the Council was not available because of commercial reasons and the immediacy of the opportunity.  Similar circumstances apply in this particular case, though if anything the pressure on the air transport sector is greater now than in 2005 due to the economic recession.

2.2     In principle, under the terms of the second schedule to the s.106 (1.4.1 refers) an unlimited number of passenger aircraft movements, of QC 4 or lower can arrive from North America, or depart to European destinations, between 0600 - 0700.  Though regular passenger services have not developed with these destinations, it is noteworthy that the existing s.106 already enables a level of aircraft movement, perhaps similar in many ways to the variation now being sought.

2.3     In scale, the proposal is 11 weekly 747-400 aircraft turnarounds at Kent International Airport.  As the proposal explains the aircraft to be used are rated QC 4 on take-off, and QC 2 on landing.  The proposal from Infratil explains that only a portion of these movements will be scheduled during the night-time hours and these will be in the shoulder period between 0600 - 0700 hours.  Nonetheless, should Members agree to support a variation to the s.106 agreement they must recognise that the introduction of any scheduled aircraft movements outside the night-time hours defined in the agreement as 2300 - 0700 represents an in principle change.  Hence the recommendation, should the variation be supported that the Council undertakes a comprehensive screening of the change with all environmental impacts assessed between the Council decision and the first flight outside the hours of 0700 - 2300 once scheduled operations start.  An independent environmental consultant would be commissioned to carry out the assessment and produce a report.

2.4     The draft Masterplan showing Infratil's proposals for expansion of the airport between now and 2033 has recently been out to public consultation.  Recognising the importance of the document the Council has appointed a Working Party to consider the draft document and report its recommendations back to the Overview and Scrutiny Panel, Cabinet and ultimately Council.  A key element of the research carried out by the Working Party has been visits to other regional airports, both to consider the benefits and costs of the scale of development involved, and to listen to the experience of the local planning authority.  Although the Working Party has yet to produce its final report, it is possible to say at this stage that there is an understanding that an element of night-time flying, particularly during the shoulder periods, i.e. between 2300 and midnight, and 0600 and 0700 hours does appear to be a feature of other regional airports.  Both from the point of view of freight operations, but also rotation of based passenger aircraft.  

2.5     Those airports which feature an element of night-time flying generally provide enhanced noise monitoring and noise controls, responding positively to public interest.  This is an approach followed by Infratil in making its proposal as set out as Annex 1.  The airport owner does undertake to improve noise monitoring and reporting and in particular of the movement of aircraft during the proposed shoulder periods.  

2.6     Having aircraft actually based at Kent International Airport will obviously provide new jobs to Thanet.  The table submitted by the airport owner with the application for night-time flying does set out the total number of jobs to be created.  Should the proposal be agreed, and the operation move to Kent International Airport, it will be appropriate for the planning authority to monitor the number of new jobs created at the airport.  The position is more complex regarding indirect employment, though that might be reflected in general economic activity statistics tracked by the Council.  

2.7     Although the timescale set to both Infratil, and subsequently the Council itself is short, it is still possible to put in place night-time flying arrangements capable of protecting the interests of the local community.  The proposal from the airport owner for a variation (subject to environmental appraisal) to the s.106 leading into a comprehensive Night-time Flying regime, 2010/2018 addresses this.

2.8     Subject to agreement and contract being signed with the aircraft operator the new flights will not start until at the latest October 2009.  It is in fact possible that a six month period will pass between the proposal for introduction of the variation, and the operative date of the variation, which will be the date of the first aircraft movement.

2.9     On completion of this report, and before the Agenda was issued, and dispatched, the content was explained to the Chairman of the Kent International Airport Consultative Committee, Kent County Council, and both Canterbury City Council and Dover District Council.  On 6 February, at a meeting already arranged, Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) were similarly briefed.  Within the timescale available the Council believes it has made sure that as many stakeholders as possible are aware of the position.  A press release was issued to alert the media, and general public to the Extraordinary Council meeting.

2.10     It is considered that the proposal from Infratil sets out acceptable content of both the proposed variation to the s.106 and the prospective night-time operations for 2010-2018, when compared against controls applied at other regional airports.  In its review of the performance of the S.106 agreement regarding the airport the Council's Working Party have recognised that;  noise abatement routes, preferred runway usage, further improvements to monitoring, QC rating of aircraft using the airport during night-time hours (a reduction assumed over time) are all subjects to be examined and revised in any future policy.  These subjects are all included in the proposal from the airport owner for a Night-time Flying Policy to be put in place at the close of the 18 month period, dependant on the outcome of environmental appraisal.

2.11     The 18 month period itself will see a relatively modest increase in total aircraft movement, along with an increase in monitoring.  The monitoring to provide information to inform the environmental review of the variation, and the content of the potential 2010 - 2018 Night-time Noise Policy.  This will allow the airport to take an important step in expanding business, during a difficult economic climate, whilst also adopting a precautionary approach to environmental impacts.  On balance it is therefore concluded that the proposal from Infratil should be supported.

2.12     Some commentators may surmise that the additional impacts of a small number of scheduled flights during the shoulder periods will be low.  But the Council can only take a decision to permit the variation on the basis of evidence.  Therefore, an independent appraisal of the environmental issues associated with the new flights between the hours of 2300 - 2330 and 0600 - 0700 will be commissioned, reported and subject to acceptance by the Chief Executive in consultation with the Leader, Deputy Leader and Leader of the Opposition.

3.0     Options

Members have the option to either;

Agree to accept the proposal for a variation to the s.106 agreement enabling some night-time flying, but for only an 18 month period, and subject to monitoring and review at three month periods, with the objective of moving into a comprehensive new night-time flying policy covering the period 2010-2018 with appropriate monitoring and review.

(b)     Determine not to agree to amend the S.106 agreement by not accepting the proposal for an variation to be followed, dependant on review and environmental appraisal by a comprehensive night-time flying policy.

4.0     Corporate Implications

4.1     Financial implications

4.1.1     The cost of responding to the proposal from the airport owner is being met from approved service budgets.

4.1.2     The cost of an independent environmental appraisal of the potential environmental implications of the variation, will be met from planning budgets.
4.2     Legal implications

4.2.1     The advice of Counsel has been taken in respect of this subject, and followed.

4.2.2     Members will need to consider this proposal in the context of the potential implications for local residents.  In particular, it is a requirement under the Human Rights Act 1998 that local authority decisions should not be in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights obligations.  In particular, article 8 (1) and protocol 1 article 1 of the ECHR requires respect for private life, and property.  These rights can be interfered if appropriate and lawful and serving  proper planning objectives.  Members will need to consider whether such interferences are significant and if so proportionate.

4.3     Corporate
4.3.1     Regeneration and the creation of employment opportunities is central to theme 1 of the Corporate Plan.  Protection of the environment, and the quality of life enjoyed by local people is also an important objective in the Corporate Plan.
4.4     Equity and Equality
          4.4.1     In the opinion of the writer there are no equality issues in this report.

5.1     That the proposal for a variation of the s.106 agreement be agreed in principle, subject to;

the contract being signed with the aircraft operator
submission of a satisfactory legal draft of the variation sought by the airport owner so that it can be considered by Council at this meeting

(iii)     that the scheduled aircraft movements that the variation to the s.106 allows shall not commence until an independent appraisal of the environmental issues associated with the new flights has been received and accepted by the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Leader, Deputy Leader and Leader of the Opposition.

5.2     That the variation to the s.106 will operate for a period of 18 months, with reviews at 3 month intervals.  The period to commence from the date of the first scheduled flight.

5.3     The Council recommends to the Overview and Scrutiny Panel that the Airport Working      Party is asked to research and produce recommendations on the proposed night-time      flying operations from 2010 - 2018.

Contact Officer:
Brian White, Director of Regeneration
Reporting to:
John Bunnett, Deputy Chief Executive

Background Papers

KIA Draft Masterplan
Published October 2008
Airport Working Party Agendas and Minutes 2008, and the agenda for 5 February 2009

Annex 1
The Infratil Proposal
Annex 2
The s.106 agreement, 2000

Scott Binskin, Accountant
Peter Reilly, Principal Litigation Solicitor