Night-fly row Manston airport 'may shut'

Kent International Airport
Image caption Charles Buchanan said not allowing night flights could risk shutting the airport

Manston airport could shut down if it is not allowed to operate more night flights, its chief executive has said.

Kent International Airport boss Charles Buchanan said commercial airlines would only use the site if they could fly early in the morning or late at night.

Thanet District Council is considering whether to grant permission for the airport to operate more night flights.

Tory councillors said Thanet needed the jobs but Labour members said the airport was holding people to ransom.

The hung council is made up of 27 Tory members, 26 Labour members and three Independent councillors.

'Stark choice'

A study commissioned by the airport has claimed night flying could see more than 3,000 jobs created at the airport.

Campaigners opposed to the move have set up an online petition claiming such flights would reduce the quality of life for everyone within earshot of the flight path.

Mr Buchanan said: "Modern airlines have to fly from the earliest part of the day to the latest part of the night to make sure they make money.

"Without them making money, they don't come to our airport."

He said the airport was currently losing in the region of £5m a year, adding that not being able to operate night flights "could mean shutting the airport".

'Very real hazards'

Thanet Council's Conservative leader, Councillor Bob Bayford, said: "That's the very stark choice that we may be facing, that there's more flexibility in operating hours, or no airport.

"Obviously, the real crunch for Thanet is the prospect of 3,000 jobs disappearing."

Councillor Clive Hart, Labour group leader said: "These jobs are theoretical jobs, but the environmental hazards that are going to be caused through night flying are very real."

Mr Hart said Labour members took the view that the council should stick to its existing policy of no night flights.

And he added: "I'm very surprised to hear the council leader softening his stance on that and sending a signal to the airport that they can hold us to ransom."

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