The Independent Aviation Assessor’s Draft Report, commissioned by the Secretary of State for Transport, was published on 21st October ‘21. In confirming that there is no ‘need’ for the airport, it supported the findings of the Examining Authority in 2019, recommending that the application to reopen the airport be refused. There followed a period of consultation until 3rd December during which ‘interested parties’, including the Ramsgate Society, were invited to submit further comment. We submitted a 12-page document including two strands of new evidence relating to Ramsgate that further exposes the disbenefits that should be weighed in the redetermination.
They throw a fresh spotlight on what is under threat and at risk by first revisiting the calculations of altitude of aircraft overflying Ramsgate. On landing approach this confirmed that the heights at key locations would be as follows:
Royal Victoria Pavilion/Clock House/ Harbour Parade, height 900 feet (c270m)
Chatham & Clarendon Grammar School / Public Library, height 700 feet (c220m)
Nethercourt, height 270 feet (c 80m).
The impact of low flying aircraft depends on ‘what lies beneath’, what is being overflown, and we related this to the new Conservation Area Appraisal Report by Historic England and other recent public and private sector investment projects and programmes.
In 2017 Historic England (HE) signalled its recognition of the national importance of Ramsgate heritage as well as its vulnerability by designating the town as the first, of only five Heritage Action Zones (HAZs) in the South East Region. A 5-year programme of work has ensued. The Central Conservation Area has the greatest concentration of heritage assets and was, in 2018, chosen by Historic England as the subject of a Conservation Area Appraisal. The consequent Conservation Area Appraisal Report (currently in Consultation Draft dated August ‘21) runs to 483 pages. The report marks a milestone in understanding the nature, scale and value of individual heritage assets and their collective significance from a local, regional and national perspective.
The report states (p5):
“Ramsgate Conservation Area is of exceptional historic and architectural interest as a coastal resort town and working harbour with a fine array of heritage assets spanning the seventeenth to the twentieth century, representing a complete cross section of the society which lived, worked and visited Ramsgate over more than three centuries of growth and change.”
It describes the Royal Harbour as follows:
“The Royal Harbour is a remarkable piece of eighteenth-century civil engineering of national importance both for its design and its role in national and international trade during the eighteenth- to twentieth centuries. There is great significance not only in the surviving eighteenth- and nineteenth-century harbour infrastructure, but also in the harbour’s continued use. The harbour arms allow extraordinary views back inland, in which the historic growth and exceptional historic building stock of Ramsgate can be understood.” (p5)
The Conservation Area and the Royal Harbour are directly on the flightpath to and from Manston Airport. They and the growing heritage tourism and visitor economy would be at serious risk of collapse if flights resumed.
Public and Private Sector Investments and Initiatives
After many years in the doldrums Ramsgate has, slowly but surely, begun to blossom as a place to live, work and visit. There have been major private sector investments in the visitor and tourist economies in recent times such as Royal Victoria Pavilion (£4.5m) and Royal Sands (£50m). In the last year or so a flurry of public sector grants and initiatives have recognised Ramsgate’s need, assets, and potential. These include:
High Street Heritage Action Zone, awarded £601.9k
Future High Street Fund, awarded £2.7m
Levelling Up Fund, awarded £19.84m
A substantial element of the Levelling Up funding focuses on public realm improvements around the Royal Harbour.
All these sites are directly beneath the flight path. The prospect of frequent low flying giant cargo planes over-flying the town would jeopardise all the benefits from those public and private sector investments.