Last night (May 21), Ramsgate Town Council sponsored a public meeting to discuss the proposed Development Consent Order to reopen and develop the former airfield at Manston, by RiverOak Strategic Partners.
While there have been many public meetings and a continued debate on this subject throughout social and local media, the people of Ramsgate have not had the opportunity to fully debate or express their opinions directly to Ramsgate Town Council, in order to inform and to in some way instruct their elected representatives on how their views should be represented.
The meeting opened at 7pm to an assembly which filled the Oddfellows Hall. The debate, which ensued under the Chairmanship of Cllr Peter Campbell, proceeded with goodwill and respect on all sides. Widely differing views were expressed and by and large were listened to respectfully and quietly. The quality of the debate was of an exceptionally high order, with substantial levels of evidence offered as corroboration of the various views expressed pro and con.
This subject has generated much heat and fury over recent months, but at this event, it was more informative than combative. No one failed to get their point across even when some statements were not accepted by many on the floor with equanimity.
It does show that when a public meeting is properly organised, is effectively chaired and managed; it is possible for directly opposing views to be espoused and explained without rancour or malice, which is more than can be said for some more august assemblies elsewhere in the UK. It upheld all the virtues of tolerance, understanding and respectful debate, that Britain has shown to the wider world for many years.
After the public meeting, the Town Council held an extraordinary meeting to instruct the Clerk to draw up a submission to the examining body for the DCO by the deadline set down in their communication with interested bodies.
The response will reflect the majority view expressed at the public meeting, which was of concern about the negative effects to the economic, social and physical wellbeing of Ramsgate, its residents, and the surrounding environment, with regard to any likelihood of the airport reopening in the manner proposed by RSP.