Skip to main content
The Maypole Action Group

It may prove to be good preparation for a future at Westminster but I’ve just come from a village meeting that more closely resembled a revolutionary council than a democratic debate.

I’m writing, of course, about a village protest against planning permission that seeks to increase the daily number of permitted flights from the flying club at Maypole Farm, from the present twelve to a maximum of twenty-five.

As a guest at this Hoath village meeting, I was immediately worried, as were others, by the abrupt ejection of the airfield owner before the meeting even began. Surely, any truly democratic process demands a balanced argument and by throwing out the one person who could explain the finer detail behind the planning application, the audience in the packed village hall lost any real opportunity of being able to arrive at a truly informed opinion. Instead, it was offered the equivalent of a drum head court martial by the chair. “It’s our meeting and we can decide who attends, so please leave now before we call the police”.

Much useful information was, as a result lost and at times an almost comically exaggerated view of the problem was offered. Some examples being:

• “A possible nine thousand flights a year”.
o “Up from an average of three a day”?
• “Manston has three runways”
o “No it has two”
• “What if an aircraft hits the village school”?
o “From Manston or from Maypole?”
• “Our property is being devalued”.
o “No it’s not”.
• “How do we know that illegal immigrants aren’t being smuggled in by the pilots”?
o “We don’t”.
• “Our property is being blighted by continued growth of the airfield”
o What evidence is there of this?
• “There’s environmental damage, birds are being scared away”
o There’s no evidence of this
• There is no longer a flying club at the airstrip
o Completely untrue.

And so on.

Let’s be clear. The villagers of Hoath have an absolute, proper and democratic right to express their concern or objection to any extension to the number of take-off’s and landing permitted on Maypole’s grass strip. This could be for broader environmental or simple noise reasons, although there is, at present no evidence that regulations affecting either or indeed CAA or Health & Safety rules are being contravened in any way.

The airfield owner, Andy Haigh, explained to me afterwards and I have attached a letter from him here, that if the Maypole pilots could use the twelve movements allowed each day spread over the year as a single number, then he’d be entirely happy (4,380) but the rules don’t allow for a planning request for a single number of flights and there are weeks and sometimes, even months in the winter when flying is impossible, so in real terms his total allocation is never reached and the average is closer to three movements a day or less. As a consequence, he says he has asked for a doubling of the present twelve flight limit, which has only ever been met once, to bring the airfield into line with others in Kent and to ensure that on any summer’s day, there are enough movements available to accept visitors – who may only land with prior permission - and allow the dozen or more local flying club members to fly if they wish to.

There is, says Andy, absolutely no intention to ‘develop’ Maypole commercially and to suggest otherwise flies in the face of the facts that he was entirely happy to present to the meeting in the village hall and which was refused when he was asked to leave by the organisers.

In any debate of this kind emotions can run high. However, writing as one who has frequently championed the democratic process, I believe that the people of Hoath were badly directed in their meeting. A prosecution offering often vague and unsubstantiated allegations over procedure and safety denied the residents the facts they needed for a truly informed and not an arbitrary opinion on the merits or otherwise of the planning application.

In a free society, people have a right to make informed choices and an equal right to be heard. Denying such rights denies a process that started with Magna Carta and which today is being quickly unravelled by David Blunkett. What I witnessed in the village hall I found profoundly disappointing, because middle England above all, should protect its hard-won democratic principles of fair play or risk losing them forever.

A Letter from Maypole Farm


Popular posts from this blog

The Mandate of Heaven

eGov Monitor Version

“Parliament”, said my distinguished friend “has always leaked like a sieve”.

I’m researching the thorny issue of ‘Confidence in Public Sector Computing’ and we were discussing the dangers presented by the Internet. In his opinion, information security is an oxymoron, which has no place being discussed in a Parliament built upon the uninterrupted flow of information of every kind, from the politically sensitive to the most salacious and mundane.

With the threat of war hanging over us, I asked if MPs should be more aware of the risks that surround this new communications medium? More importantly, shouldn’t the same policies and precautions that any business might use to protect itself and its staff, be available to MPs?

What concerns me is that my well-respected friend mostly considers security in terms of guns, gates and guards. He now uses the Internet almost as much as he uses the telephone and the Fax machine and yet the growing collective t…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.

In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…