Press Releases & Public Statements

PRESS RELEASE FROM RIVEROAK STRATEGIC PARTNERS

Friday 26th May 2017

Seven public consultation events will be held between Wednesday 14 June and Saturday 24 June, as part of a six-week consultation period on RiverOak Strategic Partners’ proposals to reopen Manston Airport as an air freight hub, creating thousands of jobs for Thanet and the wider regional economy.

RiverOak has published details of the consultation in a Statement of Community Consultation. The 2017 consultation will include seven consultation events as follows:

These events are open to any member of the public that would like to attend and further details of the locations, local public transport services and other information can be found in the Statement of Community Consultation which can be downloaded from www.rsp.co.uk.

George Yerrall, Director of RiverOak Strategic Partners, said: “The consultation is very important to us as it allows the local community to scrutinise our proposals and share their views and thoughts with us. This, in turn, will enable us to refine our proposals further before submitting the Development Consent Order application to the Planning Inspectorate, later this year. 

“At the events visitors will be able to view consultation documents, talk to members of our professional team and give their feedback. Feedback forms can also be emailed or sent to us, right up until the closing date of the consultation on Sunday 23 July.”

Copies of consultation documents will be available from 12 June at www.rsp.co.uk and at these public libraries during their normal opening hours: Birchington, Broadstairs, Cliftonville, Deal, Herne Bay, Margate, Minster-in-Thanet, Newington, Ramsgate, Sandwich and Westgate. As the full Preliminary Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) is a very large document, it will only be available in full at Deal, Herne Bay and Margate libraries. A non-technical summary will be available at all libraries, at the seven consultation events and on the RSP website, as part of an Overview Report.

In addition to the public events there will be two business-only briefings, at The King’s Hall in Herne Bay, on Wednesday 14 and at the Pavilion in Broadstairs, on Thursday 15 June. Businesses interested in attending should email manston@communityrelations.co. uk for further information and to secure a place.

The full consultation period will run from Monday 12 June 2017 to Sunday 23 July 2017.

Statement of Statutory Consultation: https://static.secure.website/ wscfus/10240501/5819830/rsp-st atement-of-community-consultat ion-may-2017.pdf"

 

*******

Decision on Manston Airport change of use appeals delayed

 

 May 19, 2017 (Source SuMA)

 

After initially expecting to issue a decision no later than Friday 26th May 2017, the Planning Inspectorate has decided to delay the decision until after the results of the General Election are known.
 
The Planning Inspectorate always aims to issue decisions promptly after the event. However, in the run up to the General Election, we are always concerned to ensure that proposals which have raised particular sensitivities or interest cannot be deemed to have influenced the election or to have been used to electoral advantage by any interested body.
 
Accordingly, given that the appeals at Manston Airport have given rise to considerable interest and controversy, the Inspector’s Decision will be held back until after the results of the general election on 8 June 2017 are known. Further details regarding the pre-election period are given on the PINS homepages on the GOV website.
 
 

 

RiverOak Strategic Partners’ plans for Manston set to create almost 30,000 jobs in Thanet

Even in first year of operation almost 6,000 people will find employment as a result of Manston’s revival.

Under RiverOak Strategic Partners’ plans to reopen Manston Airport, as an air freight hub with passenger services and business aviation, more than 4,200 people would be employed directly at the airport site by its twentieth year of operation, with a further 26,000 jobs created in the wider economy.

The figures have been revealed as the final report in a four volume set, entitled Manston Airport: a regional and national asset, is published, considering the socio-economic impact of reopening the airport.

The four reports were commissioned by RiverOak Strategic Partners, from respected aviation academic Dr Sally Dixon of Azimuth Associates and include detailed business modelling, interviews with airlines, freight forwarders and integrators, together with analysis of the pent-up demand for air freight, which is currently costing the UK economy more than £2 Billion in lost income.

Dr Dixon’s reports show that air freight is increasingly being bumped from busy passenger aircraft, causing delays as goods bound to or from UK businesses and consumers have to be flown into and out of northern European airports and trucked across the Channel. In comparison to its congested neighbours in the South-East, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, Manston Airport represents an ideal opportunity to deliver runway capacity to meet this pent-up demand – and, in doing so, thousands of jobs will be created for Thanet and the wider Kent region.

George Yerrall, director of RiverOak Strategic Partners, said: “From the date that the airport reopens, almost 6,000 jobs would be created - around 850 jobs on the airport site itself and a further 5,000 indirect and catalytic jobs in the wider economy, in associated industries or businesses.

“The positive economic impact grows each year along with the airport. We have forecast up until the twentieth year of operation, by which time 30,000 people in Thanet and East Kent would be able to trace their job to the revival of the airport.

“We have a real opportunity to tap into a proven demand for air freight that other South-East airports simply can’t meet. The £2 billion lost to the UK economy each year is set to almost double by 2050, even with an additional runway at Heathrow. Manston Airport is ideally placed to help recapture this traffic, which is being displaced to northern Europe. In meeting this demand, we create huge employment potential for Thanet and provide a powerful economic boost for the nation.

“We are in the process of discussing with local colleges and businesses how best to maximize career and supply chain opportunities in Manston.”

Employment at the airport would be a mix of role types, including:

•                  Freight services

•                  Passenger services

•                  Rescue and Fire Fighting Services

•                  Airport operations

•                  Maintenance

•                  Site and freight security

•                  Administration

•                  Air Traffic Services

Dr Dixon is an academic attached to Cranfield University. She is a specialist in stakeholder involvement with major airport infrastructure, lecturing on stakeholder influences on airport master planning to Cranfield MSc students. Dr Dixon holds a PhD from Cranfield and an MBA from Kent University and is a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

She adds: “Thanet District Council’s economic development plan is ambitious. The council is starting from a challenging situation, given that local employment, productivity and wages are generally lower than in other parts of Kent. My research evidences that a vibrant air freight hub at Manston will be vitally important in stimulating thousands of high quality jobs at the airport and in the local area, helping the council to deliver an economic output that puts Thanet on a par with rest of Kent.”

RiverOak Strategic Partners is preparing for the next stage of consultation on proposals to reopen Manston Airport. The consultation is now expected to start in June, after the General Election. Full details of how local people across East Kent can participate in the consultation will be published shortly.

 

Deborah Smith

Managing Director

Wordsmith Communication UK Limited

 
Press statement Issued by Martin Rogers for and on behalf of KNMA (Kent Needs Manston Airport)* 
12th May 2017

Dedicated to support retaining Manston first and foremost as a centre of excellence for aviation facilities
 
"We are reaching a critical point in the restoration of the Manston Airport site to full
commercial aviation. It is nearly three years now since the last KLM flight took off;
an unhappy anniversary that we hope will not be repeated many more times. All the evidence points to the fact that Thanet, Kent, South East England and indeed the whole United Kingdom need the opportunities that this airport can offer. This is
therefore a good time to reiterate the absolute determination of our four groups to
support any realistic proposal to achieve this aim.”
 
 
*KNMA is a Kent University Action Group that wishes to align with the existing and established three groups dedicated to the re-emergence of Manston Airport.
 
 
Press release from RiverOak Strategic PartnersWednesday 26th April 2017

 


RiverOak Strategic Partners confirms consultation on plans to re-open Manston Airport will start on Monday 12 June

 
RiverOak Strategic Partners has announced that their statutory pre-application consultation will start on Monday 12 June, directly after the General Election.

The consultation will last for six weeks and will close on Sunday 23 July. In order to give as many local people and organisations as possible an opportunity to participate this is two weeks longer than the minimum required for statutory consultation.  The consultation will also be publicised widely, via letters to those closest to the site, leaflets to those further away, and local newspapers and other media for those in the rest of Thanet and beyond.

During the consultation copies of the proposed airport masterplan, detailed research reports into the demand for Manston as an airport, the economic and social impact of reviving the airport and the Preliminary Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) will all be available for inspection and comment. RiverOak Strategic Partners will also be holding consultation events across Thanet and East Kent, which anyone is welcome to attend.

The consultation is an opportunity for members of the public to scrutinise our proposals and suggest any changes to them. RiverOak Strategic Partners is also keen to hear any ideas about how to maximise the benefits to the region from reopening Manston Airport.

Full details of consultation events and how to participate in the consultation will be published in due course in local and national newspapers, online and via leaflets delivered to households in communities living around the airport.

 


Ahead of the consultation, RiverOak Strategic Partners has made several documents available that were previously submitted as part of the consultation on Thanet District Council’s local plan by way of background to the project. These documents are:

 1.  Azimuth Associates: Manston Airport a national and regional aviation asset - Volume I Demand in the South East of the UK
 2.  Azimuth Associates: Manston Airport a national and regional aviation asset - Volume II a qualitative study of regional demand
 3.  Azimuth Associates: Manston Airport a national and regional aviation asset - Volume III the forecast
 4.  Northpoint Aviation: The Shortcomings of the Avia Solutions Report and an Overview of RSP’s Proposals for Airport Operation at Manston

 

The Northpoint Aviation Report will not form part of the upcoming consultation, however updated versions of the reports by Azimuth Associates will be included in the consultation.

 

 

Gale's View - Sir Roger Gale M.P.

8th February, 2017

The two meetings held at the weekend, at Margate Winter Gardens on Saturday and at the Manston Sports and Social Club on Sunday, should have sent a very clear message to the Leader of Thanet District Council (who attended for part of Saturday's meeting), to those at present in control of Manston Airport and to what at present passes for "leadership" at County Hall. Contrary to the suggestion made recently that Thanet's second Draft Local Plan, which seeks to zone Manston for housing and industrial use, has "killed off hope" of re- opening Manston as a commercial airfield progress towards the necessary Development Consent Order is moving inexorably forward.

The decision by the Planning Inspectorate to dismiss the feeble objections raised on behalf of Messrs Cartner and Musgrave leading to a Ministerial decision to grant RiverOak access to the site to carry out the necessary Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) denote a recognition that the project to re- open Manston is, as I have consistently said, of National significance.

In tandem with the most thorough EIA ever undertaken in East Kent the company seeking to acquire Manston will, having identified every household with a potentially affected interest in the airfield, not only in Thanet but in Herne Bay, Canterbury, Sandwich, Deal and Dover write to them to seek observations. There will then be a full round of on-the-record public consultations available to each location culminating in the formal submission of the full environmental and business case for consideration by the Planning Inspectorate.  There will then be a full public inquiry and a recommendation made, following consideration of all the evidence, by the Inspector to the Secretary of State for Transport who will take the final decision whether or not to grant the Development Consent Order. This process will take time and will cost RiverOak a great deal of the money that Cllr. Wells, the present Leader of TDC, claims that the company does not have. When national interest is at stake the effort and expenditure are worth it.

Last year air freight traffic grew by nearly seven per cent. With Brexit and the need to compensate for the loss of European business by developing new markets in Asia and the Far East we are going to need much more freight, as well as passenger, capacity in the South East. That capacity, without Manston Airport simply will not be available. The facility is going to be vital to service our Country's immediate and future needs.

For the sake of UK limited, as well as for the prosperity of East Kent, I urge all of those in the area who support this cause to both write in objection to Thanet's Local Plan proposals for the airport and to respond to a Kent County Council consultation on the proposed Thanet Parkway station from which County Hall has noticeably airbrushed out Manston Airport while concentrating on a ' Stone Hill Park' that does not exist on any map known to man. It is the future of our children and our grandchildren that is at stake.

 

 

 

Sir Roger Gale MP and Carol Vorderman launch all-party group for general aviation

 January 18, 2017 (Source SuMA)
 
Carol Vorderman has joined an all party Parliamentary group (APPG) which yesterday launched a fight for the £3bn General Aviation sector that creates jobs & inspires young people to participate in STEM. The group includes Grant Shapps and Sir Roger Gale.
 
Ms Vorderman tweeted last night, “And FIRST item on the agenda for the brand new All Party Parliamentary Group for GA is halting closure of airfields for house building only”
 
Kent News reports today –
 
“The campaign to save Manston Airport rolled into the House of Commons this week following the launch of an all-party group for general aviation.
 
Thanet North MP Sir Roger Gale renewed his vow to fight to see Manston re-opened and aircraft once again landing and taking off at the historic airfield, describing it as an “act of corporate vandalism” on the same week that Thanet District Council opens its consultation into amendments to its local plan, where it proposes the site will be turned over for mixed-use, rather than just aviation.
A report by consultants Avia Solutions last year concluded that airport operations at Manston were “very unlikely to be financially viable”.
 
Sir Roger was joined at the launch by television personality Carol Vorderman, who owns and flies her own light aircraft and has previously done so from Manston.
 
At the meeting, the former Countdown star stressed the importance of the contribution made by the Air Cadets, for whom she is an ambassador, to the training of tomorrow’s young pilots and engineers and of the country’s airfields to the future of jobs and prosperity both now and post-Brexit.
 
Sir Roger himself paid tribute to the late Ted Girdler, the former Red Arrows pilot and founder of TG Aviation, and for his family’s work in running a flying club and promoting general aviation.
 
He also called upon the group to press for legislation to protect airfields from changes in planning use, saying that “once these national assets are gone they are lost forever”.
 
The group has been formed under the chairmanship of the MP Byron Davies to promote the interests of general aviation and to protect further airfields from closure and re-development as “brownfield sites”. Mr Davies said: “General aviation is worth over £3 billion to the UK annually, provides unrivalled training to our pilots and supports a huge industry of enthusiastic aviators.
 
“Aviation has a long and proud tradition in the UK and supports thousands of jobs in constituencies across the country yet it faces a crisis that must be averted.
“Together with [former party chairman, aviation minister and private pilot] Grant Shapps, we seek to change the current situation by supporting the industry as strongly as possible and to seek to influence government policy.”
 

 

"RiverOak – Manston Airport Aviation Academy

 January 16, 2017 (Source: SuMA)
 
RiverOak have produced a document, dated September 2016, entitled 'MANSTON AIRPORT - AVIATION ACADEMY', in response to the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission. In it, they talk about their vision to create a Manston Aviation Academy should their application for a DCO be successful.
 
“Our vision is for a vibrant freight-focused airport, employing local, well-trained people and supporting local, regional and national businesses. In order to meet this challenge, it is essential that we train and educate local people in line with the needs of the business. However, the opportunity exists for a much more comprehensive vision of an academy designed to bring together the aerospace industry with academia (universities, colleges and potentially schools), in line with UK and European government policy. As such, RiverOak are keen to establish an aviation academy close to or on the Manston Airport site.”
 

Manston Airport Public Support Meeting – Gate Closing!

 

Public Meeting for Supporters to be Held on Saturday 4th February 2017

 

Tickets for the Public Support meeting for an Aviation future for Manston have been very popular. There are just twenty tickets left for anyone who wishes to attend and show their support. An excellent line up of speakers will detail the business opportunities at Manston as an Aviation hub. The meeting will be chaired by David Foley, CEO of Thanet Chamber of Commerce.

 

This technical meeting, supported by groups fighting to save the airport, will take place in the Winter Gardens (Queens Hall) Margate, from 10 am till 2 pm on Saturday 4 February 2017.  It will be a platform for relevant subject experts to explain how Manston Aviation Hub could generate a viable business and revenue streams for Manston from cargo handling, aircraft recycling, pilot training and private flying, and a spaceport.

 

Overall it will amount to a clear statement of the case for accepting that Manston can be a sustainable, viable aviation services hub, bringing employment and innovation to Thanet for many years, and making full use of a valuable existing asset.

 

The meeting has been organised by Thanet Liberal Democrats – but is in no way a political platform and there will not be any political speeches.  All those who support Manston as an Aviation Hub are welcome.

 

MAN UP Manston Meeting Saturday 4th February 2017

January 2nd 2017

 
Dear Manston Airport Supporter Colleagues
 
Please circulate to anyone who needs to know
 
MAN UP Meeting, Sat 4th Feb Update Status:
 
1.       Please see final amended press release attached – only use this version for wider circulation. Grateful if you could circulate and advertise on your websites, etc.
2.       As of tonight, we have 88 people booked to attend
3.       On the day we will need support with the following roles:
1. Access ticket checking, microphone stewards, donation receivers (with buckets) – volunteers welcome
4.       I hope that all groups involved will have a desk/area/stand where they can answer questions/provide information on a 1:1 basis with those attending – please confirm
5.       Has anyone any other ideas for fundraising? Raffle etc – volunteers welcome
6.       We should send all those who attend away with a clear set of ‘Things to do’, i.e. write a letter, etc. – have you got any ideas for what should be on the list?
7.       David Foley of Thanet Chamber of Commerce has agreed to chair the session to promote the business theme
8.       Any thoughts or suggestions to help make the meeting successful?
 
Regards
 
Russ~
 
Russ Timpson CEng BEng(hons) FIFireE AMBCI  
CEO    
Horizonscan Ltd
 

 

Public Enquiry for Change of Use Planning Appeal (24th Jan 2017) – Delayed

 
We have had word from the Case Manager, that the Public Inquiry into the Change of Use of four Manston buildings has been postponed yet again.
 
“I am sorry for the nature of this email but wanted to you all know as soon as possible that the Inquiry, currently scheduled to open on 24th January 2017, has been postponed. Following the change in stance of the Local Authority whereby it has withdrawn its objections to the proposals, RiverOak, with ‘Rule 6’ status, is now the only main party opposing the proposals. Although reluctant to postpone the Inquiry yet again, the Inspector is keen to ensure that the Rule 6 Party, and any other objectors, are not prejudiced, particularly now that the Council has withdrawn all its objections. On this basis he has agreed to a postponement of the Inquiry. The principal parties have been advised to liaise and agree a further date, or dates, for a reconvened Inquiry in February 2017. Once this has been agreed, the LPA will notify everyone again. Please can you let anyone know who intended to attend the Inquiry that it was now been postponed and will not be occurring as planned?
 
Kind regards
 
Fran Littler.

 

“MANSTON AIRPORT HAS A VIABLE FUTURE  – MAN UP!

 

(Source Russ Timpson-Aviation Specialist and former LibDem Candidate for Thanet Sth)

 

Thanet District Council is launching a public consultation on its draft Local Plan, in which the current Manston Airport site is to be turned over to mixed use, particularly housing.  On 4 February we plan to show that the airport does have a viable future as an aviation centre, not just as an airport but by combining various forward-looking and ambitious activities.

 

This technical meeting, supported by the main groups fighting to save the airport, will take place in the Winter Gardens (Queens Hall) Margate, from 10 am till 2 pm on Saturday 4 February 2017.  It will be a platform for relevant subject experts to explain how Manston Aviation Hub could generate a viable business and revenue streams for Manston from cargo handling, aircraft recycling, pilot training and private flying, and a spaceport. 

 

Overall it will amount to a clear statement of the case for accepting that Manston can be a sustainable, viable aviation services hub, bringing employment and innovation to Thanet for many years, and making full use of a valuable existing asset.

 

The meeting has been organised by Thanet Liberal Democrats – all those who support Manston as an Airport regardless of political party affiliation are welcome.
 
Secretary of State Grants Access to Airport – MP's Comments. 
 
North Thanet`s MP, Sir Roger Gale, has welcomed the confirmation, now formally issued by RiverOak (See below) that the Secretary of State has accepted an application, recommended by the Planning Inspectorate, by RiverOak for access to Manston Airport to complete environmental survey work prior to the Company's submission of a Development Consent Order. 
 
Speaking following the announcement (The SoS decision was made known to interested parties yesterday) Sir Roger has said: 
 
It is significant that the Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State have accepted the arguments put forward by RiverOak and has rejected the arguments put forward by those currently in control of the site and who have consistently sought to deny access. 
 
The Secretary of State has, through this decision, recognized RiverOak as a player in the future of Manston and has also acknowledged the importance and significance of the campaign to retain Manston as an operational airfield. 
 
The decision was, of course, also taken in the knowledge of the existence of the now widely-discredited Avia Solution report upon which Cllr. Wells and his councilors have sought to hang their volte-face upon the future of Manston. 
 
There is still a great deal of work still to be done before a DCO submission is made and that submission, which will contain not only the Environmental Impact Assessment but a full Business Case, will then have to be the subject of a public inquiry, Inspectors` report and ultimately a decision by the Secretary of State for transport. 
 
Nevertheless, I am comfortable that this administration, as did David Cameron`s, understands the importance of preserving structural assets in the national interest. 
It is time, I think, that those at present in control of the site and of Thanet District Council took that on board. 

 

 
 

RiverOak welcomes permission to access Manston Airport site from the Planning Inspectorate

December 15, 2016

Source: SuMA

On Monday 19 December the Planning Inspectorate confirmed to Bircham Dyson Bell, lawyers for RiverOak, that Section 53 authorisation (permission to access the Manston Airport site), has now been granted.

Whilst a considerable amount of environmental analysis has already been completed, access to the site has always been preferable to provide the necessary level of detail for a Development Consent Order application. RiverOak’s environmental consulting team, led by Amec Foster Wheeler, will now make arrangements to visit the site as soon as possible in order to assess the site for the production of the Environmental Statement that will accompany the application.  As much data as possible will also be used for the Preliminary Environmental Information Report.
 
This report, together with other work already well underway, will be made available during the process of statutory consultation, which will take place as soon as possible in 2017.
 
 
 

Thanet District Council withdraw change of use planning objections

December 15, 2016
Source: SuMA
 
At the TDC Planning Meeting last night, 14th December, the Planning Committee passed a motion to withdraw their objections to the change of use of four buildings on Manston Airport, subject to the imposition of appropriate safeguarding conditions.
 
Following Barrister advice, UKIP and Labour accepted the Officers recommendation in a recorded vote and removed the long standing objection to the change of use.
 
The item on the agenda had been subject to much criticism before the meeting because Barristers had advised that the matter be heard behind closed doors. However, during the meeting Monitoring Officer Tim Howes gave three options.
 
1. To hear the whole item behind closed doors.
2. To allow the public and press to listen to the debate and the vote but exclude them during the Barrister’s advice
3. To hear the whole item in full session.
 
Mr Howes recommended Option 2.
 
Opposition Leader Bob Bayford agreed with the second option, as did Cllr Ash Ashbee.
 
Cllr Gregory and Partington argued that they could not see why any of the discussion should be behind closed doors.
 
Members then voted in favour of Option 2.
 
The Public were then able to hear the Planning Officers recommendation and witness the subsequent recorded vote but they were not allowed to be present to hear the Barrister’s advice.
The motion was subsequently carried.
 
We asked Councillors for their comments.
 
Deputy Leader Lin Fairbrass told us,
“The UKIP committee members voted to follow officer and barrister advice, as to vote in any other way would have been considered an unreasonable decision which would in all likelihood have resulted in reputational and financial damage to the Council. Also the credibility of the planning committee could have been brought into question.
“UKIP councillors remain hopeful that required evidence will still come forward in support of an operational airport with evidence to satisfy a planning inspector.”
 
Another Councillor present at last night’s meeting told us, “We have no choice but to follow the Officers advice.”
 
Another said, “The planning committee voted in favour of mixed use however, this cannot impede aviation, if viable.”
As we understand it, a clause in the motion ensures that if, when, a sound business plan comes in for the airport it will supercede all previous decisions, including those on the four buildings.

The Deputy Leader said, “A CPO or DCO would automatically, if granted, reverse that decision in favour of aviation use.”
The important thing to hold on to is that, although TDC have reversed their decision, the change of use of these buildings will not be permitted to impede on any future aviation use and can be superceded by any investor obtaining the site. Without this clause, SHP could have done all they could to prevent aviation at Manston. This decision will not affect the plans of any prospective investors but it throws the onus back on them to declare their hand and provide a sound business plan without delay."
 
Manston – case study in conflict by Lembit Opik
 
Flying politician Lembit Öpik reviews the on-going dispute over the future of Manston Airport in South East England and outlines the strategic imperative for politicians to protect this vital resource.
 
It is hard to believe that the Government has been so slow at approving the third runway at Heathrow.  Everybody who looks at the situation knows that, with aviation likely to expand at, say, 5% per annum, BOTH Heathrow and Gatwick will need more runway capacity in the foreseeable future.  And still that is unlikely to be enough.  What then?
 
Many years ago I used to fly to Manston Airport a lot.  It took about 80 minutes in my Mooney M20J from Mid-Wales to Kent – and from a technical point of view it was a very interesting flight to make.  The route requires really serious attention to detail, on account of the crowded airspace around London, plus unpredictable weather conditions along England’s east coast.
 
Manston itself was an awesome destination when viewed on final approach, with close to three kilometres of runway.  It’s orientation has everything to do with World War II.  Runway 28 was constructed to ensure that damaged, hard-to-manoeuvre bombers returning from sorties over enemy territory could land with a ‘straight-in approach,’ having plenty of space to find a way to land.
 
To be honest, my first landing at Manston did not take account of the breath-taking length of the runway: I had to sort of ‘take off’ again to speed along the centreline and expedite my exit.  I’ve never doubted the aerodrome’s 2,748 metres when it comes to accommodating aircraft of any size.
 
That was some years ago.  Sadly, at present only crows land at Manston.  Regular operations are currently suspended, and the 800 acres of its territory lie eerily silent.  Yet there is a strenuous campaign to rekindle major commercial operations involving both freight and passenger movements.  There is also another campaign -by forces wanting to redeploy the land for housing, or other non-aviation use.
 
Why would such an important infrastructure resource be facing obliteration?  The public discussion has centred on whether building development is a better use for the land than flying.  A severe housing shortage exists in the South East.  New developments are sold out within hours of coming on the market.  Prices reflect this, and to put it right would require the construction of tens of thousands of new homes.
 
A nice, flat, well-drained airfield is highly attractive to developers.  It’s much easier to construct buildings on a site which has already been tamed by decades of careful land management.  Conversely, something as economically exotic as an airport carries with it all kinds of complexities and uncertainties, in a way that bricks and mortar don’t.  With an airport people may come and fly: with a housing estate people WILL come and buy.
 
So, it’s time to face a home truth at the very heart of this debate; not just for Manston, but for the UK’s entire aviation infrastructure.   An airport cannot be judged simply on the basis of what makes the most money in the least amount of time.  If this were the only consideration, economics would lead to a change of use of just about every airport in the land.
 
Think of the revenues if you turned, say, 3,000 acres of attractively situated land in an urban locality into residential accommodation.  At an average of 23 homes per acre, and assuming a typical home value for the area in question, this could generate house sale revenues of around £33 billion.  I am , of course, referring to Heathrow Airport.  Turning Heathrow into a housing estate would deliver around 12 times more revenue than the airport’s current annual turnover.  With the construction of flats, those figures could be tripled – a circumstance in which the Council tax revenue alone matches the annual profit of the Airport.
 
Every other UK airport which I’ve looked at is even more vulnerable.  Newcastle Airport, with an annual revenue of around £60 million, is worth 110 times its annual revenue in housing.  That’s right, one hundred and ten times its current annual revenue if it were developed at an average housing density.
 
If making profit quickly is the key aim, I believe every airport in the UK is more attractive as a property development than as an aerodrome.  Hardly surprising, then, that Manston, with its surface area of 800 acres, has developers straining at the leash to start building on it.  And let’s be fair: the developers have no moral or financial responsibility to consider the macroeconomic or social implications to the region or the country of converting internationally significant travel hubs into lucrative property initiatives.   And why should they?  It’s not their job. 
 
So, the inference is remarkably simple.  
 
No mainstream politician or businessperson doubts the central role of aviation in connecting large, modern nations with the rest of the world economically, culturally and socially.  You only have to look at national planning around the EU and beyond to see that.  Thus, in order to keep up in the shrinking global economy, especially in a post-Brexit environment, we’ve got to protect our aeronautical assets against the obvious attractions of a change of use.
 
Government must step up to its responsibilities here.  If it cares about our position on the world stage, then politicians cannot sit back and merely ‘let the market decide’ – because the market will only decide one thing, and it’s not going to be flying.  Ministers – and those in the Department for Transport in particular – have a moral responsibility to protect key assets of strategic importance to the long-term health of the economic and social evolution of the country.  Manston is one of them.
 
Let’s test the figures.  We can turn to proposals put forward by one group, Riveroak, which wants to re-open Manston for commercial aviation.  They plan 500,000 tonnes of cargo and 2 million passengers within two years.  Both these targets are many times higher than the previous best performance of the airport.  What’s realistic?
 
The population of Kent is around 1.6 million – a little less than Northern Ireland.  Yet between them, the two busiest airports there – Belfast International and Belfast Harbour – handle around 7 million passenger movements a year.  At the same time, the City of Derry’s airport, at which only one carrier, Ryanair, operates scheduled services, handles 280,000 passengers – even though Derry’s population amounts to just 90,000.  This is one example of many to prove that when you build airport facilities, the public will come.  Manston doesn’t even have to be built – it’s already there.  And it only has to achieve one quarter of the performance of Northern Ireland to make the Riveroak figures credible.
 
Even a more modest performance justifies retaining the facility.  If 700,000 passengers passed through Manston, this would place it in roughly the middle of the league table of the top 40 UK airports.  And to achieve that, it would only need one Airbus A320 to take off and land every two hours between 7am and 9pm.  That’s around half the number of movements of Norwich Airport, and one sixth of the flights going in and out of Leeds/Bradford.  It will still be operating at a significant level of activity, with potential to massively expand as the inevitable increase in air travel continues.
 
It’s worth noting that other factors drive Manston’s increasing viability in the longer term.  With a credible and fairly simple plan to connect the airport with Central London by rail in a little over an hour, Manston is attractive to part of the Capital’s catchment too – especially on the east side.  With two additional Thames crossings scheduled for construction – one centrally near Greenwich and the other to the East – there is even more reason to believe Manston will attract passengers, just as Stanstead and Luton do to the north.
 
These factors are not being properly taken into account.   Without a holistic approach, Britain’s entire airport infrastructure is vulnerable to death by property development – a factor which has already claimed or threatened other smaller airports such as Teeside, Kemble and Leicester.  Filton in Bristol, where exactly the same development has killed a fine facility, thanks to the perfect storm of a voracious appetite for fast returns in the property sector and a serious housing shortage facing town planners.  Little wonder, then, that such peril faces Manston.
Government has to learn from the fastest growing economies in the world.  China is currently expanding 60 airports, and opening 40 new ones between now and 2020 – that’s 10 new airports a year.  They would consider it unthinkable to close an existing facility.  To an extent they’re playing ‘catch up.’  But China has global ambitions, as do many other developing countries.  Their investment will necessarily increase flights to the West.  If we haven’t got space for them to land, they’ll leave their vapour trails above Britain and land on to the European continent.  Whether in French, German or English, business is business.
 
Others seem to have grasped the need for international connectivity.  Across Europe, there are over 230 airport developments, many of them straightforward expansion