March 2014 Developments
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There are, of course, those in both Thanet and Herne Bay who will have welcomed the prospect of the closure of Manston, were such an event to take place, as an operational airport. The self interest of those affected by overflying is understandable and, to some extent reasonable although there is not a single living person who has bought a house adjacent to the airfield or underneath the flight path who cannot or should not have known that there has been an airbase in East Kent for getting on for a hundred years.
The overwhelming majority of the communications that I have received since last Wednesday’s announcement of a consultation period have, however, been wholeheartedly in support of Manston and of dismay at the prospect that our local airport might shut.
With good reason.
Manston has not only a proud history but ought to have an optimistic future. It is a national as well as a local asset. There is a shortage of runway capacity in the South East and it is because of that that UK Limited is losing aviation and associated business to mainland Europe at a rate that we cannot afford if we are to maintain our trading superiority. Manston, with one of thelongest and widest runways in the country is a safe and significant diversion landing strip and has also been re-designated as a Search and Rescue base. Plans are moving ahead to create the sub 1 –hour rail link between London and a Manston Parkway station and Discovery Park and other local business interests throughout East Kent are still looking forward to the enhanced communications that road, rail, air and sea should be able to offer at an almost unparalleled level.
That there have been too many setbacks is undeniable. But the present owner has been in possession of the asset for barely four months of an anticipated two-year development plan and Manston needs further time and investment if it is to be allowed to realise its true potential. Time is short and events are moving at a pace. Should Manston cease operations and should the airport lose its operating license then the likelihood is that it will have shut forever. The alternative ill- thought- through proposals for the use of the site have not, to date, taken account of matters such as planning, infrastructure, land contamination or archaeological demands. Any alternative would require months if not years of painstaking work and still further and massive investment in order to bring about not an “anything goes” but a viable and right solution.
For hard-nosed commercial reasons, therefore, as well as sentimental and emotional attachment to magnificent men and their flying machines, I hold to the view that the best option for Manston is to remain open for business, in the national interest, as an airport. At the time of writing there is a willing buyer with, I believe, the resources to acquire and operate the business. We have to hope that there will, also, be a willing seller.
Sir Roger Gale MP
At the time of writing there may, or may not, be a potential buyer for Manston airport. The important thing is that nobody - all the way from the Prime Minister down to our local authority - should ignore the real facts about Manston.
Worldwide, air travel is an industry which is continuing to expand and Thanet has an asset of which many areas in need of regeneration would be envious – an airfield, established for over 60 years, which can accommodate large multi-engined aircraft.
Manston’s recent history as an airfield has been chequered of course, but perhaps that is because it has not been put to the best use. From my own professional experience I know that there is a worldwide shortage of qualified aircraft engineers and using Manston as an aircraft servicing facility, with links to East Kent College, would provide not only jobs, but apprenticeships as well. At the same time, it could be used as a civil aviation training facility, including firefighting, security, airport management and driving.
Add to that the opportunities for it to become an aircraft recycling centre, the potential for an aviation museum and related tourist activity and modest, sustainable freight and non-passenger flights, then there is no reason why Manston should not be viable. To close it and turn it over to housing development is not just unimaginative, but a massive opportunity missed.
Employment and sustainable regeneration must be the top priorities if Thanet is to thrive again. Manston airport could provide hundreds of jobs, not to mention valuable infrastructure like Manston Parkway station, unlike hare-brained schemes such as the China Gateway project. Let’s take a positive approach, build on our strengths and demand that government and local authorities prevent the airport’s closure, making a new-look Manston a cornerstone of Thanet’s future prosperity.
Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate – Thanet South, Kent
Campaign Office: Horizonscan, Innovation House, Discovery Park, Sandwich, Kent. CT13 9FF.
Following the announcement of the proposed closure of the Airport, Manston`s MP, Sir Roger Gale, said (on 20.3.14):
“Nobody should pretend that this is anything other than unwelcome news. The airport has been under the control of Anne Gloag for a relatively short time and the expectation was that the new owner would give the operation at least two years in which to seek to attract new business and investment. It appears that the failure to win business from Ryanair, following that company`s profits warning, and the failure to secure new freight traffic from British Airways has led to losses that Ms. Gloag regards as unsustainable.
I have personally always regarded Manston Airfield, which has seen public service for getting on for a century, as not just a local but as a national asset. Manston has the fourth longest runway in the Country, is a major diversion field that is used not infrequently when Gatwick and Heathrow are affected by adverse weather conditions and it provides search-and-rescue facilities. There is a recognised and immediate shortage of runway capacity in the South East that is leading to a loss of business from the UK to Frankfurt, Schiphol and Charles de Gaulle airports on mainland Europe. Manston should have a role to play in providing capacity while long-term decisions are taken – a fact that I fear that Sir Howard Davies has failed to reflect in the interim report of his review. It is time that we recognised that in terms of a backside on a seat in Central London to that same backside on a seat on an aircraft Manston is “closer” to the city than Heathrow!
My first objective, working with Laura Sandys who also represents people working at the airport, is to seek to ensure that those employed at Manston receive a fair deal and I am assured by Charles Buchanan, who has so excellently managed the airport, that that will be the case.
Next, Laura and I are establishing a working group to seek to secure a future for the site. My own next objective is to try to ensure that Manston continues to operate as an airport and I hope and expect that in this I shall have the support of Thanet District Council and Kent County Council. I have already raised my concerns with both the Secretary of State for Transport and the Minister of State for Aviation in parliament.
I have, though, to recognise that Manston is in private ownership. If it becomes apparent that the operation really is not viable as an airfield then it is vital that we produce not just any solution but the right solution for East Kent. Simply smothering the area in housing or industrial sheds is not, for me, an option and I shall not support any proposed development that does not accommodate the environmental needs and the heritage of Thanet. In archaeological terms alone Manston is historic and valuable and due attention will have to be paid, in undertaking any alternative development, to the excavation and preservation of what lies beneath the airfield. That will come at a very considerable price in itself.
Notwithstanding yesterday`s announcement, news of which I first received while listening to the Chancellor`s budget speech in the House of Commons, I believe that the case for the completion of the fast rail link from Ashford through to Thanet and the Parkway station to serve the island and the Discovery Business Park, remains as vital as ever and again I hope and expect that Kent County Council will maintain its staunch and financial support needed to see this through to completion.
That the new owner of Manston has felt unable to realise the full potential of the airfield is a disappointment but rather than regard this as a disaster I believe that, as with the closure of Pfizer at Sandwich, we who represent the interests of East Kent have to see this as an exciting challenge and as an opportunity.”
Article taken from Kent On Line - 24.3.14
Interest has been shown by a buyer - backed by a consortium - to take over the running of Manston airport.
North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale, a committed supporter of Manston, has outlined the latest moves to save the airport.
It follows the bombshell announcement to staff last Wednesday that the airport could close following a 45day consultation period - leaving 150 staff without a job.
Already more than 11,000 people have signed a petition to keep the airport running.
Sir Roger said there had been significant developments since the announcement.
He said: “Most significantly, I am in contact with a willing buyer who has, I believe, a consortium with the resources necessary to acquire the airport as a going concern and with a view to operating it as such.
"There are others who have also expressed interest in contributing financially, on a realistic basis, to an acquisition.
"It now remains to be seen whether the present owner is willing to sell and, if so, upon what terms.
He has spoken with the Secretary of State for Transport and with the Minister for Aviation, and had raised the issue on the floor of the House at Transport Questions last Thursday.
Sir Roger had also “raised the obvious concerns” with the Minister of State for Defence and was awaiting his response.
He continued: “I am in ongoing discussions with the Leader of Kent County Council, who has clarified his position and confirmed his support for Manston as an operating airfield and his continued support for the fast rail link and proposed Manston Parkway station.n Airport is facing a closure threat
Sir Roger and Thanet South MP Laura Sandys are due to meet the Aviation Minister on Wednesday.
They are also in the process of arranging further ministerial meetings on Thursday, together with the assembly of the necessary high-level working group.
They are hoping to brief a public meeting in Thanet on Saturday. Sir Roger said: “I remain of the view that Manston is a national as well as a local asset and that it should, if at all possible, remain open for aviation and as a major diversion field and Search-and-Rescue base.”