Newsletter, December 2014
CRUNCH TIME FOR MANSTON
Up till recently, things looked pretty bleak for our cause. The Thanet Gazette of 5th December reported the view of three Thanet officers that they “could not identify” a suitable partner for them to work with. The decision whether to accept this verdict was going to be taken on Thursday 11th December, and it looked likely the Labour ruling group would endorse that recommendation. What the Gazette failed to mention is that it is quite common. with a controversial subject, for a Council committee to reject a recommendation of the officers.
Since the news about the Council Committee Meeting on the 11th, an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Council has now been called, for the following Tuesday 16th December. That is for the Full Council of Thanet, where the outcome of a vote on Manston is more likely to be favourable.
We have also heard that the Transport Minister, John Hayes, is coming down to see the Labour Leader of Thanet in the week beginning the 15th. After many months of waiting, this is excellent news, and may well have been triggered off by persistent lobbying by Sir Roger Gale and Laura Sandys, MPs for Thanet North and South, who have both been very strong in their support for the airport.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
We should call our members to attend and demonstrate at both meetings: to remind the councillors not just of Manston’s massive support, but that any councillors who vote against it, are not likely to be re-elected in six months time.
This is now overwhelming evidence for this. The SMA has recently been holding a poll in the relevant areas of Thanet. These polls, made by taking a questionnaire round to every house in the area, show an astonishing 98% support from the residents for the idea of keeping and developing Manston. No other airport in the country has such strong support!
That surely is the crunch point. The Labour Council in Thanet still has only a slim majority – indeed, it relies on something like three independent councillors to give it its majority. If the Independents vote with the Conservatives, Lib Dems and UKIP in favour of Manston on the 16th, the recommendation from the Council officers might well be overturned.
THE HOUSE OF COMMONS TRANSPORT COMMITTEE
You will remember that all the Manston groups submitted evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee, which is now considering the importance of smaller local airfields to aviation in general in this country. The Committee will be hearing oral evidence soon after the start of 2015. Our evidence to that Committee met the deadline and was acknowledged. So we, along with the other Manston groups, should be invited to give evidence to their committee, in proceedings which will be televised on the Parliament channel. You may have seen online, as I did, their hearings in 2013-14, when they quizzed representatives of the airlines, and of Heathrow and Gatwick, about possible solutions to the problem of the shortage of runway capacity in the SE. However, their committee is biased towards Heathrow, and ended up by recommending doubling the size of Heathrow! They did not even discuss the evidence of the importance of Manston.
CRUNCH TIME: OUR PROPOSED ACTION
The next two meetings are likely to be the ones which decide whether Manston is revived, or left as a desert. Everyone in our group should please make a special effort to be outside Thanet Council HQ in Margate, with pro-Manston banners and T-shirts (if you have them), at 6pm this Thursday 11th, ready to watch the proceedings at 7pm.
Alternatively, please be outside there at 4pm on Tuesday 16th,to watch the start of the meeting at 5pm. We should display our banners, and watch the proceedings. It is the second of these meetings which is most likely to vote in favour of our aims. The time of the Tuesday meeting has only just been announced, and might change. In case of any changes, please keep an eye on the Events section of our website.
WHAT IF THINGS GO AGAINST US ON THE 16TH?
That is perfectly possible. But no-one seems to be looking ahead to the next local elections. These are less than six months away, and will include Thanet Council. From the support shown to UKIP by the electorate in Thanet last time, it is very likely that UKIP will have a large group of councillors. Even if they are not the majority, their presence is almost certain to wipe out the overall Labour majority in the Council, and any combination of other groups or parties on the Council is likely to be in favour of the revival of Manston. As far as UKIP is concerned, Nigel Farage said recently that, if they become part of a ruling group after those elections, UKIP will vote in Manston’s favour. So any decision on the 16th December not to proceed, is almost bound to be overridden six months later.
Don’t believe the Gloom and Doom Merchants! We are going to win!
Chairman, Why Not Manston?