“The Company has instigated the DCO process by notifying the Inspectorate of intention to proceed. If the application is granted, as it properly must be, then this will remove the future of Manston from the control of Thanet District Council while facilitating the full public consultation process and examination of the Company`s credentials and resources that they have been seeking for so long.
RiverOak have secured the services of Messrs Bircham Dyson Bell, one of the country`s leading practitioners in this field, to take the application and hearings through to a positive conclusion. I understand that Bircham Dyson Bell have already conducted more successful DCO bids than any other legal practice, and given their expertise and reputation for meticulous attention to process and detail, I would hope and expect that this may resolve the future of Manston, as an airport operating in the national interest, fully and finally.
The procedure will take time but, in competent hands and given a fair wind, there is the real possibility of planes flying from Manston again by the early part of 2017.”
“RiverOak have sought, over very many months, to work with Thanet District Council, to enter into an indemnity agreement and to allow TDC to initiate a Compulsory Purchase Order. The recent and final rejection of this course of action by the Leader of TDC, Cllr. Wells, has released the Company from any implied sense of obligation and left the field free for the DCO application to be lodged and processed. Has it cost time? Yes, of course, but I applaud RiverOak`s integrity and determination to stick with the project in spite of TDC`s intransigence and I believe that the company does have the resources and the willpower and now the expertise to deliver. I hope that RiverOak will be allowed to succeed where Thanet Council has failed.”
“I wish my Honourable Friend well in his campaign to save Manston Airport” said the Secretary of State for Transport in the Commons this afternoon.
Following a statement on the future of runway capacity in the South East Patrick McLoughlin was replying to a question from Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet).
“My Right Honourable Friend is absolutely right to try to nail down the environmental issues before making a decision about a new runway” said Sir Roger “because if he does not do so then the whole House knows that we shall be facing judicial review for another generation while nothing happens.
At the same time the CEO of Heathrow Airport Limited, speaking on BBC radio last week, indicated that Heathrow was full and that there is no room for further freight traffic. It will be at least fifteen years before there are new wheels on a new runway anywhere in the South East and in the meantime we are losing business to Schiphol. Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt and Dubai now. Manston Airport in Kent is available as a freight hub immediately so will my Rt. Hon. Friend throw his weight behind Manston and take action – now!”?
Responding the secretary of State noted that the MP took every opportunity, in the House and in person, to press the case for Manston Airport and indicated very clearly that he had personal sympathy with the cause.
“The Secretary of State made it plain during the election campaign that he would like to see Manston open to help to take the pressure off Heathrow and Gatwick while other decisions are considered. He remains as supportive as ever and if we can just get past Thanet Council`s administration I really believe that we can help UK Limited in a very big way”
North Thanet’s MP, Sir Roger Gale, has this (Friday) morning reiterated his view that Manston Airport in Kent offers the only viable mid- term solution to Britain’s need for additional air freight capacity.
Speaking on the Radio 4 Today programme this morning the CEO of Heathrow Airport, John Holland-Kaye, highlighted the need saying that only last week a major company had had to wait for five days to export goods because there was no capacity at Heathrow remaining.
“This kicks to bottom out of the argument that there is no demand for a freight hub” says Gale. “We now have it from the horse’s mouth: Heathrow is full and UK limited is losing business as a result.
Whatever the final decision, it will be at least fifteen years before there is a new runway anywhere in the South East. Manston could be made available right now to take the strain while longer term plans are realised. It is in our national interest to take the necessary steps to utilise this national asset, which is at present lying unused, immediately”
Office of Sir Roger Gale MP – MP for Margate, Herne Bay & The Villages
Gale’s View – 11 November, 2015
A local newspaper headline asks “Is Manston Airport Dead and Buried”? The answer is “No. Emphatically it is not”. The fact that five out of six Thanet District Councillors, risibly called “The Cabinet”, have decided not to do business with the one serious player that has demonstrated the willingness, the determination and the resources to see the airport re-opened may be of some brief comfort to those outsiders who wish to foist an unwanted and unloved development upon East Kent but it is a decision that cannot and, I believe will not, be allowed to stand.
That not even all of those chosen to rubber-stamp a profoundly questionable recommendation without, by their own admission, either understanding or even reading the papers that were before them makes a travesty of democracy and calls into question the whole role of “cabinet” administration at local government level. Canterbury City Council has already abandoned this experiment in favour of well-tried and trusted committees and Thanet should do so as a first measure before, then, moving to join an East Kent Unitary Authority that will be capable of taking decisions that are less parochial and more representative of broader local opinion.
Let us be clear: notwithstanding the pro-developer stand taken by the present Leader of a Kent County Council that also suffers from an autocratic “cabinet” administration, most of East Kent`s elected County Councillors want to see Manston re-opened as a fully-operational airport. They are joined by an overwhelming majority of local City and District Councillors including, of course, those many UKIP members elected in Thanet on a “We will re-open Manston” ticket. If you add to those votes the support, through the ballot box, for Craig Mackinlay in South Thanet and myself as Conservative Members of Parliament and the votes cast for Mr. Farage during his failed bid to “capture” the Manston issue and there can be no doubt in the minds of most that there is, not just in Thanet but throughout East Kent, an overwhelming majority that has rejected Gloag, Cartner and Musgrave`s development plans and wants our airport back.
The need for the airport also chimes with the national interest. Demand for the establishment of a freight hub as a means of providing an alternative to cross-channel road freight and international cargo that is too often held to ransom is rising, not falling. There is a clearly-established need for a major diversion facility and that is on top of the fact that Manston remains the location-of-choice for Search and Rescue services covering the Straits of Dover. A number of significant aviation-related businesses have indicated that they want to locate at Manston Airport and there remains, of course, the long-term desire to re-establish both TG`s general aviation and light aircraft business and some dedicated passenger flights to carefully selected locations. “Localism” cannot allow a Council that has got its fingers burnt through the compulsory purchase of Dreamland and is running scared of the process to be deterred from pursuing the objective that the majority of people want to see realised.
So what happens next? There are very real concerns over the manner in which the Leadership and monitoring officers of Thanet District Council have sought to prevent the prospective purchasers from making their case to the full Council and the fact that that full Council has been denied the opportunity to vote on an issue that is vital to the whole future of East Kent, the County and, arguably, the Country. Thanet`s Opposition Councillors have indicated that they want the process that led up to Thanet`s “Cabinet” decision subjected to scrutiny. That will be a first step towards injecting a degree of real democracy back into the system. Next, Cllr Bob Bayford, the Leader of the official Opposition in Thanet, has indicated his willingness to establish a “coalition of goodwill” to take over the administration of the local authority and to pursue, in the public interest, the policy that people have voted for. Such a coalition must embrace those of all political parties that wish to honour the pledges that they made during last May`s election.
Cllr. Wells, the Leader, for the moment, of TDC has announced mysteriously that he has four parties expressing interest in purchasing the airport and running some kind of operation involving planes. I myself am aware of two such although they do not appear to be supported by hard cash and there were, of course, others that put their names forward and were discarded during the cold-marketing exercise conducted by the Council under the last administration. I would be surprised if a fresh player were to come forward at this stage and I regard the likelihood as little more than a cynical exercise designed to kick the issue into the political long-grass. What East Kent cannot and will not settle for is some kind of “poor man`s Rochester” trying to operate a light airfield as part of a development of overspill housing for London and still more unused industrial facilities looking for occupants.
To my astonishment, though, even following the ill-informed criticism to which they have been subjected, RiverOak maintain their determination to acquire and operate Manston as an airport and they therefore remain the most serious player in this equation. If local democracy is to mean anything then they should be allowed, surely, to make their public interest and business case to an inspector at the public inquiry following the instigation of a compulsory purchase order. If they fail then they, but only they, will lose a great deal of money. If they succeed then their commitment will have been justified. To achieve that we need a leader and a Council with the guts to give them the chance to prove themselves.
Sir Roger Gale
MP for Margate, Herne Bay & The Villages
11 November 2015
RiverOak – 11th August, 2015 Statement – Sir Roger Gale MP
I am pleased to confirm that RiverOak have placed $2.000.000 in their clients account with their solicitors, Wragge and Co., to cover the costs of the CPO process (which is all that needs to be covered at present).
This raises the total current deposit to about £1.5 million and the sum will be topped up to £2 million when the indemnity agreement with TDC is signed. The sum (which will then be placed in escrow) will not be allowed to fall below £1 million during the process and further funds will, of course, be provided if the CPO is successful and following “vesting” in order to purchase and restore the airfield to operational capacity.
RiverOak have had £250,000 on deposit with their solicitors for some time and remain ready, willing and able to meet TDC costs (including those incurred by the previous administration and for which they have no responsibility whatsoever!) immediately upon the submission, by TDC, of proper invoices. My understanding is that such invoices have yet to be provided by TDC.
Much has been made, by the opponents of the airport and by Cllr. Carter, of the fact that KCC have not seen the RiverOak business plan. This will, of course, have to be submitted and scrutinised by an Inspector at a full public inquiry, prior to any grant of a CPO, at the appropriate time. They would scarcely wish to proceed, would they, if they were not confident that their plan is sound?!
Manston Airport – 4 August, 2015 Statement – Sir Roger Gale MP
Commenting on the COBRA decision to use Manston Airport as a relief truck park for Operation Stack North Thanet`s MP, Sir Roger Gale has said:
“The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, afforded me the courtesy of calling me personally at 11.00 this (Tuesday) morning to inform me that, based on professional advice from Kent County Constabulary, The Highways Agency and Kent County Council a decision had been taken by COBRA to use Manston Airport as the preferred diversionary park for freight traffic bound for Dover in the event of a re-introduction of Operation Stack.
I have made my own view plain to Downing Street, to The Home Office and to The Department for Transport: I believe this to be a profoundly bad and impractical proposal. You do not solve a problem by moving it from A to B, which is effectively what the Leader of Kent County Council and the Highways Agency are seeking to do. We need to remember that both the Chief Constable of Kent and the current owners of Manston Airport were, a few days ago, stating their very public opposition to this plan and I cannot see that much has changed since then.
To divert traffic across country roads at the height of the tourist season across twenty miles of Kent`s highways is, I believe, quite wrong when there are other alternatives such as the park at Ebbsfleet and Kent County Showground, which lies between the M20 and the M2, available.
Nevertheless, Manston Airport has served the nation well in the past and will, I believe, do so again both as an airport and Search & Rescue base in the future. In the interim, if the country needs Manston and if that is the decision that has been taken then whether I like it as the local MP or not – and I have made it plain that I do not – then I shall have to live with that
I have, however, been given very clear assurances by the Foreign Secretary:
First, Manston will only be used if absolutely necessary.
Second, in order to gauge any disruption to holiday traffic any transfer of freight vehicles will be phased in and halted if it becomes apparent that our own domestic tourist traffic is being adversely affected.
Third, he has confirmed an assurance given to me by Downing Street that any damage done to the potential of Manston as an airfield will be rectified following the completion of the exercise.
While I am very concerned upon the effect, at the height of the season, upon the tourist industries in Margate and Herne Bay in my constituency and upon Broadstairs, Ramsgate and Sandwich in South Thanet I do not believe that this decision will, or should be allowed to, impact upon the Compulsory Purchase Process and ultimate re-instatement of Manston as an operational airfield. Indeed, I would hope that Government, recognising Manston`s contribution in an hour of need, will do everything in its power to ensure that planes are flying again from Manston Airport as soon as possible.”
14 July, 2015
I understand that at the Kent County Council Conservative Group Meeting yesterday Cllr. Carter suggested that the re-opening of Manston Airport ”was not government policy”. That is at best disingenuous.
The Prime Minister`s personal support for Manston Airport, in response to my own parliamentary questions, is a matter of official parliamentary record.
Prior to the election both the Minister of State for General Aviation (Grant Shapps) and the Minister of State for Aviation with responsibility for Search & Rescue not only visited Manston but made Government support plain. That support has been underscored by the fact that the Government was willing to commission the Price Waterhouse report and in Hayes` determination that Bristows` S & R contract would be for one year only to facilitate a return to the preferred option, Manston.
When Craig Mackinlay and I met with the Secretary of State (Patrick McLaughlin) after the election last month the SoS, who has taken personal responsibility for Manston Airport , indicated very clearly that the Department would seek to ensure that the necessary CAA operating license would be reinstated as soon as possible following a successful compulsory purchase by TDC/RiverOak and the clearly necessary restitution of equipment and facilities stripped out by the present controllers of the site.
If Cllr. Carter feels “marginalised” then that is entirely a situation that is of his own making and arises from his determination to back property developers against the clear wishes of the Government, his own County Council and the electorate of Kent. He has also signally failed to consult with local Members of Parliament both prior to the closure, prior to the announcement of the recent “development plan” and prior to his suggestion that Manston should be used as an interim lorry park.
I would hope and expect that my County Colleagues will back the views of the local, County and national electorates rather than the views of one individual councillor who is out of step with the majority.
Sir Roger Gale, MP – North Thanet
The Future of Manston Airport – an opinion
Sir Roger Gale MP
Sir Howard Davies` recently published report on the future of hub airport capacity in the South East has set out, if not definitively, some very clear and prioritised options, designed specifically to help London compete with, amongst other, Schiphol, Frankfurt and Charles de Gaulle in the global competition for hub airport business. Following Sir Howard’s report, the Government has indicated that a formal and final decision will be announced by the end of this year.
Nobody should be surprised that airports such as Manston did not receive recommendation from Sir Howard. Manston never has been and never will be in the hub airport league. Those that suggest otherwise clearly have little or no grasp of the aviation industry.
However it is clear that, between a decision being announced and an aircraft actually touching down on a new runway – whether at Heathrow or Gatwick – there lies some fifteen years of land acquisition, design, public inquiry, demolition and construction. During that time UK PLC will be losing business to our international competitors unless we take advantage of every interim option available to us.
It is within this context that Manston Airport needs to be seen as a crucial national as well as a regional asset.
Manston Airport is and remains the preferred option for Bristow`s Straits of Dover Air/Sea Rescue service. It also offers potential as the major South East diversion airfield – a role currently but not indefinitely undertaken by a Stansted that is ill-equipped for the task because of its other commitments. Perhaps most crucially, in terms of the ongoing capacity problem, only Manston has the potential to accommodate large freight aircraft, thus freeing up significant space at each of our South Eastern passenger airports. Once up and running it can also offer charter, general aviation, package holidays and potentially some scheduled low-cost passenger services as well. All of that, taken together, makes this a facility that the country cannot afford to lose, and that is why politicians at the most senior level of Government have recognised the case for Manston to remain an airfield.
It was I suppose inevitable that those seeking to capitalise on Manston Airport for other purposes should in desperation resort to black propaganda, smear and innuendo in an attempt to protect what they regard as “their” property, and to exploit what they believe to be its value as a piece of real estate. (I will take no lessons in “misleading” from people who are so cheapskate and inefficient that they have found it necessary to resort to the unauthorised use of another company’s copyright material to illustrate their “masterplan” – a concoction which I believe that, using my skills as a journalist and perhaps the assistance of one of Hartsdown Academy`s excellent graphics students, I could have knocked out in the course of a working day).
The facts are, I think, as follows:
Thanet has too many hectares of unused potential industrial space already and some of that land will need to be hived off as a substitute for the proposed use of Grade One agricultural land for housing in the draft local plan. Additionally, the much vaunted “Discovery Park” has considerable unfilled capacity remaining available. Any use of Manston Airport for industrial purposes would inevitably compete with existing under used sites such as the KCC-owned Manston Business Park adjacent to the airport and China Gateway. Self evidently, there is simply no need for additional industrial space in Thanet either now or for the foreseeable future.
Moreover, Thanet`s housing need is already over-provided for in the local plan. Unless the Island is to become a dumping ground for London`s overspill, then house building, beyond our immediate local needs, has to be matched against employment opportunities. Taking into account this context, it is clear that there is simply no need to use land at Manston Airport for housing.
Turning to leisure options, I have looked in the past at companies which might invest in leisure facilities – Centerparcs was one such – and the harsh reality is that major investment requires a significant catchment area. Three quarters of Thanet`s catchment area is water. This has always deterred the largest leisure companies in the past and it will, I believe continue to deter them in the future. Dreamland and the Turner contemporary, as day attractions, most certainly have their part to play, but the concept of a Disney-scale development is pie in the sky.
I have been approached by a company which has an outline proposal for a film studio. Thanet certainly offers great potential for location film-making and we should promote the whole area as such. A sound-stage complex, though, as I know from my past experience working for Universal Films and in television, is a very different beast. While there is some demand for additional space, Pinewood Studios, the owners of the ‘stolen’ copyright picture, are already creating additional capacity to take up that slack. Those facilities will be on stream by next year.
There is also the small matter of the local plan. Whatever name those in present control of the site may seek to impose, in a crass attempt to erase Manston`s proud name from the map, Manston is designated as an airport in the current local plan. Unless and until a fresh draft local plan, has been published – taking account of all of the objections that have been lodged in respect of the first draft, the results of a further consultation, Inspector`s report and recommendations by the Secretary of State, all of which will take at least two years – Manston is, and remains, signed off for use only as an airport and for aviation – related purposes. That will not be changed in the foreseeable future.
In short, I do not believe that a consortium which has generated only a few new (as distinct from transferred-in) jobs at Discovery Park, and which has manifestly not delivered on the promised 10,000 jobs at Wynyard Park on Teesside, is going to generate, even within a proposed 20-year timespan, a faction of the blue-sky proposals that have been published to date.
By contrast there is, as I have already shown, an urgent need for Manston as an operational airport. Although the site has been stripped in an attempt to reduce its operational capacity, most of the damage is superficial and can be rectified, albeit at a cost, relatively easily and swiftly. There is a company, RiverOak, who originally offered the owner, Mrs. Gloag, the full £7 million asking price before the airport closed. That offer was rejected for reasons that I suggested to the Select Committee when it conducted its inquiry in the last parliament. I hope and expect that the new Select Committee, under the same chairman, will be offering Messrs Cartner and Musgrave and Ms. Gloag in person, and Cllr. Carter, the opportunity to respond to some key questions which remain unanswered. RiverOak remain ready, willing and able to take over the airport, to make the necessary investment to return it to operational capacity and to recommence commercial traffic. The Secretary of State for Transport has indicated at a recent meeting with Craig Mackinlay and myself, that once the requirements have been met, he will ensure that the CAA operating license is reinstated.
RiverOak has already deposited funds in a UK bank in order to meet the immediate needs of Thanet District Council as soon as an indemnity agreement is signed. More funds, as necessary, will follow and I have met personally with directors of the company and with investors who are, I believe, of sufficient substance to bring the project to fruition.
It has been said that “Manston has always failed as an airport so why should RiverOak succeed?” Setting aside the fact that no company of any significance would be prepared to invest the millions of pounds necessary to restore full facilities at Manston unless they believed that it was going to work, the RiverOak business model is fundamentally different from that of its predecessors. They intend to ensure that the financial base of the Airport is sound and sufficiently well-capitalised over a long enough period to make the business pay. That business will be based, first, upon a cargo hub and aviation related enterprises that are not seasonally sensitive. As and when – but only when – the revenue stream is established on a rock solid commercial footing they will then return to the passenger traffic and other flying operations which will provide the icing on the cake. Riveroak have stuck with this project and this concept for this long because they believe in it. And if they are prepared to have faith in their ability, in the teeth of some very adverse and hostile opposition, then so am I.
Finally, let us examine the political mandate for the process necessary to restore Manston Airport to its rightful place in our bank of national assets.
Thanet`s two Members of Parliament were both elected on a clear undertaking to seek to deliver Manston as a working airport again. Add to those votes the ballots cast in favour of two UKIP candidates, each of whom stood on a pro-Airport ticket and there is an overwhelming majority, at a parliamentary level, to re-open Manston Airport.
Next, consider Thanet`s District Council. The UKIP Mandate was practically single-issue: vote UKIP and we will instigate a Compulsory Purchase Order on Manston. UKIP was elected to control Thanet Council with a very significant majority, and the second -largest Party, the Conservatives, were also elected on a pro-Manston Airport ticket.
Kent County Council, notwithstanding the recent antics of its present Leader, has also voted unanimously – without the conditions subsequently superimposed by Cllr. Carter – to give political support to TDC in any CPO bid that the latter saw fit to make.
Finally, there is significant recognition and support, from Downing Street and from the Department of Transport, for the locally expressed determination to see planes flying once again, and generating business from Manston.
Thanet Council, having engaged with appropriate legal advice, now has the opportunity and the political support at every level – I have made my own clear as have others – to instigate the Compulsory Purchase process. There will, inevitably, be a public inquiry at which all of the most searching questions will have to be asked and answered. The Inspector will then submit his findings to the Secretary of State for Local Government and the latter will exercise his judgement. I hope and believe that the Leader of Thanet Council and his Cabinet can, with the wholehearted support of my Conservative Council colleagues, finally deliver what the people of East Kent have conclusively voted for: the re-opening of Manston Airport and the opening of a new chapter in the history of aviation in the South East.
KCC Leader not trusted over Manston Airport
Gale`s View – 10th June, 2015 in Thanet extra
There is a clear and growing concern that the current Leader of Kent County Council appears to believe that it is in order to ignore the majority or, in the case of the future of Manston Airport the unanimous, view of those who have voted in his Council Chamber and to take a public policy line diametrically opposed to the expressed wish of virtually every other democratically chosen person at every level of government.
One might have thought that, following the tardy publication of the 2013/2014 accounts for Wynyard Park on Teesside, a company `owned` by those who currently claim control of Manston Airport, the current Leader of KCC might have taken pause for thought. In fact, using words remarkably similar to those uttered by that company`s spokesman, the former Police Chief Mr. Mallon, he has chosen to leap to the defence not of the people of East Kent who want to see planes flying from Manston again but of those who seek to instead build houses and industrial units on the land. In doing so he is beginning to sound dangerously like an advocate for commercial developers.
That the current Leader of KCC has apparently decided that, notwithstanding the clear view of his Council, it is in order to promote and pursue, up to and including the support for the provision of taxpayer funding, the interests of those currently claiming to be in charge of the Manston site is, to say the least, curious. This position seems to be based upon the presumption that the alternative – a Compulsory Purchase Order by Thanet District Council that KCC has voted in principle to support, and the onward sale to a company that wishes to reinstate and operate Manston as an airport – is not viable because that same present Leader of KCC, who has no locus in the matter or right to any confidential, information, is not satisfied by a business case that he has not seen. Given the intimate, un-recorded and private conversations with representatives of Ms. Ann Gloag, the owner of Manston Airport, that this Leader permitted before the announcement of the proposed closure of the airport prior to Budget Day in 2014, he clearly has no right to be privy to any such information. Brutally, those who wish to preserve Manston as an operating airport in the national, and local interest – and I count myself amongst them – do not believe that they have any reason to trust Cllr. Carter or to take him into any confidence. That is a bed that, he will come to realise, is entirely of his own making.
I have nailed my own colours to the mast, have been tried and tested in a General Election and returned to Parliament to continue to represent views that the current Leader of KCC clearly does not share. We cannot both be right. The publication of the Government`s commissioned PWC inquiry results, a possible and consequential Compulsory Purchase Order issued by Thanet District Council on the basis of an indemnity agreement, an Inspector`s public inquiry in which the business cases of RiverOak, Ms. Gloag and Messrs, Cartner and Musgrave, together with their respective and intimate finances, will all be examined in fine detail, that Inspector`s report and an ultimate decision by the Secretary of State may follow. My personal reputation has been placed on the line and I stand by the actions that I have taken and the statements that I have made in the interests of those that I have been re-elected to represent. Will the current Leader of KCC place his own reputation on the line also and do the honourable thing if he is found further wanting? Or will he equivocate? County Council elections are not very far down the track and I am sure that extraneous influences will not be allowed to play any part in determining who will be chosen to lead the Conservative Party into that contest.
Sir Roger Gale MP (N.Thanet)