Demands for UK decision on Manston Airport

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The UK Government’s Department of Transport (DfT) should determine whether Thanet District Council (TDC) was right to defer Manston Airport’s compulsory purchase, local political representative Sir Roger Gale told Parliament on 9 February.

Gale, a member of parliament for the governing Conservative party, was speaking at a House of Commons Transport Select Committee meeting to discuss Manston. The airport was closed in May and has been sold to land developers, Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner.

RiverOak Investment is a US firm which wants to resurrect the airport. Gale says it should be asked for further information on its compulsory purchase order (CPO) offer, or if TDC has enough details, he says the council should, “get on with a CPO”. In December, Thanet decided no further action would be taken to progress a CPO until a DfT review of it was received.

Sir Roger Gale, told the committee: “I would like the DfT to say either TDC was right in its caution, and RiverOak needs to provide more information on their bid, or the DfT to say while TDC was understandably over cautious, it can safely proceed with the CPO with RiverOak.”

Gale also says he believes the proposal by RiverOak to reopen the airport as a cargo hub was viable: “They have stuck with this and I believe the reason they want to do this is because they can make money out of it.”

George Yerrall, a partner at RiverOak, confirmed to the select committee the US firm is prepared to commit to running Manston as a cargo airport as the CPO offer was still on the table. He says new and existing cargo carriers have given a good response to the potential of Manston reopening, and adds RiverOak could make it work on 22 flights a week.

“Cargo works at Manston, there is apron space, they can service on the airfield, and we could move goods into London quicker than you can from Heathrow Airport. It is completely viable as an airport,” Yerrall explains. During the same select committee panel session, TDC leader, Iris Johnston, explained the RiverOak CPO bid was turned down as the council was not satisfied with the offer, and it would have been a, “leap of faith”.

Pauline Bradley, who is director of Manston Skyport, the airfield’s former operating company, says the airport was closed after it was purchased for £1 ($1.56), in November 2013 by business woman Anne Gloag. The airport failed to secure a freight customer and was unable to secure a passenger airline customer, which were key parts of the Skyport strategy to turn the airport around. RiverOak bid £7 million ($10.6 million) for the airport prior to it being sold to Musgrave and Cartner in September last year. They plan to regenerate the site over 20 years to include homes, offices and light industry.

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