Kent council, UK parliament trade blows

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Kent County Council (KCC) has heavily criticised the UK parliamentary Smaller Airports report that states that KCC failed to analyse a buyout of South East England’s Manston Airport.

The airport was closed on 15 May 2014 and sold to individuals Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner in September 2014 for redevelopment purposes. Before the deal was struck, RiverOak Investment offered to pay Manston owner, Ann Gloag, £7 million ($10.3 million) for Manston, but the bid was rejected. 

Since then there has been political pressure, including a grass roots campaign, for local authorities, with a private partner, to buy the airport back from Musgrave and Cartner as part of a compulsory purchase order (CPO). The Smaller Airports report, produced by the transport committee of the UK government’s lower chamber, the House of Commons, was published on Friday 13 March. It says: “KCC has the legal and financial resources to assess complex CPO cases…it failed to deploy those assets. In failing to support [Thanet District Council] TDC’s scrutiny of the proposed CPO at Manston, KCC failed to fulfil its strategic oversight function as the local transport authority.”

Manston Airport is within Thanet district. KCC’s leader Paul Carter, hit back and in an email to transport committee chair and member of parliament, Louise Ellman, he says the report should be, “withdrawn and reconsidered,” as it was a, “travesty of the actuality”. Adding that the council has very limited aviation powers and most of these are exercised with permission of the government’s minister for transport. Prior to the report’s publication, the UK government’s Department of Transport had already started to intervene in the Manston situation. The Department announced a call on 5 March for tenders for consultants to examine the Manston case.

The local pro-airport campaign, Supporters of Manston Airport, says the transport committee has, “uncovered further layers in the mystery surrounding the airport’s ownership and control.” The report recommends that Ann Gloag’s agreement with Musgrave and Cartner be put in the public domain, to, “make it clear who would benefit from the proposed redevelopment.” RiverOak Investment did not want to make a comment on the report.

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