Question of Manston’s future to drag on

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The fate of Manston Airport may not be known for months, despite the fact that its owners have now sold the site to redevelopers, as the local council’s process to decide whether or not to make a compulsory purchase continues.

The council is part-way through a process to review whether compulsory purchase of the site is a viable option and this week it was informed that Manston Skyport, which owns the airport site, had sold a controlling stake in itself to individuals involved in redevelopment, Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave.

These new owners, envisage a £1 billion ($1.6 billion) redevelopment of the 800-acre site, over a 20 year period, into a mixed-use scheme, with homes, offices, light industrial and possibly even a school. They claim that over 20 years the redevelopment could create more than 4,000 jobs. The council’s process involves a soft-market testing exercise to identify suitable indemnity partners to cover all of the associated costs of a compulsory purchase order (CPO). The US company RiverOak Investment has come forward as a possible CPO partner. 

RiverOak has also submitted evidence to the UK government’s Airports Commission, which is examining airport capacity. RiverOak claims a newly opened Manston could help alleviate the expected airport capacity crunch. The soft-market exercise will be presented to the council’s cabinet on 16 October.

Thanet council will then undertake a wider review of the options for the site and as part of this would seek further details from the new site owners, Cartner and Musgrave, to understand more about their proposal. 

In their purchase announcement this week, Musgrave says: “Whilst it is too early to be specific about our plans, we will be looking to comprehensively redevelop the whole site to create a mixed-use community. This is in light of the fact that the airport has closed, the equipment has been sold and it will not reopen.”

After the council’s review, a report outlining all of the options for the future of the site will then be brought to a full council meeting for all 56 councillors to consider. Thanet Council was unable to say when such a meeting could take place. The council has been clear that a CPO will not go ahead unless there is evidence of the economic viability of the site operating as an airport and a suitable investor identified to cover all of the costs required.

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