Manston Airport is the subject of a government probe to report after the UK general election, but the gateway’s local council electoral result could make the investigation futile.
On 19 March, the UK government transport minister, John Hayes, announced the advisory service PwC had been appointed to review local government’s decisions regarding Manston. The airport closed on 15 May 2014 despite campaigns to keep it open. Local authorities have since examined whether to use a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to reopen it.
The airport’s local authority is Thanet District Council (TDC), which is controlled by the Labour party. The council decided in December to defer a CPO decision with US investment firm RiverOak, saying the company’s offer was not good enough.
On Thursday 7 May, the council’s members are being re-elected, along with many other UK local authorities, on the same day as the country’s general election for the national government. A list of parties standing for the council was not available from TDC.
According to Thanet Express news editor, Julia Collins, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) could control TDC after the election because in 2013 local support saw UKIP win seven of the eight Thanet seats for the next level of local government, Kent County Council. The county council was criticised in a UK parliamentary report last month for not supporting TDC’s CPO decision process.
The leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage, is his party’s candidate for the UK parliamentary seat of Thanet South. The seat was won at the 2010 general election by the Conservative party, which formed the subsequent government. Its candidate was not available for comment. Farage tells Air Cargo Week: “UKIP are committed to introducing the indemnity partner funded compulsory purchase order within days of becoming the largest party on Thanet District Council. I will be pressing for active government support, rather than the drip-feed electioneering heard at the moment.”
The airport is located in the neighbouring constituency of Thanet North. Its member of parliament, Sir Roger Gale, has supported the reopening of Manston. Last year, RiverOak offered Manston Skyport, the airport’s then owner, £7 million, but the offer was rejected. RiverOak still wants to participate in a CPO.