The Cabinet of Thanet District Council voted last night (29th October 2015) to take no further action on the CPO of Manston Airport at the present time. Five cabinet members voted for and one against the Officer’s advice.
Summary of their conclusions:
- There is a lack of evidence that the financial resources are in place to acquire the land prior to the confirmation of a CPO – the council is obliged to attempt to purchase the land by negotiation in parallel with the CPO process.
- There is a lack of any binding commitment – letters of support from potential investors are caveated and details of the investors were not disclosed to the council.
- RiverOak have publicly announced that no bond or surety would be offered to fund any shortfall.
- There is insufficient evidence that a proposed CPO is likely to be successful which would justify the council entering into an indemnity agreement.
- As RiverOak have said that they would need time after confirmation of the CPO to secure and document funding for the project, the airport could lie dormant for potentially five years – the council’s intention is that a viable airport could come into operation as quickly as reasonably possible.
However, although it would appear that they haven’t reached an agreement with RiverOak, last night Councillor Chris Wells made it clear that there are four other potential investors that they are aware of, and will now seek more information from them about their viability. Furthermore he detailed that they have no diminished appetite for finding a partner for the CPO of Manston Airport. He also has made clear that keeping an airport did not mean just a grass strip that the current owners seem to have added into their plans.
Leader of Thanet District Council, Cllr Chris Wells, said: “RiverOak’s failure to respond to the many opportunities they had to demonstrate their suitability as an indemnity partner is genuinely disappointing. “It does not however diminish our appetite to see the airport up and running. But it has to be done carefully, lawfully and in a manner that does not expose Council Tax payers to risk.”
That decision is now likely to be called into the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to review. There could now also be further political repercussions which could affect the make up of the Council.
It was also stated that it was not possible to make public some of the legal advice that could have been made last night because of the possibility of RiverOak apparently considering legal options open to them.
Supporters of Manston Airport remain committed to campaign for the return of Manston airport, retaining the runway and the history museums, whilst developing a viable airport. The airport is something that we cannot replace and would allow specialist expertise to be retained and expanded in the area, rather that being lost elsewhere. Locations already exist for the proposed business areas, and Manston airport doesn’t form any part of the housing requirements in the current or emerging Local Plan.