Acol Public Meeting Minutes

Minutes from the public meeting held on 30th March at Acol Village Hall, as reported by Wendy Fraser (group secretary).
(LS – Laura Sandys, RG – Roger Gale).

“Firstly, let me say, there was such a massive turnout of supporters that even before 11 am the hall was overspilling! Cars lined the usually sleepy village streets and the paddock behind the hall was full to capacity (thank you kind Farmer for making this available). The sun shone (on the righteous ;-)). ITV, BBC and a student doing a project on Manston were there to film the event. Dan Sparki Deelight was at the gate to meet and greet supporters and the press interviewed numerous members of the public to get their view points. Paul Messenger organised the PA system set up for those that couldn’t get inside the hall.

The panel consisted of Why Not Manston?‘s Nicholas Reed as Chairman, Roger Gale and Laura Sandys. Perhaps rather poignantly, (or maybe ironically) the meeting was opened by Air Hostesses from Manston gesturing the emergency exits!

Nicholas Reed praised the Save Manston Airport group for the petition started by Dan, which has reached over 12000 signatures in just over a week, he also raised awareness of his own support group Why Not Manston, which has been campaigning for several years for positive development of the Airport.

Roger Gale stated that the first he knew of the potential closure of Manston Airport was last Wednesday and it came as a complete shock. Since then he has done everything in his power to fact find and prevent it’s closure. Both he and Laura Sandys categorically stated that they are 100% behind keeping Manston open as an airport. Since then he has knowledge of a buyer/buyers who have the necessary funds to buy the airport from Ann Gloag, the current outright owner. Roger also made it clear that politicians cannot get involved in the financial side of the deal and are not party to this information. Laura Sandys stated that a task force had been set up and they would be looking for a “Professional Airport Operator” to run the airport.

Questions were initially directed to staff of Manston Airport and people who would be affected by it’s potential closure.

A member of Air Traffic Control asked if there were conditions attached to Ann Gloag’s contract? RG replied that as she owned the airport outright there were no conditions as such

David ? Member of local Chamber of Trade and Commerce stated that the main objectives should be “Employment, Investment not just in UK, but from Europe and inspiring confidence in the area”

LS -Stated that Ostend Airport is closing which opens up an opportunity for Manston to poach it’s business. Also there is Regional Growth Funding available, which Manston could tap into. The HS1 Railway, due to start in September this year would mean journeys of less than an hour to Thanet.

Peter – Member of Chamber of Trade Deal. Stated that Manston Airport was paying approx £600,000 in business rates and TDC had available funds to pay this …why wasn’t it if it wanted to maintain the airport in Manston?

Bob Bayford TDC – Stated that they would be supporting keeping Manston Airport open

Russ (member of audience) – Stated that there was a nationwide shortage of aircraft salvage and aviation engineering, this would be a perfect opportunity for Manston to develop.

Gary Easton – Past employee of EU Jet and BA. Asked what the Civil Aviation Authorities view was of the closure of Manston, as it was the widest runway in the UK, used for diversions of wide bodied jets especially, but also the easiest runway to land. Also what about the Air Sea Rescue who said that they were coming back to Manston?

RG replied that the Home Office were reviewing major diversion tactics. He admitted he hadn’t talked to the CAA, but would do. He also reported that re cargo, Cargolux want to stay at Manston and Bristows, who spend 1 million a year, want commitment to a 12 year contract.

Karen McCarthy- Ex EU Jet employee stated that even though people bad mouthed EU Jet, they were taking bookings right up until the day they closed and even then were inundated with bookings, so there was definitely a market out there.

Bill Webber – (Lab Tools) “Advertising is poor!” LS replied that marketing was key and would be high priority. Bill stated that there was a significant opportunity for Aviation Engineering at Manston, as there was a huge UK shortage. Farnborough was full to capacity and they were having to outsource to Russia!

Matt – Manston Museum. ? Future if no airport. Owned by airport, so would also be sold. RG – stated that the Queen Mother opened the museum and Manston was a Battle of Britain Memorial, so a terrible shame if it happened.

Peter Swarbrick – Whitstable resident. Cargo from Heathrow/Gatwick if sent to Manston, no need for expensive extensions to their runways or ‘Boris Island’. RG agreed, plus passenger flights. As a result of the inability of Gat/Heath to accommodate freight we are losing trade to foreign airports. He raised this with the Govt Aviation Minister.

Roy Stanwick – Acol resident. No problem with night flights. Any possibility of a compulsory purchase order? RG Not in the available timescale, but out of the timescale ‘yes’.

David Steed – local Farmer. The farmland that Manston was built on was bought by compulsory purchase back in 1916, with the condition that it was returned to agricultural use if ever it was sold for any other use except airfield. Ann Gloag would have a rough ride if she wanted it for housing.

Katie – Why was Ann Gloag not at the meeting? No one could answer this.

Me- 12000 signatures on petition in less than a week, amazing support to save the airport. FB page nearly 2000 supportive members. Lots of robust ideas to make the airport a success. Reported that members had tweeted Clive Hart, but absolutely no mention of saving Manston Airport on his Twitter page!! Notable by his absence today.

The overall impression was that without exception, everyone at the meeting was in support of saving Manston Airport and making it a success. We all agreed that this would need correct management and marketing aided by local council and government. Both Laura Sandys and Roger Gale committed their support for this.

Why Not Manston? and Save Manston Airport FB page will be working collaboratively to support each other in any way they can.

Dan was invited up to the front with Laura and Roger and took the opportunity to thank all you FB members for joining the page, signing the petitions, posting your comments and giving your amazing support, without you this wouldn’t be happening. RG and LS awarded Dan deserved recognition for his outstanding efforts, the audience applauded him for this.

Roger will email Dan with updates, which will be posted on here

In summary, an offer is on the table and now we are waiting to see if it is accepted… there may be some negotiation before a figure is agreed on. This is to be expected. RG is meeting with the consortium next Wednesday.”