Liberal Democrat Russ Timpson, supporter of and campaigner for Manston Airport, talks about the importance of the airport to future economic growth in Thanet.
It’s good to see the pressure being kept up by prominent, local politicians, especially one that has an aviation background.
What is the right decision for the future of the Manston airfield site?
Liberal Democrat Russ Timpson, a former BAA, Virgin Atlantic and British Airport Authority employee, sets out his views on the issue, but do you agree?
Mr Timpson says:
Manston airport is very attractive for aviation purposes, in a strategic position near the North Kent coast, and is in an area of high unemployment. It was for many years and RAF base; more recently it has been run as a passenger airport, but the business model was not well chosen and has suffered from insufficient investment.
Having campaigned on the future of Manston airport during the General Election in 2015 I now lay out my reasons for continued support of Manston as having a viable aviation future.
Firstly lets looks at the facts about the airport and surrounding area:
- The 9000ft runway is the tenth longest civilian runway in the UK and one of the widest in Europe Manston was used for training flight crews for the Airbus 380 and Dreamliner aircraft.
- It was built to Cold-War standards and therefore is thick enough to carry the weight of any current aircraft
- It’s close proximity to European cities Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Frankfurt minimizes light journey times
- There are very good transport links to London which will be enhanced by the proposed station- Thanet Parkway
- The new ‘Garden City’ at Ebbsfleet will bring many more people within a catchment area for an airport in North kent.
- The Paramount leisure park in North Kent has been forecasted to attract millions of visitors each year from Europe
Thanet, Kent and the rest of Britain could benefit from the reopening of the airport at Manston for the following reasons;
With a small improvement of the surrounding infrastructure, it would compliment Heathrow and Gatwick by taking much of the freight traffic which currently overloads Heathrow and Gatwick and also some of the passenger traffic. The airport could be linked to the high speed rail network.
It should be part of the wider strategy to cope with the monopoly position of Calais in cross-channel freight transport. Relying solely on Calais in the past has proved a local disaster when the port there has to close. Alternative routes for cargo out of Kent will be beneficial.
It could be developed as a centre for decommissioning and dismantling obsolete aircraft, an industry with good potential for employment generation and development of technical skills.
It is an ideal site for the commercial development of inner space and rocket technology.
Thanet could become a major aviation services hub.
The proposal for Manston airport to be developed as Stone Hill Park is unacceptable for the following reasons:
What is proposed is a suburban estate with no real focus or community logic. The infrastructure is inadequate, and the adjacent communities of Manston and Lydden could suffer from a large volume of traffic going to and from Westwood.
Use of the airport site for housing and commercial purposes will generate employment in the short-term but is no answer to the long-term needs of Thanet. The closure of the airport meant unemployment for 144 people. By removing the runway the scheme removes one major potential asset for bringing jobs to the region.
Liberal Democrats believe that housing development in Thanet should be based on the needs of local communities and focused on brownfield sites in or near existing towns and villages. To be sustainable, it must first be accompanied by corresponding measures for job creation, provision of services such as schools and clinics, and infrastructure. It should not use prime agricultural land which is a valuable asset.
To assess housing needs, Thanet District Council should urgently:
draw up an inventory of brownfield sites suitable for housing development.-
carry out an audit of vacant properties, especially in the rented sector, and use its powers to prevent accommodation lying vacant.