Letter in this week’s Isle of Thanet Gazette from SuMA

A letter by SuMA published in this week’s Isle of Thanet Gazette

There has been some criticism of Thanet District Council’s current Viability Report into Manston Airport in recent issues of this paper.

Critics argue that it is unnecessary because of previous reports, however, those reports are not relevant to the purpose of this current undertaking.

The specific purpose of this viability report is to inform the emerging Local Plan which is already behind schedule.

Under the existing Local Plan Manston is designated as an airport. It needs to be proven that it has no future viability and looking to the past does not correlate with future successful operations.  The Supporters of Manston Airport are confident that this forthcoming report will prove the viability of Manston Airport.

At the beginning of June, Stone Hill Park submitted a planning application to build 2500 houses and additional business premises on Manston Airport (Ref: OL/TH/16/0550). Since then almost 300 individual objections have been submitted on the planning site considerably outweighing support by more than 3:1. In addition there are objections from nationally recognised organisations such as the MOD, Southern Water and Wildlife England as well as local bodies such as Manston and Cliffsend Parish Councils and the Leader of Dover District Council.

A notable objection comes from the MOD who are concerned that the proximity of buildings would cause a physical infringement to the equipment that supports air traffic control. “The proposed application site lies within the statutory technical safeguarding consultation zone surrounding Manston Airfield” and that equipment is “critical for maintaining the UK emergency response capabilities for the management of air safety incidents.”

Meanwhile, there continues to be significant interest in returning Manston to operational use as an airport by more than one potential investor.

While the American company RiverOak’s interest in reopening the airport as a freight hub is well documented, and laudably unwavering, the DCO route they are pursuing is extremely protracted. However, there are also other potential investors in the background who, in wishing to operate a viable airport, may not necessarily follow the same business model. They are also well aware of the improvements required in the infrastructure leading to the airport.

After more than two years of closure we believe, as a campaign group, in a pragmatic approach to reopening Manston. We realise that compromises may need to be made. We recognise the need to accept a practical, achievable and realistic solution in order to bring about the real jobs and economic regeneration that a reopened Manston Airport would bring to Thanet.

Despite opinions to the contrary, plans for a housing development on Manston are not inevitable and there is still a lot of hope for the Airport. Indeed, instead of diminishing, the support and membership for the campaign to restore a fully operational airport steadily increases.

Grant Shapp’s cross-party British Investment Group has just released a report calling for airports such as Manston to be utilised for the national good. A quote from the BIG Report says, “The closure or partial closure of airports, as at Plymouth, Filton, Blackpool and Manston, wastes capital investment, disperses staff, and impoverishes local areas.”

There is also a forthcoming Public Inquiry which will test the case for whether or not Manston continues as an airport or is lost forever to a massive housing estate.

There is still much to play for!