Kent County Council have FINALLY released the minutes from the meeting of Ruth Bailey, Gary Easton and MP Sir Roger Gale with KCC Leader Paul Carter of 17/10/14. Please take a read below for KCC’s version of events. The response to the Freedom of Information request was 16 days late.
“On the afternoon of the 17th October 2014, Sir Roger Gale MP and two (not three) representatives of the Save Manston Campaign came to County Hall to meet Paul Carter. The meeting took place in Mr Carter’s office and both, Lucy Majin (Press Office Manager) and David Smith (Director of Economic Development) attended. The two representatives from the Save Manston Campaign were Ruth Bailey and Gary Easton.
The meeting was scheduled to last 30 minutes; however Mr Carter allowed it to run on for 90 minutes.
The visitors did not present their Petition and only generally referred to it as evidence that “most people who lived in Thanet” supported the CPO of the airport.
Most of the meeting consisted of accusations that Kent County Council (KCC) had unreasonably failed to support RiverOak’s proposal to buy the airport from Mrs Gloag, failed to give appropriate support to Thanet District Council (TDC) in the CPO process and had given unwarranted support to the new owners of the airport whom they described in the same terms as the author of the anonymous Thanet Eye report.
Sir Roger said that Mr Carter’s Leadership of KCC was totally out of step with the position of Government ministers and the wishes of Conservative Members of both KCC and TDC.
Sir Roger also said that there was evidence that Mrs Gloag had conspired with Infratil to get the airport sold to her for a sum well below its true value and that she had then entered into a deal with property developers to strip the airport of its assets and maximise her profits through future housing developments.
Sir Roger said that Mrs Gloag really still owned and managed the airport site and he challenged the statement of Mr Carter and Mr Musgrave that they would be successful in bringing jobs to Thanet. Sir Roger claimed that there was plenty of existing commercial land at Discovery Park and empty plots on the land owned by KCC and TDC. Sir Roger said that the demolition of commercial buildings at Discovery Park was further evidence of the owners wanting to turn away commercial tenants in favour of housing.
Sir Roger said that Mr Carter’s support for housing on the airport’s land had been revealed in a TV interview and this support had been confirmed by Mrs Gloag herself.
Mr Easton told the attendees that he was very familiar with the finances of Manston Airport. Mr Easton said it had actually been profitable for many years, and that the freight business and ancillary services (car parking, cafeteria etc…) more than covered the airport’s costs. He acknowledged that the recent passenger business had not been successful but said this was because Infratil and Mrs Gloag did not want the airport to succeed. Mr Easton said that the Wiggins Group and EU Jet showed how successful Manston could be in terms of numbers of passengers. He did not acknowledge that this had proven to be financially disastrous, saying that EU Jet had simply used the wrong planes.
The visitors said RiverOak were the only show in town and KCC should support them.
Mr Carter sought to put straight the facts and explained KCC’s actions. The market had failed to deliver a profitable airport at Manston. RiverOak had been asked to share their business plan, but they had refused: without seeing it, KCC could not support it. In contrast, the number of new jobs
created at Wynyard Park and Discovery Park was evidence that the new owners of Manston had a strong and impressive track record in redeveloping difficult sites. KCC had seen no evidence of the conspiracies that the visitors described.
KCC had for many years been supportive of the expansion of aviation at Manston but Infratil’s losses and Mrs Gloag’s conclusion as to its potential profitability as an airport demonstrated a market failure. KCC had been consistent throughout in supporting plans which could bring jobs
and economic growth to Thanet and that continued to be the basis of its discussions with potential investors.
KCC would not disclose some of the details of those discussions where this would breach commercial confidentiality. For the same reason, KCC did not plan to publish details of things that were said in this meeting.
KCC undertook to send to Sir Roger the record of the TV interview with Mr Carter to show what had really been said about possible developments at the airport and prove that housing was not mentioned.
The meeting concluded by thanking the visitors for their time and for letting KCC hear their views.”