Three years ago today, on 15th May 2014, we witnessed the closure of Manston Airport which resulted in the loss of around 144 direct jobs and which also had a detrimental effect on many other local businesses.
Those of us were there that day will remember the highly charged emotions of anger, sadness and frustration as the staff left the airport for the last time, many of them in tears, and we do not forget the real-life stories behind the decision to close Manston.
Quotes taken from local news at the time –
Pilot Nick Emmerson of Herne Bay said, “I’m bitter. It’s a perfectly workable airport with fantastic facilities, the best staff you could possibly want. I’m so angry that we haven’t been given a chance.”
Airport operations officer Glenn Sheppard said: “I can’t speak. I’m totally gutted. Thanet is a blackspot for employment… It’s going to be very difficult to find a job.”
Marta Easton, the airport’s longest-serving staff member, said: “I thought this woman (Gloag) was going to do big things with this airport….I never thought it would close.”
Carl Davies speaking on behalf of one of the fire crews said, “This is my team … These are the men of Blue Watch. They are proud, dedicated, professional and my second family.
After Thursday the majority of these lads will leave the fire service for another job or to join the ranks of East Kents unemployed. Our job, like many others in aviation is very specialised, requires many months / years of training and takes a certain kind of person. We haven’t got another airport on our doorstep, so their skills are next to useless in today’s job market.”
As a reminder – the timeline from purchase to closure by Mrs Gloag was just 213 days from 13th October 2013 – 15th May 2014.
On sealing the purchase from Infratil for £1 (plus considerations believed to be about £350,000) Ann Gloag said in October 2013 “I am delighted to have purchased Manston Airport from Infratil as I believe there is real potential for growth that has not been fully captured.Having worked in the transport industry for over 30 years, I believe I am very well placed to help maximise opportunities for both freight and passengers at Manston.”
On taking ownership in November 2013 Ann Gloag said, “As the new owner of Manston Airport, I am ready to work on investigating opportunities for Manston”.
Four months later, the official statement came, “Following a meeting with staff at Manston Airport in Kent today, Wednesday 19th March, we can confirm we have commenced a process of consultation over the possible orderly closure of the airport. No further comment will be made until the consultation period with staff has been concluded.”
Followed on 6th May by, “In the absence of other options, the decision has been taken to close the airport on 15th May.”
The airport closed on 15th May after Mrs Gloag stating that “no viable alternative” had been found.
Shortly after, on 27th May 2014, Ms Gloag told the Times that, “…talks were ongoing to secure the future of the site, with the construction of a garden city – including provision for thousands of homes – a possibility. The proposal could incorporate other schemes in Thanet ….such as Discovery Park Kent, a business park in Sandwich.”
It is difficult to believe that Mrs Gloag’s plans for the airport were anything other than development and this apparent deception is why campaigners are so driven to continue to fight for the future economic prosperity of Thanet through a reopened Manston.