Gale`s View – 16 July, 2014
Ms Gloag has one very considerable achievement to her name. In the desire to see Manston re-open as an operational airport and in opposition to her plans to build a housing estate on the site she has united Thanet in a way that few would f have thought possible. There are, of course, a few people who are opposed to Manston airport and there are still a few local politicians who remain determinedly out of step with public opinion for reasons about which we can only speculate but for the overwhelming majority there is now a desire and a determination to see planes using the runway once again.
One skirmish does not, of course, win a war. Nevertheless, the cross-party support given last week to the proposition that Thanet`s Cabinet should be given the power to seek a Compulsory Purchase Order is significant. Friday`s march and next Saturday`s meeting underscore popular support for that action and in a week`s time a petition will be presented to Downing Street also calling for government`s continued support for what we all regard as a national asset that cannot and should not be allowed to be destroyed in the interests of corporate greed.
There will be further developments this week as Thanet`s Cabinet continue their deliberations. They need our support and, so far as Laura and I are concerned they know that they have it, and they will need the financial backing of the identified business partner to provide and under-write the resources that the Council simply does not have. The political will, though, is there, and although it will take more time than most of us would have wished – realistically probably the best part of a year – I hold to the view that if we remain united then we can and will succeed in rescuing Manston in the national and in the local interest.
Minister pledges help with licensing issues
The Aviation Minister, Robert Goodwill, has told the House of Commons that the department of Transport is “more than happy to help with any Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) licensing issues” relating to the future of Manston Airport.
Commenting on remarks made by North Thanet`s MP, Sir Roger Gale, during a debate on Regional Airports the Minister said that “the tale of Manston is, I am afraid, rather an unhappy one so far although I am heartened by the fact that the local authority (TDC) is looking into what it can do and I spoke to the Leader of the Council last week”.
During the debate Sir Roger had reminded the House of Manston`s history saying that:
“It (Manston) was acquired by Ann Gloag of Stagecoach on 30th November last year. Mrs. Gloag told me on that date that she intended to invest heavily and give the airport two years. On budget Day, less than four months after the acquisition, she announced that it would close. That was in my view an act of vandalism. Manston shut in May in spite of the fact that RiverOak had put on the table an offer of the asking price of £7 million. Since that time the airport has been asset-stripped.”
Sir Roger continued:
“My Hon. Friend the Member for Thanet South (Laura Sandys) and I met with Sir Howard Davies (who is conducting a review of runway capacity in the South East) recently. He rightly said that while Manston was not under consideration as a hub airport he thought that the south-east would need all the runway capacity on offer and then some. In that context, again, we cannot afford to lose Manston.
Thanet`s controlling Labour Group proposed to give to the Cabinet powers to seek a compulsory purchase order last week. That proposition was seconded by the leader of the Conservative Opposition and it has the full support of Laura Sandys and me. I hope that it will, if necessary, have the support of Government. We expect that a CPO decision will be taken by Thanet`s cabinet by the end of the month. We think, with Thanet and, I believe, the nation that airfield has the potential to serve the Country as a freight hub and we want it to be re-opened for that purpose”
And the MP added:
“The Select Committee on Transport has, I understand, agreed to undertake an inquiry into the whole business of regional airports and I hope that as part of that process evidence will be taken from Manston and also, perhaps, from Mrs. Gloag in person who would, I am sure, be delighted to appear before the Select Committee and to explain her actions”.