The Commons Transport Select Committee will hold a second evidence session as part of the smaller airports enquiry on 2nd February. This session will focus on the case of Manston Airport in Kent which was abruptly closed in in March last year after almost 100 years of operation. This is in spite of the airport site now facing possible proposals of housing and an industrial estate sprawl.
The Committee will convene at 16:00 to call for evidence from witnesses including directors of the airport who rung the death knell, partners of RiverOak Investment Corp. who would like to compulsory purchase the site in conjunction with Thanet District Council, and pro-airport groups. The session in the Boothroyd Room at Portcullis House is set to be a milestone for local campaigners who hope to see national support for the airport. Evidence collected during the enquiry will be reported to the House of Commons, and the government will then have 60 days to reply to the Select Committee’s recommendations.
Thanet District Council has investigated the possibility of performing a compulsory purchase order (CPO) on the site, and has decided against this option “at the present time”. This is despite proposed CPO partner, RiverOak, offering to indemnify the council of legal and financial responsibility. Riveroak have developed a two-phase business plan which they believe will “revive Manston Airport as a successful and profitable sky port and integrated aviation services hub.” The plan includes cargo, business aviation, aircraft maintenance and recycling, with an eventual view to restoring passenger services. They say their plan will “create significant local skilled employment” and could solve UK airspace capacity problems.
Recent exchanges between RiverOak and Thanet District Council leaked into the public domain show that the American investor was in talks with Airbus about using the airport as a possible aircraft recycling site. The world’s largest aircraft manufacturer said it was “becoming concerned at the delay” in re-opening the airport.
Manston Airport has had a proud history serving the nation since 1916 as RAF Manston, seeing service in WW1, WW2 and the Cold War. In 1999 the airport began its more recent life as a civilian passenger and freight airport. The airport was served by double-daily flights from Manston to Amsterdam from 2013 until its closure. Other regular visitors included British Airways for flight training and several cargo airlines. John Adams Logistics Coordinator of Finlays, a major cargo importer who had used the airport for 14 years, says the airport could be “a successful and profitable operation if ran with vision and determination.” He believes the airport to be “one of the most valuable assets in East Kent.”
Supporters of Manston Airport is an organisation dedicated to the revitalisation and promotion of the Manston Airport site as a local and national aviation asset. With a large runway and uncongested airspace, extensive infrastructure and proximity to Europe, we believe the airport is ideally suited to meet UK aviation demands now and into the future.