Home ... NNF ... Manston ... Foley’s folly

I've never met David Foley, but I assume in my usual good-natured way that he is a decent guy. I have been interviewed with him on BBC Radio Kent, when he rather irritatingly talked across me, but that's hardly a hanging offence.

A quick search on the Internet reveals that Mr Foley is active in a number of local organisations ranging from the National War Memorial to the Royal Society of Arts, which is commendable – community involvement is "a good thing".

I assume that Mr Foley has experienced business head on his shoulders, which makes the apparent naivete of some of his comments in the press all the more surprising.

Foley’s folly

I’ve never met David Foley, but I assume in my usual good-natured way that he is a decent guy. I have been interviewed with him on BBC Radio Kent, when he rather irritatingly talked across me, but that’s hardly a hanging offence.

A quick search on the Internet reveals that Mr Foley is active in a number of local organisations ranging from the National War Memorial to the Royal Society of Arts, which is commendable – community involvement is “a good thing”.

I assume that Mr Foley has experienced business head on his shoulders, which makes the apparent naivete of some of his comments in the press all the more surprising.

Flybe has been a very good user at Manston and has brought in a new dimension but it is not the only airline in the world. If we can get an international carrier in then that will dwarf the few domestic flights Flybe operated.

It is of course true that Flybe is not the only airline in the world, but it is one of the few that has been persuaded to use Manston airport. It has also stopped using Manston airport due to lack of passengers. If an international carrier could be “got”, then it probably would have happened by now. I think it’s a pretty safe bet that ever since Infratil bought Manston, they will have been trying their utmost to do just that.

The airport says it will deliver 3,000 jobs by 2018.

Absolutely true, Mr Foley. Manston’s business plan makes the prediction that in the year 2018 the airport will employee 3000 people to handle 3 million passengers – a thousand jobs per million passengers. This is about four times the ratios that we see in comparable airports across the UK. For example, Glasgow Prestwick airport (which is owned by the same company that owns Manston) employs 250 people per million passengers. Infratil’s sales pitch is that they will willingly over-staff Manston airport by 400%. And Mr Foley believes it.

Infratil is a very different company from EUjet. It has deeper pockets. It has pumped around £40m into Manston. It has been a benign investor in the best sense of the word. It is in the best position to plan its future strategy.

Infratil is an infrastructure investment company which promises its shareholders a 20% return on investment. There is nothing “benign” about Infratil’s behaviour in any of its business dealings – its success in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific is a result of hardheaded commercial decisions. Infratil is currently thinking of selling Prestwick airport (it’s only other European airport) because of its poor performance. Prestwick’s performance far outstrips Manston’s performance, which doesn’t bode well for Manston’s future.

Inward investors with £40 million to spend on improving our infrastructure are in short supply. We must cherish Infratil and remind the doubters that Manston Airport has been in operation since 1915.

The £40 million the Infratil has poured in Manston, to the dismay of some of its investors, has not improved our infrastructure. This money has effectively disappeared, to cover the costs of the loss-making airport. We can cherish Infratil much as we like, but that will have no influence on what looks like an increasingly inevitable business decision to leave Manston.

I am continually surprised that people refer to Manston’s venerable history as a military airport as if it has any bearing on the current situation. Instead, attention should focus on the airport’s performance since 1999 when it passed into private hands. It has made a loss ever since.

David Foley is Chief Executive of Thanet and East Kent Chamber Ltd which is often referred to as a Chamber of Commerce. I don’t know if it’s standard practice to set up a Chamber of Commerce as a limited company, but Thanet and East Kent Chamber Ltd doesn’t feature anywhere on the website of the British Chambers of Commerce. BCC is the national body for a Network of Accredited Chambers of Commerce across the UK.

It is David Foley’s role in Thanet and East Kent Chamber Ltd that makes him the “go to guy” for the local press when it comes to local business issues. Having looked at their website I am none the wiser as to how many local businesses have paid for membership of Mr Foley’s enterprise, or what kind of companies they might be. It seems likely that Manston airport has paid for membership.

I’ll be pleased to hear from anyone who is a member of the Thanet and East Kent Chamber, particularly those in the tourism and hospitality industries. I’m also curious to know when and how Mr Foley canvassed the opinions of his members regarding night flights.

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No comments

  1. Is part of the 40 million an investment from our foolish GOSE, SEEDA, TDC and KCC. Let's have the breakdown Mr Foley…..Thought not, and there's more about the so called investment. I mean to say who paid for the new radar?

  2. The windfarm paid for the new radar. And windfarms are heavily subsidised by the government. So you could say WE the taxpayer contributed heavily for the new radar at private, loss-making manston.

  3. The sooner they sell off that huge area of land, the better. There is no end to the list of cronies like Foley making their inane comments allegedly "promoting" Kent business at the expenses of local people's sleep!!!

  4. Herne Bay Resident

    I am not sure what is happening as the flights over my house have seemed to stop???I was regularly woken in the night and also the day time flights were unbearable.Where have they gone? Have they changed the flightpath?

  5. Had a look at 'The Chamber' website; found the following: The Thanet & East Kent Chamber operates in liaison with the Dover District Chamber of Commerce, established in 1850, forming the largest business support organisation in the East Kent coastal business community. We also work closely with the following:Thanet District Council; Dover District Council; Dover Town Council; Kent County Council; Business Link South East; Valuation Office Agency; Thanet Works; Margate Town Partnership; Deal & Walmer Chamber of Trade; Dover Harbour BoardAll a bit woolly, then under 'benefits' it all became clear:Representation- Presenting your views to District Councillors, Kent County Councillors, MPs & Government- Arranging for your[sic] to meet key decision-makers who influence your business- Presenting your products and services to new companies and buyers- Lobbying for you on business rates, planning decisions, transport links, grants and taxEnough said?

  6. Thanet Resident and Business Owner

    It seems that the Kent Federation of Small Business and Thanet Chamber of Commerce seem to support new airports being built despite damage to wildlife and night flights, both of which impact on quality of life for people who live in the area. I would imagine any business owner would like their staff to turn up to work being able to function without having suffered sleep deprivation. The boss probably wants an uninterrupted sleep as well.I for one will not renew may FSB membership when it comes up for renewal as it doesn't represent my views. As for the Thanet Chamber of Commerce, they have always seemed a strange lot to me.

  7. Danno - Herne Bay

    Following up on Foley's Folly, just who is this fly-by-night character? A search on the Internet indicates that Mr F has his fingers in many pies. His main areas of activity seem to relate more to Dover – so why can't he concentrate on those and stop meddling in the Manston debate? It would be interesting to discover what his alliances actually are in Thanet and whether he has had any active involvement with Manston – either in an advisory capacity or even as a business customer. He clearly doesn't understand the facts and the statistics that have been quoted or the issues that affect those living close to or under the Manston flightpath – or perhaps he is biased and chooses to ignore them because of his relationships with businesses in the area, including Infratil? Is he even a resident of Thanet? Doubt it somehow – and certainly not under the flightpath!

  8. Alfred Ticklebottom

    Clearly there is a divergent range of opinions on the subject of David Foley and Manston airport. Some might say there is enough hot air to start balloon flights as an additional option. This would appear to be a waste of a perfectly good runway. IMHO those who oppose the idea of having noisy airoplanes flying over their homes should not have bought a house near an airport.