Manston Airport has taken a step into the big league by unveiling an £8 million apron and taxiway. Aviation minister David Jamieson officially opened the 10 acres of concrete by cutting a ceremonial ribbon. The new facility can take more and larger aircraft under a master plan that could see £150 million invested in the Thanet airport, including a new terminal and fast rail links with London over the next 10 years.
These plans could see jobs rise from 400 to 6,000, and passenger numbers soar to thee million within five years. Talks are already well advanced with low-cost airlines to operate scheduled services and a deal could be finalised by the end of the year. Mr Jamieson, who arrived by helicopter, said the airport had developed “far beyond anyone’s expectations”. It was now the country’s seventh biggest in terms of cargo handling. He said:
“The Government very much welcomes this development and we value the contribution that the airport makes to the local community, particularly in job creation.”
Referring to the recent Government regional airport report that dismissed Manston’s credentials in two paragraphs, Mr Jamieson said it was up to local people to say if they wanted more growth at Manston.
“What I’ve seen today is a very interesting new development but it’s not for me to second-guess what the future of Manston is. People should respond to the consultation document and if they want more development at Manston, they should put that forward.”
Dr Steve Ladyman, MP for Thanet South, said Manston was a significant regional airport and he was not disappointed by the report. That was about extra runway capacity for London.
“With the proximity of Ramsgate, we couldn’t put up with the level of traffic that an international hub would require. I’m delighted with the scale that both the owners and Government have identified for Manston. It’s jobs and no pain.”
Tony Freudmann, for airport owner Wiggins, said the latest development was only the first phase:
“Within two years, this will be an airport that will be well-placed to see a very rapid growth in both cargo and passengers,” he said. The government’s report put forward ideas that were controversial and would take years to put into place. This airport is here, it exists, it has a runway long enough for international and inter-continental traffic and it has enough expansion land for the foreseeable future.”
kentonline 1st Aug 2002