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Manston airport: Transport Select Committee grill key players

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Manston Skysport director Pauline Bradley said Manston airport closed amid huge debts and failure to attract new firms relocate to the site

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MANSTON airport owners told they Transport Select Committee they blamed the closure of the site on massive debts and a failure to attract business from Ryanair and British Airways.

At an oral evidence session at Portcullis House in Westminster, politicians, business owners and representatives from lobby groups were grilled by committee members

Manston Skyport director Pauline Bradley said the airport racked up debts of £4.5million by the time the decision was made to close the site.

Mrs Bradley also claimed talks with Ryanair and British Airways to move operations to Manston broke down after both firms changed their business strategies.

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She said: “Myself and [airport owner] Ann Gloag met with Michael O’Leary and Michael Cawley [Ryanair chief executive and deputy chief executive] about using Manston as a hub.

“They did consider Manston, they sent someone down to have a look at it. At the time we were talking about five routes bringing 85,000 passengers a year to Manston, increasing to 300,000 by 2019.

“There was a really credible opportunity to do business at Manston at the time.”

However, the intentions of owners before closure and the current ownership structure of company planning a mixed-use development at the site were brought into question.

Labour MP for Glasgow South Tom Harris asked Mrs Bradley: “Manston Skyport never intended to run Manston as an airport did it?”

Mrs Bradley replied: “Manston Skyport did intend to run Manston as an airport and that is why we had the conversations we did with Ryanair.”

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale said he had been “misled” by Stagecoach bus Tycoon Mrs Gloag, who told him she would operate the airport for at least two years and invest heavily.

Sir Roger said: “I believe now that I was seriously misled. Mrs Gloag had no intention of running this as an airport and every intention of turning it into an asset stripping operation.”

The veteran Conservative MP also said he believed proposals by American firm Riveroak Investment to reopen the airport as a cargo hub were viable.

He added: “They have stuck with this and I believe the reason they want to do this is because they can make money out of it.”

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