Manston’s boss has defended efforts to persuade the government to underwrite the costs of a new service out of the Kent airport. Chief executive Charles Buchanan said subsidies from the public purse were commonplace and it was unfair to describe them as sweeteners.
His comments follow our disclosure that KCC and Infratil, which operates the airport, had sought to persuade ministers to provide £600,000 to underwrite a twice-daily service out of Manston for the first three years of its operation.
An unnamed company is in confidential talks about the service, which could get underway next April. Mr Buchanan said:
“It is unfair to call this bid for support a ‘sweetener’. What are known as route development funds are approved of by the European Commission because they have been proven to build strong regional economies. Public funding for the development of routes between airports is commonplace in Europe and has been, and continues to be, used in the UK. For example, the recent announcement of the start of a new service between Inverness and Amsterdam was on the back of support from Highlands & Islands Enterprise. Support funding was also contributed by the Highland Council, the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership and VisitScotland.”
With the closure of Pfizer, it was even more important to focus on stimulating the east Kent economy.
“Investing in routes from Manston would deliver significant benefit to the area. We recently published an economic impact report undertaken by York Aviation which suggested that Manston could provide direct employment for 2,070 people and a further 1,035 jobs in the wider economy by 2018 through the delivery of our masterplan.”
He confirmed that discussions were taking place with other operators interested in providing new routes. According to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act by KCC, consultants had estimated the new twice-daily route would create 23 jobs at the airport and a further 133 across the area over the next eight years.
Campaigners opposed to the expansion of Manston argued those figures were modest and raised questions about the value of a public subsidy and the viability of the airport over the long term.
kentonline 16th Jun 2011