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Manston not told of rival airport

Airport chiefs insist that plans for Manston will not be deflected by speculation about a new airport on north Kent marshland. Bosses at Wiggins Group, owners of London Manston, were surprised when they learned about the leaked proposal to develop Cliffe marshes, a unique wildlife site.

According to company sources, they were not consulted about the possibility of a rival terminal just 30 miles away. They also say that experts advising the government about possible sites to cope with the looming capacity crisis spent little time at Manston. In a preliminary report, Cliffe was mentioned as an option alongside possible extra runways at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

Wiggins has invested heavily in new navigation aids, is investing £7 million in a new apron and taxiways and has extensive plans for further development, including a new terminal. Before the shock revelations about Cliffe, the group said it hoped to create more than 6,000 jobs and attract 10 million passengers through the terminal over the next 15 years.

Airport director Alastair Robertson condemned the Cliffe proposal. He said:

“We see absolutely no point going through the considerable time, trouble and expansion of building a very speculative airport in an area of environmental sensitivity.”

It was ludicrous to consider damaging a wildlife site “when you’ve got a perfectly viable alternative at Manston which is already operating”.

kentonline 12th Mar 2002

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