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We should ditch the idea of airport

Derek Thompson is right on one point in his letter (Airport Site Plans Are Simply Fantasy, Herne Bay Gazette, April 9). Thanet would welcome more jobs. So would all of east Kent. However, Mr Thompson is wrong to think an airport would be the best possible solution. The Davies Commission has dismissed Manston as playing any significant role in aviation capacity in the south east. It’s in the wrong place. Under all its different owners, it’s always the same outcome. It’s never made a profit in 15 years in private hands. It never carried as much as 2% of the national freight – a minnow. KLM flights averaged 44% full which was well below break even. It’s been tried as an airport and has failed. What happens next to the ex-airport site at Manston matters to Thanet.

It also matters to Herne Bay, because we’re under the flight path, and to all of east Kent because of the opportunity for prosperity if the smart decisions are made. Sir Roger Gale wants to resurrect the airport as a cargo hub with aircraft tear down facilities (a knacker’s yard for planes). The American company behind the plans have shown their business plan to Parliament — it promises 39 jobs. Sir Roger thinks Herne Bay may benefit from some of these jobs. But how many jobs would it cost? Draw a straight line across a map of Herne Bay from the end of Hampton Pier through the water tower on Mickleburgh Hill by the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital. That’s the flight path for the arriving cargo flights — right over the seafront B&Bs. Herne Bay is a seaside tourist town. We can’t afford anything to discourage visitors from returning.

In jobs alone, a cargo airport at Manston is bad news for Herne Bay, let alone the stress and health implications of broken sleep. When Pfizer left Sandwich, everyone forecast doom. The team who are now making a success of that site are now the owners of the Manston site. Contrary to what Mr Thompson said, advanced manufacturing jobs are being brought in at a stroke, or nearly. There are 500 jobs lined up, waiting for a change of use order for the hangars, from aviation to manufacturing. The ex-airport site that never employed more than 150 people, could employ three times that at a stroke. And Herne Bay could benefit from some of those jobs. The proposals include advanced manufacturing, TV and film production facilities, an east Kent sports centre, schools, doctors and housing. That’s a lot of employment potential, just down the road, and without jeopardising our tourism business. As we approach the elections, we need to see which of our candidates have our long term best interests at heart.

Phil Rose
Beacon Hill, Herne Bay

Herne Bay Gazette, April 16th 2015

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