MP Sir Roger Gale’s response to news that Bristow plans to base its search and rescue service at Lydd because of the closure of Manston airport has been slammed by the Chairman of the Kent International Airport Consultative Committee (KIACC).
Sir Gale had said the decision by Bristow was “neither news nor surprising”. He described KIACC as a “former” committee and added that:
“Bristow’s are now faced with a contractual responsibility to commence SAR services from the South East in the early summer and they have to make a decision about, at least in the short-term, where their aircraft will operate from. Had TDC commenced CPO proceedings in September or had the owner of the airport done a deal with the SAR operator then we might have been able to maintain the service at Manston but it would be grossly irresponsible, dangerous and potentially life-threatening to leave the busiest sea lane in the world without Search and Rescue cover.”
The letter from Transport Minister John Hayes said issues with using Manston included “security of tenure and access to a suitable length of runway.”
KIACC chairman and former assistant secretary for Civil Aviation Policy at the Department of Transport, Paul Twyman has hit back at Sir Gale’s comments. He said:
“We are not “former” but continue to hold our regular meetings. Indeed KIACC has recently been strengthened by the addition of Dr Beau Webber of the Save Manston Airport Group and Ms Ros McIntyre of No Night Flights.
This balanced membership might give us a clue as to why Sir Roger is so dismissive of us – as a statutory committee we have not embarked on an unbalanced campaign of vilification of Mrs Gloag, Thanet District Council or any of the other players in the Manston debate.
As to the change in the location of the Bristow helicopters it is pretty obviously news (which is why it has appeared in newspapers). Interestingly I first wrote to ministers in December last year. You may wonder why it took so long (and a complaint to the Secretary of State) to force a letter out of the Department of Transport. Moreover, now we have this belated response it does not make sense.
There is absolutely no reason why a helicopter base could not be free standing (think of Battersea Heliport) since helicopters do not need the long runway and Civil Aviation Authority legislation could safeguard the operations and prevent building that would make operations unsafe in any way. So the politicians’ story does not add up.
It might have been better to have tried to Save Part of Manston instead of being diverted on to huffing and puffing about ownership, who said what to whom, and all the rest of the distractions from doing what is best for the local area in the long term.”