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Back the fight for council buy-out of Manston airport

AIRPORT CLOSURE: Manston closes for the last time.
AIRPORT CLOSURE: Manston closes for the last time.

SHOULD companies show corporate responsibility for the people whose areas and amenities they exploit? That’s a question currently being answered by people in Manston who are fighting to save our regional airport. Stagecoach tycoon Ann Gloag bought Manston for £1 last October and closed it on May 15, citing losses, in spite of an offer made by the American company RiverOak for the full asking price of £7 million. Paul Smith, a former Manston airfield engineer, told me:

“More than 85 per cent of employees are now without jobs, and grievances are being lodged by the union, Unite.”

Paul believes events indicate that closure was always intended.

“Everything was predetermined,” he told me. “Gloag’s representatives said they would not accept offers and they didn’t. They claimed the offers made were not viable, not substantiated, not in time and that the staff already have jobs. All were wrong,” said Paul, stressing, “River Oak would have completed the deal by May 31.”

Thanet’s Green parliamentary candidate, Councillor Ian Driver, agrees:

“It’s my personal opinion that Gloag acquired the airport to build housing on the land. Her team was in secret discussions with Thanet District Council, confirmed by details I recently obtained from a Freedom of Information request.”

Driver told me that three unofficial (and therefore un-minuted) meetings took place and Gloag’s planning consultants submitted a document to TDC which indicated that an application would be put forward to build 1,000 homes on “redundant airport land”. Why did they take place? Cllr Driver believes that many more houses are planned and will bring Gloag a greater return than the RiverOak deal. With more Freedom of Information requests pending, Driver believes that Gloag’s team was not only in discussion with TDC but also with Kent County Council and its leader, Paul Carter.

High risk

Cllr Driver, Sir Roger Gale MP and Manston campaigners are now calling for Thanet council to repossess the airport with a Compulsory Purchase Order. When I asked if this wasn’t a high risk for the local authority, Cllr Driver explained:

“Manston airport is strategically important land so the council is able to make the purchase for the economic wellbeing of Thanet.”

Paul Smith endorses this:

“We have a business plan that will put Manston into profit within two years, we have investors willing to back us, we have a council possibly seeking a CPO and a new council leader who opposes the building of houses on this land. Even the Prime Minister has stated that Manston is of national importance.”

Cllr Ian Driver said:

“Gloag should gift back the airport to the people of Kent.”

I believe Gloag’s conduct reflects badly on the company from which she made her wealth and so I aim to boycott Stagecoach buses. Recently quoted as saying that she wants to give half of her £500 million fortune to good causes, where better place could Gloag start than at Manston? Sign the petition for a compulsory purchase order at: www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/sir-roger-gale-place-a-compulsory-purchase-order-on-manston-airport-kent
Save Manston Airport Facebook page: www.facebook.com/groups/616428761 764523/?fref=ts

Herne Bay Times, May 28th 2014

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