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Manston loses search and rescue

Manston AirportManston Airport closed last May with the loss of 150 jobs

Plans to base search and rescue helicopters at Manston have been scrapped after the airport’s closure.

The Kent airfield was announced in 2013 as one of 10 UK bases for the helicopters when private company Bristow takes over the service in July.

But a letter from transport minister John Hayes on Thursday confirmed Manston would no longer be used.

Leader of Thanet District Council (TDC) Iris Johnston said she was furious and “pretty surprised”.

‘Uncertain future’

Manston closed in May and has been sold to regeneration specialists who plan to develop the site for manufacturing, housing and schools.

In a letter to the airport’s consultative committee, Mr Hayes, said: “It is disappointing that Manston Airport’s closure has forced Bristow to consider alternative locations.

“The uncertain future of the airport has placed an intolerable risk on the company.”

Iris JohnstonIris Johnston said she was furious and felt she had been kept in the dark

Ms Johnston said it was her understanding that search and rescue helicopters would now be based at Lydd airport on Romney Marsh when the service was handed to Bristow by the RAF and Royal Navy.

She said she felt she was kept in the dark and had still been hopeful the helicopters would go to Manston.

“You didn’t need a fully operating airport to have the search and rescue. There you could have that service without having all the rest that goes with it,” she said.

Conservative MP for North Thanet Sir Roger Gale said TDC was responsible for the uncertainty.

“The cabinet has decided not to go for compulsory purchase order [of the airport],” he said.

“That has caused delay and uncertainty over the future of the airfield and that in turn has meant Bristow had to look somewhere else.”

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