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Transport minster says hopes of reopening Manston airport given…

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The airport has been closed since May last year

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TRANSPORT minister John Hayes claimed today the Conservatives had delivered a “double boost” to the campaign to reopen Manston airport.

Mr Hayes announced this afternoon (Thursday) RiverOak, the firm interested in reopening the Manston, would pay money into an account for use in the process of a compulsory purchase.

RiverOak intend to acquire the site from its current owners by becoming Thanet council’s indemnity partner for a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) of the former airfield.

Mr Hayes said: “It is quite understandable the council has been hesitant about embarking on a CPO when there are substantial costs to the local taxpayer in doing that.

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“I will today receive a letter from RiverOak, signed by their managing director, that they will, quote, ‘eliminate’ all costs from Thanet council by underwriting all of the cost of a compulsory purchase.

“I have furthermore suggested to them, and they have agreed, that in order to illustrate the validity of that agreement that the money associated with the CPO be paid into a separate account and that money can only be used for the process of underpinning the CPO.”

The transport minister also said Bristow, the company which provides search-and-rescue services in the South East of England, had agreed to base their operation at Lydd Airport for one year.

The single-year deal is intended to pave the way for Bristow, who planned to base their service at Manston before it closed in May last year, to move the service if the airport reopens.

However, Labour Thanet council leader Iris Johnson, who met with Mr Hayes this morning, said the announcement was nothing new and the Tories were “playing politics” before the General Election.

She said: “I had hoped when I was asked to meet the minister, he had travelled all the way down from Lincolnshire with something new.

“RiverOak have been telling us they will put something into a UK account since the summer and we are still waiting.

“It is vital we tell the public the truth and General Elections and local elections should not divert us from the facts.

“I would love to see the airport reopened, I used it all the time. But we should not be raising false hopes.”

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