We’re conscious that there has been a period of silence from us recently so we’re sending out this update. Some of you will already know what follows, having attended an NNF meeting last Sunday where some of this was discussed. Apologies – it’s long and there are no jokes in it, but a lot is going on behind the scenes.
OK, so where are we? We have had a couple of good NNF meetings in the last few weeks to work out where we are now and what to do next. Thank you, all of you, who came along. Apologies for not sending out an open invitation on NNF – we know that our Facebook site leaks and we wanted to be able to get on with our discussions in peace!
After a long period of nothing happening, and/or the only news being even more bonkers stuff issuing from the airport hobbyists, we are starting to feel optimistic that the focus is shifting. Here’s why:
- We’re having good conversations with the new spokesman (Ray Mallon) for the team that owns the Manston site
- The owners’ PR team (who we’re also speaking to) is on the ball
- The arrival of Ray Mallon and the recognition by the owners that they need to start their PR campaign means that soon the media debate about Manston will not be dominated 100% by Gale and SMA/SuMA/other airport lovers
- The owners will be in a position to make public their plans for the site very soon
- The new Leader of TDC, Chris Wells, will visit the owners’ development at Wynyard Park. This will be the first time that TDC will see what the site’s owners can deliver. It’ll be interesting to see how much he wants a long legal battle for a cargo hub producing just a few dozen jobs after that visit
- Chris Wells knows that the national Press are watching TDC with bated breath, and he’s very sensibly keen for the first UKIP council not to be a disaster
- The owners are emphatic that they’re not walking away from their site. They are in this for the long haul. They want to do something good for the site and for the area. They have good lawyers lined up and they know that a CPO will not be successful
- We’ve seen a recent statement about the financials of Wynyard Park and they are very sound. This makes a nonsense of the smears that SMA are putting about
- The owners’ team see us as logical, fact-based, sound and helpful.
For a number of reasons, we have been light on Ramsgate people prepared to be spokespeople for NNF. That has now been addressed. We’ve also been very quiet because, to be honest, there has been nothing to fight for – no formal decision to go for a CPO; no night flight application; no TDC playing of destructive games with the planning system just to get in the owners’ way – so we have hung on to our resources and focussed on being absolutely clear about the legal position; researching RiverOak; and working out where we could have most impact in a CPO process if TDC is daft enough to go for it.
Despite this low key approach recently, a bout of letter writing following our first meeting in Ramsgate a few weeks ago has made an impact on the newer councillors. We have an education job to do here. Some of the new UKIP councillors are completely unaware of what is planned for a RiverOak airport – i.e. they don’t even know that the plan is for a cargo hub and they’re unhappy when they have learned this from us. We need to make sure that they all realise that a CPO is a difficult thing to achieve and that RiverOak plans a cargo airport with few jobs.
The PwC report is still outstanding. Finally, thanks only to the Freedom of Information Act, we have the terms of reference for it. Here they are:
“The consultants, in the first phase of work, are not expected to reach a view on whether TDC’s due diligence was sufficient, nor on the reasonableness or otherwise of TDC’s conclusions. The consultants, in the first phase, should provide advice as follows:
Any key considerations that TDC could have taken into account at the time, based on a review of the information provided to TDC (at the time).
Further key considerations that TDC may wish to take into account in any further CPO review, based on a review of the additional information provided by RiverOak to the Department.
On the basis of the findings from the above, the consultant should also provide advice on what, if any, further work TDC may wish to undertake to help strengthen findings from any future due diligence exercise.
The consultants, in analysing the papers, will take note of specific point made by TDC in Paragraph 4 of their covering letter (point 1 – ‘Introduction and Preamble’ Annex A), that their dossier is distinct from the one submitted by Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co LLP on behalf of RiverOak, which contains some information not previously before the Council.
The consultants will not be expected to engage directly with either RiverOak or TDC, although questions of clarification can be directed to either party via the Department for Transport.
The Consultants will set out their conclusions in a full report to the Department for Transport by Friday 22nd May 2015 in accordance with the milestones set out in point 6.1.1.
The purpose of the report will be to inform aviation future policy development by the Department for Transport. For the avoidance of doubt, the opinions set out in the Consultant’s report will not in any way be binding on Government.”
You’ll notice that PwC will NOT be saying whether TDC’s due diligence was good, nor will they be saying whether or not RiverOak is a suitable indemnity partner. We know that the airport hobbyists and Gale have been setting a lot of store on this report, expecting that it will help them to bully TDC into approving RiverOak as an indemnity partner. It won’t.
The next plot point is the release of the owners’ plans. This is coming soon.
In this odd limbo phase, how can you help? Please do write to the Press. And, when you do, can you copy us in? (email@example.com – some of you are already doing this – thank you!). We ask because we’re sick and tired of seeing very few pro-regeneration letters published even though many NNF members tell us that they are writing and sending them. We’re building a dossier of unpublished material so that we can go to the local media with evidence of biased reporting.
Also, do write to your local Councillor(s) asking him/her/them where they stand on the future of that site and, if they are pro-airport and pro-CPO, asking them why. Encourage them to articulate for you what chance they think a CPO has of succeeding; why RiverOak are a better bet than the legal owners; and why a cargo hub will be better for Thanet and East Kent than the owners’ plans for their site.
We’re a long way from complacent – we know that politicians do daft things. However, after a year of listening to the airport hobbyists’ unsubstantiated allegations; smears; threadbare promises; spite and drivel, we think that the debate is about to change.
And when it does, who knows, there might even be an outbreak of common sense at TDC.
In the meantime, play nice on social media, people – our desire to build a reputation for being rational and logical is helping us with the people who matter most in this debate – the people who own the site.