Brexit: Manston on my Mind

What started off as a rumour on social media, and led to an underwhelming ‘no deal’ Brexit contingency exercise, has made millions of people around the world aware of Manston Airport through the international media It was suggested on 3rd January that the Department for Transport, in conjunction with Kent County Council, was planning a test of the movement of 100-150 HGVs from Manston Airport down to Dover via the A256.  What actually happened was only a small amount of lorries turning up, an apparently lost key, and a very controlled movement on coned-off roads, with the general public being fully aware of the plan. This “window dressing” as some outlets have called it, however, has put Manston on the minds of many people, thanks to the global press. Of course, the story was first reported in full by our local news website (and now print newspaper) The Isle of Thanet News, run by Kathy Bailes, and subsequently by Kent Live. It was relatively quiet over the weekend, with Sky News being one of the few outlets to report on the planned test. But the situation really blew up when it became apparent that only 89 HGVs had turned up for the exercise. From there, the story was carried by The Guardian, the Daily Mail, and more. The ever-informed i News ran a step-by-step guide to the trial, but lost points by calling it Operation Block.  Transport Network reported a lower figure of just 79 HGVs. City A.M. said that it was expected the test would cause delays, being the first real day back to work and school for many. Kent Live branded the exercise ‘shambolic’.  Reuters said the ‘war game’ had prompted scorn. The New European published MP Charlie Elphicke’s comments that the test “will cause enormous confusion”. RTE had a interview with RHA chief executive Richard Burnett, who said the exercise was “too little, too late” (as did TalkRADIO). The South China Morning Post called it a ‘waste of time’. The Express reported that the HGV drivers were paid £550 to take part. Euronews called the exercise a ‘fake traffic jam’, but carried a short recommendation from campaigner Ruth Bailey. Following this, the story was picked up by the Handy Shipping Guide, BBC News, Eyewitness News, Yahoo News, The Loadstar, Beloit Daily News, The Metro, The Irish Times, the Irish Journal, ITV News, Quartz, the Irish Examiner, The New American and The New York Times. We think there’s a better solution. Riveroak Strategic Partners are attempting to acquire Manston Airport via a development consent order, in order to re-open it as an air freight hub. This is certainly a better use of the site than as a lorry park, or for over 3,700 houses. If you’ve found us today because of the international press, or if you think the same, why not join us?

(This post is not an endorsement of any of the media outlets mentioned or linked, except of course for The Isle of Thanet News.)

What started off as a rumour on social media, and led to an underwhelming ‘no deal’ Brexit contingency exercise, has made millions of people around the world aware of Manston Airport through the international media.

Local Plan Rejected

local plan rejected

Councillors at Thanet District Council have voted against the proposed Local Plan which suggested building at least 2,500 houses on Manston Airport.

Despite a ‘Project Fear’ operated by leader Chris Wells and CEO Madeline Homer, 35 councillors (including 12 UKIP councillors) rejected the plan.  Twenty voted in favour.

The scaremongering threatened the involvement of Sajid Javid MP if the plan was not voted through, which would see “an extra 3,000 homes” needed if MHCLG got involved in Thanet’s local plan.

After the vote, Chris Wells said, “This was the most stupid decision councillors can make if they really want an airport”.  That’s coming from the man who was elected solely on the promise to re-open Manston Airport.

A report commissioned by RiverOak Strategic Partners shows that TDC can meet its housing quote without building on Manston Airport.

“The airport that refuses to die”

thoughtbubble featured

The following is an article from MultiBrief Exclusive, entitled “Manston: The airport that refuses to die”, written by Matt Falcus. The article can be read in full at:

Manston is one of the UK’s most historic airfields. Used for flight training during World War I, it became a base during World War II for pilots engaging in aerial dogfighting in the Battle of Britain, and was one of the country’s closest airfields to the enemy during the conflict.

Life after the war for Manston never quite fulfilled its potential. Years of struggling to attract enough vacation charter traffic to survive were supplemented by cargo flights and a brief dalliance with a scheduled airline during the start of the low-cost boom. A few other scheduled airlines tried to make a go of the newly expanded site, but all eventually left leading ultimately to the airport closing in 2014 and the loss of many jobs.

Emotions have remained high over the future of the site, which has been earmarked for housing and development since closure. Many locals wish to see the airport reopen for flights, and this week it was announced another consultation is to be held by RiverOak Strategic Partners to reopen Manston as a cargo airport.

With a long runway capable of handling aircraft of any size and close proximity to both London and Continental Europe via the ferry and Channel Tunnel transport links, Manston is perfectly sited to benefit from such a development.

To date, planning approvals have been sought to build 2,500 homes on the site, along with commercial buildings and parkland. Yet the idea of returning it to use as an airport has always been held as a possibility, with feasibility studies held by the local council. This was given a boost in May when a new potential investor approached the council to ask it to acquire the site as it had a U.S. cargo airline wishing to base up to 12 aircraft at the airport.

An admission that this use could lead to night flights means noise mitigation plans need to be in place to protect neighbors under the flight path, and 2,200 responses to a consultation held in the summer are currently being worked through.

“We are also taking the opportunity to update our environmental assessment in line with the latest EU Directive in respect of which we will also welcome comments,” said George Yarrell, director of RiverOak.

While the proposals to return flying to Manston are ironed out, the site’s owners — Stone Hill Park — are pressing ahead with plans for building homes. They have also put forward a plan to use part of the 9,000-foot runway for vintage flights, along with new buildings for the two on-site museums which tell the history of the airfield.

However, the campaign group Save Manston Airport Association said: “For Stone Hill Park to offer a small landing strip when the people of Thanet want their long runway back open for commercial flights, and the jobs they bring, is to completely miss the point.”

Decisions on whether RiverOak Strategic Partners, Stone Hill Park and the local Thanet Council will be fruitful in their proposals for the future of Manston are expected in early 2018.

Matt Falcus is a British aviation writer and author, and editor of the Airport Spotting Blog, which delivers daily news on airline and airport operations around the world.

An anonymous investor

thoughtbubble featured

Local newspapers (and their online editions) have been awash this week with the news of a surprise “new investor” interested in acquiring the Manston Airport site.

It emerged on Wednesday that an unnamed American logistics company had approached Thanet District Council (via a German intermediary) with a £100m plan to act as an indemnity partner for a compulsory purchase of the site.  The news was that this company plans to base 12 planes at Manston.

Of interesting note is that this news was released by Chris Wells (TDC Leader) the day before the Kent County Council elections, for which he was standing in the Cliftonville seat (and which he ultimately lost to the Conservatives).

Electioneering?  Definitely.

Thanet North Parliamentary candidate Sir Roger Gale, stalwart supporter of the campaign to return aviation to Manston Airport said of this new emergence:

“If there is indeed another serious player on the field then I would strongly advise that they make contact with me and, more importantly, that they seek to make common cause with RiverOak Strategic Partnership  as the company that has already carried out the necessary Environmental Impact Assessment and has the Development Consent order process in hand.”

Chris Wells said:

“We have made it very clear from the beginning that providing an inward investor can show proof of funds, then we are duty-bound to work with them in the best interests of our residents”

Avid readers will remember that Chris Wells spent £50,000 of Thanet rate-payers’ cash on the Avia report, which when cross-examined by RSP’s legal team at the recent public inquiry into change of use of buildings at Manston Airport, was found to be deeply flawed.  Despite Cllr Wells’ best attempts, it is no basis to use to permit the building of at least 2,500 houses on Manston Airport (in the removal of the Saved Policy protecting the Airport for aviation use only from the Local Plan).

We wait to see how this one pans out, and what more the local media has to report on it.

Sir Roger Bangs the Drum for Manston

sir roger gale header

The campaign to save Manston Airport rolled into the House of Commons this week following the launch of an all-party group for general aviation.

Thanet North MP Sir Roger Gale renewed his vow to fight to see Manston re-opened and aircraft once again landing and taking off at the historic airfield, describing it as an “act of corporate vandalism” on the same week that Thanet District Council opens its consultation into amendments to its local plan, where it proposes the site will be turned over for mixed-use, rather than just aviation.

A report by consultants Avia Solutions last year concluded that airport operations at Manston were “very unlikely to be financially viable”.

Sir Roger was joined at the launch by television personality Carol Vorderman, who owns and flies her own light aircraft and has previously done so from Manston.

At the meeting, the former Countdown star stressed the importance of the contribution made by the Air Cadets, for whom she is an ambassador, to the training of tomorrow’s young pilots and engineers and of the country’s airfields to the future of jobs and prosperity both now and post-Brexit.

Sir Roger himself paid tribute to the late Ted Girdler, the former Red Arrows pilot and founder of TG Aviation, and for his family’s work in running a flying club and promoting general aviation.

He also called upon the group to press for legislation to protect airfields from changes in planning use, saying that “once these national assets are gone they are lost forever”.

The group has been formed under the chairmanship of the MP Byron Davies to promote the interests of general aviation and to protect further airfields from closure and re-development as “brownfield sites”. Mr Davies said: “General aviation is worth over £3 billion to the UK annually, provides unrivalled training to our pilots and supports a huge industry of enthusiastic aviators.

“Aviation has a long and proud tradition in the UK and supports thousands of jobs in constituencies across the country yet it faces a crisis that must be averted.

“Together with [former party chairman, aviation minister and private pilot] Grant Shapps, we seek to change the current situation by supporting the industry as strongly as possible and to seek to influence government policy.”

From Kent News (

Meeting: Manston’s aviation future

russ timpson

Manston airport campaigners plan to prove that the site has a viable aviation future at a public meeting next month.

Thanet Liberal Democrats have organised the event for February 4 at Margate’s Winter Gardens from 10am until 2pm.

Lib Dem member Russ Timpson says there are various “ambitious activities” that could take place at the former airfield and is keen to discuss the options while the consultation period for Thanet’s draft local plan is running.

The local plan – a blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure up to 2031 – suggests designating Manston airport for mixed use development – ending a caveat for aviation only.

A report to council Cabinet members last month said: “The site has the capacity to deliver at least 2,500 new dwellings, and up to 85,000sqm employment and leisure floorspace.”

An application for mixed use development of the site has been submitted by current owners Stone Hill Park. The proposal includes a business park focused on advanced manufacturing – including digital and emerging energy firms – up to 2,500 new homes, plus national sports and leisure facilities with about one-third of the site reserved for parkland and open space.

American firm RiverOak has alternative plans to retain aviation – including cargo business – and is in the process of submitting a Development Consent Order to the Government.

The homes would be part of 17,140 needed by 2031, although some 1555 dwellings have already been delivered.

Mr Timpson is hoping to persuade the public, and the council, the remove the mixed use plan for the site and concentrate on the aviation possibilities.

He said: “This technical meeting, supported by groups fighting to save the airport, will take place in the Winter Gardens (Queens Hall) Margate, from 10 am till 2 pm on Saturday 4 February 2017. It will be a platform for relevant subject experts to explain how Manston Aviation Hub could generate a viable business and revenue streams for Manston from cargo handling, aircraft recycling, pilot training and private flying, and a spaceport.

“Overall it will amount to a clear statement of the case for accepting that Manston can be a sustainable, viable aviation services hub, bringing employment and innovation to Thanet for many years, and making full use of a valuable existing asset.

The meeting has been organised by Thanet Liberal Democrats – but is in no way a political platform and there will not be any political speeches.”

Anyone who would like to attend can book a free ticket here.

Article taken from Kent Live (

News: Anger about private meeting

tdc office

From Kent Live:

Private Meeting

Campaigners who want the Manston airport site to be returned to aviation use intend to rally at a Thanet council meeting tonight.

Members of the planning committee are due to discuss an appeal against a council decision to refuse change of use permission for one building and non-determination on applications for a further three buildings at the airport site.

Lothian Shelf (718) Ltd has launched the appeal for:

  • Non-determination of an application for temporary change of use of Building 1 (referred to by the LPA as Building South of Terminal 1 (Hanger 1)
  • Refusal of an application for the proposed change of use of Building 2 (referred to by the LPA as Building 870)
  • Non-determination of an application for change of use of Building 3 (referred to by the LPA as Manston Airport Cargo Centre & Responding Vehicle Point)
  • Non-determination of an application for change of use Building 4
No press or public

Members of the Save Manston Airport association (SMAa) are angry that the committee is being advised to vote to exclude the press and public from the discussion.

Chairman Beau Webber said: “The suspicion is that the committee is going to be asked to reverse its previous decision, at which a large proportion of the Councillors spoke in favour of retaining Manston Airport for Aviation, and at which the gallery was packed with Save Manston Airport association members, as well as other groups supporting Manston Airport for Aviation.

“Placing a meeting as significant as this beyond public scrutiny raises significant questions re the constitution of TDC, and the stated openness and transparentness that UKIP claimed would be the hallmark of their administration.”

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale has also expressed his concern and told Conservative Party leader at TDC, Bob Bayford, that he would back a party vote against the exclusion.


American firm RiverOak, which hopes to gain the site through a Development Consent Order which is currently in the process of being applied for through the Government, has also written to TDC to ask for the meeting to be postponed and for the papers on the item to be made available.

The firm has sent a pre-action letter through lawyers Bircham Dyson Bell challenging the recommendation to withhold the report and planned discussion.

But Thanet council says the issue needs to be held in closed session because of ” Information relating to the financial or business affairs of a particular person and Information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained in legal proceedings”.

Planning Inspectorate

An appeal hearing with the Planning Inspectorate was cancelled earlier this year.

The Planning Inspectorate has decided that the appeal will now proceed as a Public Inquiry with a date pencilled in for at 10:00 on 24 January 2017 for 4 days.

Manston: Case Study in Conflict


Vocal stalwart of the campaign to Save Manston Airport, former politician and BBC Radio Kent presenter Lembit Öpik has had a brilliant article published in Flight Training News.  A transcript can be seen below.

Flying politician Lembit Öpik reviews the on-going dispute over the future of Manston Airport in South East England and outlines the strategic imperative for politicians to protect this vital resource.

It is hard to believe that the Government has been so slow at approving the third runway at Heathrow. Everybody who looks at the situation knows that, with aviation likely to expand at, say, 5% per annum, BOTH Heathrow and Gatwick will need more runway capacity in the foreseeable future. And still that is unlikely to be enough. What then?

Many years ago I used to fly to Manston Airport a lot. It took about 80 minutes in my Mooney M20J from Mid-Wales to Kent – and from a technical point of view it was a very interesting flight to make. The route requires really serious attention to detail, on account of the crowded airspace around London, plus unpredictable weather conditions along England’s east coast.

Manston itself was an awesome destination when viewed on final approach, with close to three kilometres of runway. It’s orientation has everything to do with World War II. Runway 28 was constructed to ensure that damaged, hard-to-manoeuvre bombers returning from sorties over enemy territory could land with a ‘straight-in approach,’ having plenty of space to find a way to land.

To be honest, my first landing at Manston did not take account of the breath-taking length of the runway: I had to sort of ‘take off’ again to speed along the centreline and expedite my exit. I’ve never doubted the aerodrome’s 2,748 metres when it comes to accommodating aircraft of any size.

That was some years ago. Sadly, at present only crows land at Manston. Regular operations are currently suspended, and the 800 acres of its territory lie eerily silent. Yet there is a strenuous campaign to rekindle major commercial operations involving both freight and passenger movements. There is also another campaign -by forces wanting to redeploy the land for housing, or other non-aviation use.

Why would such an important infrastructure resource be facing obliteration? The public discussion has centred on whether building development is a better use for the land than flying. A severe housing shortage exists in the South East. New developments are sold out within hours of coming on the market. Prices reflect this, and to put it right would require the construction of tens of thousands of new homes.

A nice, flat, well-drained airfield is highly attractive to developers. It’s much easier to construct buildings on a site which has already been tamed by decades of careful land management. Conversely, something as economically exotic as an airport carries with it all kinds of complexities and uncertainties, in a way that bricks and mortar don’t. With an airport people may come and fly: with a housing estate people WILL come and buy.

So, it’s time to face a home truth at the very heart of this debate; not just for Manston, but for the UK’s entire aviation infrastructure. An airport cannot be judged simply on the basis of what makes the most money in the least amount of time. If this were the only consideration, economics would lead to a change of use of just about every airport in the land.

Think of the revenues if you turned, say, 3,000 acres of attractively situated land in an urban locality into residential accommodation. At an average of 23 homes per acre, and assuming a typical home value for the area in question, this could generate house sale revenues of around £33 billion. I am , of course, referring to Heathrow Airport. Turning Heathrow into a housing estate would deliver around 12 times more revenue than the airport’s current annual turnover. With the construction of flats, those figures could be tripled – a circumstance in which the Council tax revenue alone matches the annual profit of the Airport.

Every other UK airport which I’ve looked at is even more vulnerable. Newcastle Airport, with an annual revenue of around £60 million, is worth 110 times its annual revenue in housing. That’s right, one hundred and ten times its current annual revenue if it were developed at an average housing density.

If making profit quickly is the key aim, I believe every airport in the UK is more attractive as a property development than as an aerodrome. Hardly surprising, then, that Manston, with its surface area of 800 acres, has developers straining at the leash to start building on it. And let’s be fair: the developers have no moral or financial responsibility to consider the macroeconomic or social implications to the region or the country of converting internationally significant travel hubs into lucrative property initiatives. And why should they? It’s not their job.

So, the inference is remarkably simple. No mainstream politician or businessperson doubts the central role of aviation in connecting large, modern nations with the rest of the world economically, culturally and socially. You only have to look at national planning around the EU and beyond to see that. Thus, in order to keep up in the shrinking global economy, especially in a post-Brexit environment, we’ve got to protect our aeronautical assets against the obvious attractions of a change of use.

Government must step up to its responsibilities here. If it cares about our position on the world stage, then politicians cannot sit back and merely ‘let the market decide’ – because the market will only decide one thing, and it’s not going to be flying. Ministers – and those in the Department for Transport in particular – have a moral responsibility to protect key assets of strategic importance to the long-term health of the economic and social evolution of the country. Manston is one of them.

Let’s test the figures. We can turn to proposals put forward by one group, Riveroak, which wants to re-open Manston for commercial aviation. They plan 500,000 tonnes of cargo and 2 million passengers within two years. Both these targets are many times higher than the previous best performance of the airport. What’s realistic?

The population of Kent is around 1.6 million – a little less than Northern Ireland. Yet between them, the two busiest airports there – Belfast International and Belfast Harbour – handle around 7 million passenger movements a year. At the same time, the City of Derry’s airport, at which only one carrier, Ryanair, operates scheduled services, handles 280,000 passengers – even though Derry’s population amounts to just 90,000. This is one example of many to prove that when you build airport facilities, the public will come. Manston doesn’t even have to be built – it’s already there. And it only has to achieve one quarter of the performance of Northern Ireland to make the Riveroak figures credible.

Even a more modest performance justifies retaining the facility. If 700,000 passengers passed through Manston, this would place it in roughly the middle of the league table of the top 40 UK airports. And to achieve that, it would only need one Airbus A320 to take off and land every two hours between 7am and 9pm. That’s around half the number of movements of Norwich Airport, and one sixth of the flights going in and out of Leeds/Bradford. It will still be operating at a significant level of activity, with potential to massively expand as the inevitable increase in air travel continues.

It’s worth noting that other factors drive Manston’s increasing viability in the longer term. With a credible and fairly simple plan to connect the airport with Central London by rail in a little over an hour, Manston is attractive to part of the Capital’s catchment too – especially on the east side. With two additional Thames crossings scheduled for construction – one centrally near Greenwich and the other to the East – there is even more reason to believe Manston will attract passengers, just as Stansted and Luton do to the north.

These factors are not being properly taken into account. Without a holistic approach, Britain’s entire airport infrastructure is vulnerable to death by property development – a factor which has already claimed or threatened other smaller airports such as Teeside, Kemble and Leicester. Filton in Bristol, where exactly the same development has killed a fine facility, thanks to the perfect storm of a voracious appetite for fast returns in the property sector and a serious housing shortage facing town planners. Little wonder, then, that such peril faces Manston.

Government has to learn from the fastest growing economies in the world. China is currently expanding 60 airports, and opening 40 new ones between now and 2020 – that’s 10 new airports a year. They would consider it unthinkable to close an existing facility. To an extent they’re playing ‘catch up.’ But China has global ambitions, as do many other developing countries. Their investment will necessarily increase flights to the West. If we haven’t got space for them to land, they’ll leave their vapour trails above Britain and land on to the European continent. Whether in French, German or English, business is business.

Others seem to have grasped the need for international connectivity. Across Europe, there are over 230 airport developments, many of them straightforward expansions of existing facilities. I was unable to find any example of a country on the continent which is closing down any large airport facility. Indeed, in a European Commission report entitled ‘An aviation strategy for Europe,’ the entire focus is about ensuring an adequate infrastructure to manage growth. The narrative is about increasing airport capacity, not reducing it.

Tensions have been running high over Manston. MPs and local Councillors have promised to get the airport reopened. UKIP made it a key election pledge in recent local authority elections. In October 2016, senior Conservative Member of Parliament of 33 years’ standing, Sir Roger Gale, said he would retire from Parliament if the airport were not restored to operational status. The site has powerful allies, but the motivations on the other side can be measured in terms of a monumental financial opportunity plus that local housing shortage.

We live in an era when the free market is respected, and almost worshipped. Yet there has to be a time when Government intervenes to protect essential public resources that would otherwise be lost. However tempting it may be to build on flat, large and well-situated land, the reality is that there are other places the houses can go – for example, small additional developments in many locations which add manageable numbers of new residents – and turnover – to lots of village and town economies without creating a concentrated population spike – and traffic problems in one place. With a modicum of creative thinking, it’s a problem which can be solved without losing Manston.

With the airport, Kent and the South East of England can be international and global players. Without it, a vital component in the relationship between the South East, Britain and developing markets is. That’s why it’s time for politicians to step in and to facilitate a plan to make Manston the natural hub for new routes to and from developing markets. It is easy to add convenient passenger routes to connect the South East with feeder routes to regional airports – which removes some of the pressure from Heathrow and Gatwick, and creates many new business opportunities at the same time.

We should also include this obvious and attractive role for Manston as part of the UK’s intentional trade offering. When you look at it like that, it’s little short of scandalous that a private consortium is being left to defend and promote such a significant element in the country’s long-term infrastructure. After all, if China had an international airport less than an hour from the outskirts of its capital, they’d be hard at work investing in the future, guaranteeing it remained open for business.

The effects or abandoning this ready-made international airport would only become fully evident in the longer term. But failing to ensure Manston reopens for passenger and freight operations would represent an act of strategic self-harm for the county, suggesting Government really doesn’t grasp the central contribution of aviation to the UK’s status on the international stage.

The article can be read in full here.

Edmund Truell steps up interest in Manston


From Kent News:

Bosses behind the Stone Hill Park project at Manston airport insist it remains not for sale as a former aide to Boris Johnson stepped up his interest in resuming aviation operations at the site.

In a rollercoaster week in which owners Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner also agreed the sale of its other major venture in Kent, the Discovery Park business estate in Sandwich, to focus full attention on their plans to develop housing and leisure facilities at Manston, Edmund Truell, a pensions and investment adviser to the former London mayor, has signalled his intent to take aviation plans forward.

Mr Truell was behind an expression of interest made to Thanet District Council earlier this year to become an indemnity partner to launch a compulsory purchase order of the site.

His investment party, backed by sovereign wealth, was reportedly going to approach the owners and negotiate an offer, with the intention of investing as much as £150m.

In an email to a number of big players in the Manston saga, seen by Kent News, Mr Truell said: “I and my infrastructure investment team believe that there is a real case for the restoration of airport operations at Manston.

“This is predicated on the assurances we have had from Kent County Council and Thanet that a fast rail link can be established as well as encouragement from the owners that they would at least consider an airport rather than a mass housing project.

“Recently, I have had significant interest from far eastern airlines in operating into Manston for long haul flights coming in to the UK in the early morning.

“I would like it put on the record that we are very interested in investing in the new facilities acquired to create a proper long haul destination.

“We will also ensure that we acquire the interest of the current owners at a fair price and have indeed made several proposals to them.”

American investment firm RiverOak has been the driving force behind attempts to get planes flying again in east Kent, and are preparing to launch a development consent order for the site.

Sir Roger Gale recently vowed to retire as MP for Thanet North if RiverOak’s plans did not stand up to scrutiny, after questions were raised following the publication of council-commissioned report by consultants Avia Solutions, which concluded airport operations at Manston were “very unlikely to be financially viable in the longer term and almost certainly not possible in the period to 2031”.

Mr Truell’s comments were celebrated by the Save Manston Association, whose chairman Dr Beau Webber said: “This makes it very clear that Manston can have an aviation future, in spite of any opinions in the Avia report, who we believe failed to talk with Edi Truell.

“Given the fact that there is a development consent order process underway, SMA believe that the only way this proposal can gain traction is for Edi Truell to join the RiverOak DCO process to turn Manston Airport into what is known as a nationally significant infrastructure project.

“However this proceeds, it is very important proof, with two very rich groups interested in running aviation at Manston, for the purposes of the Thanet council local plan process, that to close off aviation options too soon for Manston could be a significant mistake.”

Sir Roger said it “kicked the bottom out of the Avia Solutions report”.

He added: “What is clear is that there are those in addition to RiverOak, at present the only players who have stuck with the airport project, who believe in contradiction to the [Council leader Chris] Wells and Avia line, that the airport is viable.”

Cllr Wells, who has come under fire for allegedly reneging on a pre-election promise to re-open Manston as an airport, told Kent News: “As the person who dealt with Edi Truell following his withdrawal from soft market testing, I welcome his continued interest and involvement but note that he first has to establish an agreement with the owners of the site and that it’s clear from his comments that he would seem to have no interest in working with RiverOak.”

However, despite the claims by Mr Truell, Stone Hill Park spokesperson Ray Mallon told us the owners had received no offer to buy the site, nor do they have any intention of selling in the future, and played down talk of a “mass housing project”, insisting the plans are for a maximum of 2,500 homes.

He said: “Mr Truell is a speculator and representatives of Stone Hill Park met with him this year out of courtesy, as we have done with various other speculators.

“We informed Mr Truell of the extensive work that has been carried out analysing possible futures for this site and the clear conclusion from past history, independent studies and industry experts alike that an airport is not viable.

“Mr Truell did invite Stone Hill Park to become partners with him in developing an airport.

“Stone Hill Park rejected this because the site is not viable as an airport and anyone who invested in such a scheme – whether it was their own cash or other people’s pensions – would lose their money.

“If Mr Truell really believes an airport is viable he should have produced the evidence during either of the two CPO procedures or for the recent Avia report.

“The fact that he did not suggests his speculation would not bear up to public scrutiny.”

Speaking to the Supporters of Manston Airport campaign group, which has long been in contact with Mr Truell, he responded to Mr Mallon’s comments, saying: “As for being a ‘speculator’ I am better known as a long term pension investor.

“In my role as adviser on Pensions and Investments and as chairman of the Strategic Investment Advisory Board, I was asked to investigate the acquisition of Manston Airport and the co-ordination of investment to develop the airfield into a commercial venture.

“This I have patiently attempted in a non partisan manner, until it became clear that the present owners are determined to turn it into a housing estate and have no intention of reopening it as an airport.

“Within our group, we have fostered the Annuity Infrastructure Club and the team there have made some $68 billion of infrastructure investments, including 14 airports across the world.

“Not exactly ‘speculation’”.

This article can be read in full on the Kent News website.

Cartner & Musgrave “sell” Discovery Park

Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave, former owners of Discovery Park

Local media (Kent Online, Kent Live & Kent News) are today reporting that the owners of the Discovery Park site in Sandwich have “sold” their shareholding in the Park, in order to concentrate on their plans for Manston Airport.

Kent Online states:

“Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave are selling their shareholding in Discovery Park in Sandwich to investment company Discovery Park Estates Limited.”

Documents filed with Companies House yesterday state that Simcha Asher and Bernard Spitz have been made directors of Discovery Park Limited (DPL).  They are both directors of Discovery Park Estates Limited.  It is assumed that additional documents will be filed removing the responsibilities of Messrs Cartner and Musgrave as directors of DPL.

It is important to note that Messrs Cartner and Musgrave still hold some control of the site through their shareholding in Parkserve Ltd, the company which “manages the site on a day-to-day basis”.

Discovery Park has been widely criticised by campaigners for failing to stimulate new business at the site, rather to entice relocations of existing companies.  Whilst the owners claim 2,500 people are employed at the site, some 700 of these work for Pfizer, who were original owners of the site until 2012.

It has also come under fire for offering accomodation to Instro Precision, a company which campaigners from East Kent CAAT (Campaign Against the Arms Trade) claim is owned by Elbit Systems, whose products were used to kill people in Gaza in 2014.  Instro Precision were initially meant to be located at Manston Airport by the Discovery Park owners, stating that there was no other space suitable for them.

This latest action by Messrs Cartner and Musgrave could be seen to be deflecting future problems that Discovery Park may face, as they would hold fewer responsibilities in law as shareholders than they would as directors.

Update: 22 Nov 2016

Documents filed with Companies House on 16 November confirm that Chris Musgrave, Trevor Cartner and Ray Palmer have been de-registered as directors of Discovery Park Litd.

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