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.)