Paul Francis, who writes for this newspaper, is a competent journalist bedevilled by a headline writer with an eye for sensationalism rather than fact!
A couple of weeks ago we were treated to the front page suggestion that ‘Development Plans Kill Off Airport Hope’. Last week we were told that ‘RiverOak has pulled out of Manston’. Neither, as anyone who actually attended the recent Planning Inspectorate hearings in Thanet Council Offices will know, is true.
Thanet’s Draft Local Plan is deeply flawed both in content and in process and will be subjected to rigorous public scrutiny and, I suspect, condemnation when it is considered by a planning inspector. The proposals put forward by Ms Gloag’s Lothian Shelf company are, as was exposed by the planning inquiry, lightweight and lacking in substance.
It is correct that two of RiverOak’s senior main Board Directors, Niall Lawlor and George Yerrall, have left the RiverOak Corporation of America. They have bought out that company’s interests (at a million bucks or so not bad for a company that Mr Wells would like us to believe has no money!) to establish RiverOak UK as a British enterprise with a Head Office in London and to devote their entire energies to the re- opening of Manston Airport. Hardly “pulling out of Manston”!
While this paper’s headline was landing on your doormats, RiverOak was hosting a breakfast briefing at the House of Commons, in the presence of those who intend to finance the acquisition and rebuilding of the airport via a Development Consent Order (DCO), for the Chairman and members of the Transport Select Committee and other MPs. This event detailed in terms the Company’s intentions and the timelines for the process that will lead to literal and economic take- off.
Contrast that approach, if you will, with TDC’s commissioning of a report to get the Council out of the election pledge made by Cllr Wells and the subsequent further ‘study’ allegedly being carried out by The Disruptive Finance company (with whom Craig Mackinlay and I spoke about a year ago) upon which Mr. Wells is now staking his County Council election hopes.
As I told the Planning Inspector recently we shall, post-Brexit, need every inch of airport capacity in the South East if we are to develop new markets in Asia and the Far East and to build the economic success that we seek as a nation. Trying to re- furnish an operational airport would have been a nightmare. With adequate funding, which is now readily available to RiverOak UK, we instead have the exciting prospect of creating, practically from scratch, a brand new, world class, state-of-the-art freight hub and subsequent passenger airport to serve the needs of UK Ltd, and to bring business lost to mainland Europe back to Britain. That surely, is a project that ought to have the full support of Government at every level.
One final comment. I am asked, occasionally, “what’s in it for you?” Apart from the satisfaction of securing the future of a national asset for my Country I have, indeed, made one – and only one- request of RiverOak. I have asked that the first aircraft to land again at Manston, alongside a plane representing Sue Girdler’s TG Aviation (in memory of the founder of the firm, her Father, Ted) shall be a Spitfire. This is a Battle of Britain that we have to win.
RiverOak Strategic Partners Limited is the new UK registered company pursuing the DCO.