Smaller Airports - Manston – SMA 1 page summary
We found a relatively small district council grappling with complex questions in relation to the current and future use of the airport which were beyond its expertise and resources.
Government needs to review the backing provided by higher-tier local government and central Government to small district councils in complex, one-off cases and examine whether it has the necessary powers to protect strategic transport assets.
Manston Skyport & RiverOak
43. Manston Skyport contested RiverOak’s claim that it had offered £7 million to purchase Manston airport.54 RiverOak later provided documentary evidence to back up this claim.
If Ann Gloag’s motivation was to run Manston as an airport, accepting RiverOak’s £7 million offer would have allowed her to correct her initial error in purchasing the airport and left her with a generous profit.
45. At our oral evidence session on 2 February 2015, we examined Manston Skyport’s statement that it “sold the site to regeneration specialists”.58
Manston Airport is currently owned by a joint venture company called Lothian Shelf 718.
Ann Gloag holds a legal charge over the Manston airport site. This charge relates to a loan to Lothian Shelf 718.
62 .We recommend that Ann Gloag places the joint venture agreement between herself, Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner to redevelop Manston in the public domain to make it clear who would benefit from the proposed redevelopment of Manston and to repudiate allegations of asset-stripping.
Thanet District Council
… we question whether a small district council has sufficient funds or legal and financial expertise to handle a case of this magnitude. For example, TDC told us that it spent £26,000 on legal advice in relation to the proposed CPO.68
That sum was unlikely to provide TDC with adequate advice in relation to indemnification by a US company or to allow it to understand RiverOak’s business plan and operating model.
SMA Note 1 : TDC Spending regarding the CPO.
SMA believe that this £26k total spend consisted of £16k for the Falcon 1 Report and thus £10k on legal aid.
Kent County Council
50 …….Paul Carter’s remarks in September 2014 were inconsistent with the motion agreed by KCC on 17 July 2014.
51. We asked Paul Carter to explain his position. He told us that “the motion that was supported unanimously by the county council said we would be prepared to support Thanet district council in a CPO process at Manston, provided a viable and thriving airport could be delivered at Manston.”71 He subsequently admitted that there was no such caveat to the KCC motion.72
He also reiterated his enthusiasm for the redevelopment of the Manston site rather than its operating as an airport.73 We asked him whether Trevor Cartner or Chris Musgrave had shown him detailed plans for the redevelopment. He replied, “They showed me nothing.”
52. Kent County Council has the legal and financial resources to assess complex CPO cases. Despite having agreed a motion to support Thanet District Council, it failed to deploy those assets. In failing to support Thanet District Council’s scrutiny of the proposed CPO at Manston, Kent County Council also failed to fulfil its strategic oversight function as the local transport authority.
Role of the DfT
53. ….. That the DfT judged it necessary to intervene in the Manston case shows the extent to which Kent County Council failed to fulfil its strategic oversight role.
55. …. The uncertainty faced by the public and other interested parties could have been reduced if it had not taken three months before the DfT acted.
56. ….. The DfT should review what powers it has to intervene in cases where strategic transport assets are at risk and whether those powers are fit for purpose.