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Gale's View - Manston Airport / Thanet Local Plan/ TDC Special measures

November 22nd 2017

It is because of blundering incompetence and the failure of the controlling Group and the Leader of Thanet District Council to generate a Local Plan that reflects the wishes of the local electorate that has led the Secretary of State for Local Government to indicate that he will if necessary impose a plan upon Thanet and a small number of other local authorities. It is not, as some have sought to suggest, because of support for what has been wrongly described describes as “ a polluting air cargo hub”.


Let us be clear. In successive Parliamentary, County Council and District Council elections the people of East Kent have voted in overwhelming numbers for candidates that have supported and in most cases continue to support the re-opening of Manston Airport as a freight and passenger facility.. That the UKIP Leader of Thanet Council, for reasons about which one can only speculate, has decided to renege on the clear undertaking, given in election material by Mr Farage, that “We Will Save Manston Airport” is a matter of regret.  That Cllr Wells is now seeking to insert alternative uses into the Local Plan is, for the Conservative Party, for some Labour Councillors and for UKIP Councillors who wish to honour their election pledge, a sticking point.


It is likely, therefore, and I personally hope that this will be the case, that unless Cllr. Wells and his “Cabinet” withdraw the proposed change of use for Manston  Airport then the Local Plan, when it is debated and voted upon in early January of 2018, will be defeated and I would welcome the intervention, at that point, of the Secretary of State.


At a meeting with the Housing Minister a week ago I indicated that Thanet has more than sufficient brownfield land and other available sites to meet its` local housing needs without sacrificing swathes of Grade 1 agricultural land and most certainly without smothering a national asset, Manston Airport, with an estate that will almost inevitably be used as a dumping ground by London Boroughs for overspill housing for people who will then have no jobs to go to. I believe that that point has been taken and understood.  Kent already has more than sufficient difficulties absorbing a once-again rising number of `looked-after children` for which the London Boroughs have failed to make provision without exacerbating the problem.


RiverOak Strategic Partnership are planning to invest in and open at Manston a state-of-the art cargo hub and freight handling facility, a passenger service, provision for General Aviation and ancillary aviation-related businesses that, taken as a whole, has the potential to create over time many thousands of skilled and semi-skilled jobs. As we leave the European Union that capacity to handle long-haul freight will be needed not just by Kent but by UK Limited and I remain entirely of the view that that is a prize worth supporting and fighting for and that is in sharp contrast to half-baked blue-sky proposals to create an environmentally damaging housing estate and additional unwanted industrial capacity..


Nevertheless, I recognise the concerns that have been expressed by some of my constituents living in Herne Bay and by others living in Ramsgate.  That is why, even at the risk of slightly delaying RiverOak`s application for the necessary Development Consent Order, I have strongly requested that the company goes out to further consultation with those living under the flightpath in Beltinge, Reculver and in South Thanet. It is important, I think, that those opposed to the re-opening of Manston Airport ,  and I of course recognise that there is such a minority, are given every opportunity to appreciate the difference between the Environmental Impact Assessments carried out by RiverOak and  what I believe to be the cavalier attitude towards the environmental damage that would be caused by a massive housing and industrial estate proposed by others.I hope and expect that such further consultation might be carried out in the New Year, leading to the submission of a DCO application in the early Spring.


More haste can sometimes lead to less speed and it is essential that genuine, if mis-placed, concerns are, insofar as is possible, allayed.

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