Manston Airport

Ian Driver made this Freedom of Information request to Kent County Council

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The request was partially successful.

Dear Kent County Council,

Please tell me if Kent County Council has conducted any internal discussions involving officers and/ or Cabinet/ shadow cabinet members about the future of the Manston Airport site post its closure by owner Anne Gloag. If so please tell me the dates of any such meetings and who was in attendance. Please provide me with copies of any documents which have been produced related to such discussions including notes of meetings, reports or e-mails.

Please tell me if Kent County Council including members of its staff or councillors have engaged in discussions with other organisations e.g. other local authorities, Thanet Regeneration Board, East Kent Regeneration Board, Kent and Medway Economic Partnership, South East Local Economic Partnership, Government Departments, Ministers, Civil Servants etc, about the future of the Manston Airport site post its closure by owner Anne Gloag. If so please tell me the dates of any such meetings and who was in attendance. Please provide me with copies of any documents which have been produced related to such discussions including notes of meetings, reports or e-mails.

Yours faithfully,

Ian Driver

Kent County Council

Dear Mr Driver

 

Thank you for your email below.

 

Kent County Council acknowledges your request for information under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000. Assuming KCC holds this information, we
will endeavour to supply the data to you as soon as possible but no later
than 5^th August 2014 (20 working days from date of receipt).

 

We will advise you as soon as possible if we do not hold this information
or if there are exemptions to be considered and/or any costs for providing
the information. Please quote our reference - FOI/14/1292 - in any
communication regarding this particular request.

 

Best regards

 

Alan Dix

Information Access Officer

Information Resilience & Transparency Team

Strategic & Corporate Services, Governance & Law,

Kent County Council, Room 2.71, Sessions House, County Road, Maidstone,
ME14 1XQ

Tel: 01622 221652, Internal 7000 1652, Fax: 01622 696075

http://www.kent.gov.uk/about-the-council...

 

 

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Kent County Council

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Driver  

 

Thank you for your request for information made under the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) 2000, relating to Manston Airport. I am pleased to
provide you with the below response:

 

I can inform you that there has been one internal meeting and five
external meetings involving Kent County Council Members and/or officers
where the future of Manton Airport was discussed.

 

On 17^th June, Kent County Council’s Regeneration Board took note of a
paper on Manston Airport. I attach that paper. The meeting was chaired by
Mr Dance (Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development), and
the following were present: Mr Brazier, Mr Gibbens, Mr Hill, Mr Holden, Mr
Simmonds, Mr Burr, Miss Carruthers, Mr Dukes, Mr Gill, Miss Nurden, Mr
Oxlade and Mr N Smith, with Mr D Smith, Mr Witton and Mrs Price in
attendance. The note of the meeting (which covered other matters in
addition to Manston Airport) records only that Mr D Smith gave an update
on this topic.

 

On 4^th July, the Leaders of Kent County Council and Thanet District
Council met with their respective officers to consider a number of topics
including Manston Airport. I attach the note of this meeting which records
those who were present.

 

On 14^th July, a week after you made your request for information, at a
meeting in Chatham, the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership (“KMEP”)
considered a progress update on Manston Airport. The minutes of this
meeting have not been finalised but our records show that Mr Carter
represented Kent County Council. He was accompanied by Miss Carruthers and
Mr Gill.

 

Cllr Johnston introduced the update, noting that Thanet District Council
had met with the owners of Manston Airport on 3 July and the current
position had been reported to Thanet District Council on 10 July.  An
emergency meeting of Thanet District Council’s Cabinet would take place on
17^th July. Thanet District Council was seeking expressions of interest
from prospective partners in the event that the Council should decide to
pursue the compulsory purchase of the Airport. However, Cllr Johnston
emphasised that compulsory purchase would only be considered if there was
a clear and credible partner in place.  Cllr Johnston also reported that
she had spoken to the Aviation Minister as well as the Davies Commission
regarding the Airport’s position in relation to national aviation
strategy. Thanet District Council was preparing a report on the viability
of the Airport and it was agreed that this would be shared with KMEP for
consideration at a future meeting. It was also agreed that the report
would be discussed at Business Advisory Board.

 

Cllr Watkins noted that Dover District Council had made a statement in
support of Manston’s future role as an airport in the context of wider
aviation strategy.

 

The potential for the designation of Manston as an Enterprise Zone was
discussed. In particular, it was noted that there was a commitment in the
South East LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan for Enterprise Zone designation,
and that consideration should be given to taking this forward. This should
include consideration of the boundaries of the potential Zone, its impact
on and relationship with Discovery Park and whether it should be
considered a new Zone or an extension of the existing Zone.

 

On 22^nd July, a meeting of Kent Council Leaders was held in Maidstone.
The meeting was chaired by Mr Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, who
was accompanied Mrs Cooper. Cllr Nicholson, Deputy Leader of Thanet
District Council, gave a verbal update on developments relating to Manston
Airport. Cllr Nicholson reported that he had met with Ann Gloag three
weeks ago, accompanied by Cllr Johnston and the acting Chief Executive of
Thanet District Council. He reported that progress was disappointing.
Despite being asked what her plans were for the site, Mrs Gloag had given
little away. Before buying the Airport she had committed to giving the
Airport two years’ chance, but three months later it was shut. Although
Mrs Gloag and her advisor insisted that they had no firm plans,
information that Thanet District Council was picking up pointed to the
contrary. The shutting of the airport significantly affected the Thanet
Local Plan.  Since that meeting, there had been no further discussions
between the Council and Mrs Gloag but Cllr Nicholson reported an
increasing groundswell of public opinion pushing for a Compulsory Purchase
Order (CPO) process to commence. A local petition had been submitted to
Thanet District Council and a 28,000 signature e-petition submitted to 10
Downing Street. Thanet District Council  had commissioned an assessment
from professional airport consultants to look at the potential, finances
and viability of the Airport which would then inform a Council decision
whether to back a CPO. The Council were quite clear that they are not able
to financially back a CPO process, so if it were to go ahead it would need
the backing of a developer (such as RiverOak) to cover all costs and
risks. (RiverOak  had told the Council that it had several bids to buy the
Airport rejected, including a last bid at the eleventh hour for the full
amount, £7 million.)  Although the consultants’ report had not yet been
finalised, it seemed that it might not be as negative as expected, with a
few caveats, and some interesting observations about previous operators’
processes. All the information required to enable Thanet District Council
to take a decision should be in place by the end of July. If the Council
opted for a CPO process, Thanet District Council would put out a call for
business partners willing to cover costs whether win or lose. If the
Council voted against, a new constructive dialogue with Mrs Gloag would
open to discuss what to do with the site. The meeting considered the
merits of including Manston in an Enterprise Zone, either through
extending the existing Discovery Park Enterprise Zone or establishing a
new Zone. After some discussion, there was agreement it might not be
appropriate to decide at the current time. In the discussion, Mr Carter
reaffirmed his consistent support for Manston Airport, citing his close
working relationship with Infratil. He was committed to support any
proposal that would bring benefits to Thanet/East Kent. He had already
introduced to Mrs Gloag a number of exciting proposals and would continue
to do so. Whilst sceptical about the potential viability of the Airport,
Mr Carter said he was looking forward to reading the consultants’ report
and was ‘ready to be surprised’. Mr Carter said he fully endorsed Thanet
District Council’s cautious approach, stating the importance of ensuring
any backer had enough serious financial clout to make it work. Mr Carter
apologised for the lack of column inches afforded to Manston in Kent
County Council’s recent Aviation Paper: there would have been more but
Kent County Council had only heard of Infratil’s problems as the Paper was
going to print so it had had to be revised in a hurry.

  

At the East Kent Regeneration Board meeting attended by Mr Dance and Mr
Gill on 23^rd July in Canterbury, it was reported that Thanet District
Council was engaged with the current owner of the airport and it was
taking financial and legal advice which would be shared in due course. The
viability appraisal had been completed and would also be shared. It was
noted that if a partner were sought this would go through a transparent
competitive process. Conversations were currently being held regarding
Manston as a potential Enterprise Zone and it was agreed that the local
authorities needed to meet to understand the needs of the area. This had
implications for the Local Plan and also impacts business rates. Mr Gill
commented that Enterprise Zones needed to be linked with other
regeneration projects to make them credible and successful and that
Manston might be too close to Discovery Park unless a USP could be found.
It was agreed that a planning vision would be difficult to describe before
a partner had been chosen and that the runway should be preserved if
possible to maximize the potential uses of the site in the future. It was
noted that Manston Parkway was due for completion 2016/17 and that Thanet
District Council was fully supportive of its development.

 

At the meeting on 30^th July in Canterbury of the East Kent Chief
Executives Forum (which was attended by Mr Gill), the Acting Chief
Executive of Thanet District Council presented a consultants’ report which
indicated that Manston Airport would not be profitable if it was run
purely as a regional airport. The consultants’ report stated that a 10
year business plan had never been produced so the consultants had
recommended that a combination of integrated business models should be
used and the site would then potentially be profitable. It was felt that
there was an interim role for the airport before any new runways at
Gatwick and Heathrow could be operational and any of the alternative
airport proposals put forward by the Mayor for London could be completed.
She told the meeting that significant investment was needed and that a
direct rail link was essential to the future of the airport, although it
was noted that this would not be provided by Manston Parkway Station and
therefore further rail investment would be needed. Thanet District
Council’s Cabinet would consider the consultants’ report on Thursday 31
July and might make a decision to retain the airport in the Local Plan. It
was noted that this was creating a significant delay to the Local Plan. A
CPO was not being considered at the moment but Thanet District Council
might undertake some soft market testing. The Forum discussed the report
and it was noted that this was stage 1 and that careful and considered
progress needed to be made and that this would be a long term project
spanning years. Stage 2 would take another 10 weeks and Thanet District
Council would welcome positive support from other local authorities in
Kent.

 

If you are unhappy with this response, and believe KCC has not complied
with legislation, please ask for a review by following our complaints
process; details can be found at this link
[1]http://www.kent.gov.uk/about-the-council...
on our website. Please quote reference FOI/14/1292.

 

If you still remain dissatisfied following an internal review, you can
appeal to the Information Commissioner, who oversees compliance with the
Freedom of Information Act 2000. Details of what you need to do, should
you wish to pursue this course of action, are available from the
Information Commissioner’s website [2]http://www.ico.org.uk/concerns.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Laura Pronger

Information Access Officer

Information Resilience & Transparency Team

Strategic and Corporate Services, Governance & Law

Kent County Council, Room 2.71, Sessions House, County Road, Maidstone,
ME14 1XQ. 

Telephone: 01622 694261, Internal: 7000 4261, Fax: 01622 696075

[3]http://www.kent.gov.uk/about-the-council...

 

 

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