Gale`s View – Wednesday 23rd October 2013
If all proceeds according to plan then the sale of Manston
airport could be a game-changer for the economy of Thanet and the wider East
The doomsayers and those who have consistently opposed the
development and success of Manston as a fully-fledged cargo and passenger
airport will, of course, say we have been here before”. Those long in
the tooth can remember the days when Silver City flew cars from Kent to the
Channel Islands and since the full acquisition of the airfield from the
Ministry of defence by Seabourne aviation there have certainly been a number of
false starts and false dawns.
Nevertheless, Manston has defied the odds by remaining in
business. The assets – not least one of the longest runways in Britain and a
relatively modern air terminal – are still there and remain as a piece of the
nation`s unrealised potential. If we allow this opportunity to ne squandered
then it is highly likely that the Country`s supremacy as the location of
Europe`s hub airport may be eroded to the point of extinction with the loss of
tens of thousands of jobs not only in the aviation industry but in related
service industries and in the financial heart of the nation, the City of
Already, flights that create welcome employment at Manston
are transferring passengers from that airport, and from others in the South
East, to Schiphol where travellers can interline” and speed onwards to any
location in the World. Germany`s Frankfurt and Charles de Gaulle airport
outside Paris are also poised to pick up business and Dubai, although not
European” offers a central location at which holidaymakers and
businessmen can change planes to reach most places around the globe.
The report being prepared by Sir Howard Davies in his review
of aviation in the South East will not see the final light of day until after
the 2015 General Election and decisions taken and based upon that report will
take years of planning, funding and probable public inquiry to implement.
Boris Island” or additional runway capacity at Heathrow, Gatwick or
Stansted may be a gleam in the developer`s eyes but we are losing
business to mainland Europe today, as I write, not twenty years ahead.
If Manston has ever had a time, it is now. Given the
extension of High Speed One from Ashford through to Thanet, a sub-one-hour
journey time from Central London and the pressing need to release landing and
take-off slots and London`s two major airports to bridge the gap while major
political decisions are taken and implemented and it becomes clear that Manston
is not just a regional airport but a national asset that we simply cannot
afford to waste any longer.
If Manston’s new owners succeed in taking the airport
forward then the potential for thousands of new jobs on and off the airfield
can transform the economy of one of the areas of highest social deprivation in
the South East. If local and national politicians and Central Government fail
to give the project the support though political will and investment in
supporting infrastructure then the consequences may prove damaging and possibly
disastrous not just for Kent but for UK Limited.