Freight News

Govt to probe Manston closure

[ March 12, 2015   //   ]

The government will appoint a consultant to review decisions about the future of Manston Airport, Transport Minister John Hayes said on 5 March.

Manston was controversially shut by transport entrepreneur Ann Gloag in May last year, only a few months after acquiring it from previous owner New Zealand-based Infratil for £1 in October 2013. The new owner cited heavy losses and disappointing levels of cargo and passenger traffic, although some commentators believe Gloag’s intention was to develop the airport for other uses all along.

Thanet District Council has subsequently been seeking a deal to secure its future. The Prime Minister also made a commitment to do everything he can to help. At a meeting with leader of Thanet District Council Iris Johnston and local MP Roger Gale, John Hayes said: “I recognise the strong interest in keeping Manston Airport open which is why the government is leaving no stone unturned in the battle to secure its future. I can confirm my department will appoint a well-established consultant to review the process so far on decisions about the airport’s future. While it is down to Thanet District Council ultimately to agree a deal, the government is doing everything possible to support them in finding a way forward.”

The council considered the suitability of a compulsory purchase order on the site, but was unable to agree a suitable indemnity partner. The Department for Transport will now commission an independent consultant to review the process on its behalf.

Earlier, the Baltic Air Charter Association (BACA) said that Manston Airport should not have been allowed to close. The 220-member association, which represents companies involved in air chartering worldwide, says the Kent gateway could handle five to ten freighters a day, and could have relieved pressure on other London airports, which will run out of capacity in about 15 years time it says. It warns that the closure decision ignores the issue of runway capacity in south-east England and ignores Manston’s role as a diversionary airport.

Even if the new UK Government makes a decision on new runways for the south-east within a year of coming into office in May 2015, “there will undoubtedly be 10-15 years of appeals and enquiries and more appeals. It is fair to say that there is little chance of 3,000 metres of new runway being laid and put to use, at whichever airport is chosen, within the next 20-25 years,” it says.