Manston: The epic failure of Sir Roger Gale

Published Oct 04, 2016

ChrisWells.jpgAfter more than two years of campaigning, two years of promising, and two years unwavering support of Riveroak proposals, North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale has blown an unrivalled opportunity to present his own and campaigners' vision and business case for a revived Manston Airport.

In preparing their report on the Viability of Manston Airport, internationally respected aviation consultants AVIA heard both Riveroak and Sir Roger's case for the sustainability of a freight hub based operation at Manston, and concluded "airport operations at Manston are very unlikely to be financially viable in the longer term, and almost certainly not possible in the period to 2031".

The 87 page report, published today by Thanet District Council, was required to provide evidence for the classification of the former airport site in the emerging Local Plan, which covers employment and housing projections to 2031.

UKIP Council Leader Chris Wells explained, "This is the fourth opportunity Riveroak have had to impress with their business case. They failed to produce a financial case to become an indemnity partner in both 2014 and 2015; failed to impress a city financier seeking to invest £150m; and have comprehensively failed to impress aviation specialists AVIA of their case during the last few weeks.

"Local Plans are evidence based documents which have to convince Planning Inspectors there is reasonable evidence to sustain land use allocations. Under the existing local plan, the Manston site is reserved for Aviation use only, and as the airport has been closed for two years, we are required to demonstrate evidence to maintain that designation for the emerging local plan."

The AVIA Report covers the context, history, and financial market projections for the airport site, using the most optimistic revenue and lowest cost projections they could construct, and still could not generate a set of figures for aviation use on this site that saw an investment return for at least 25 years.

The report contains the agreed summaries of the various inputs, including Riveroak's so all can read and understand the report's straightforward conclusions.

Wells added, "The 13th September 2016 will go down in save the airport campaign history as the day Sir Roger Gale blew the campaigners best chance to confirm the viability of their dream. His interview that day, conducted at his own request and insistence, could not overturn the market trends and financial data that had been gathered on optimistic projections, that indicated there is little or no evidence of airport viability for Manston.

"I am saddened for the campaigners, and the wider community in Thanet, whose battle to maintain their dream has been both valiant and brave. They have been betrayed by their own MP, who cannot it would appear, take his own Chancellors advice that "when times change we must change with them". The Manston Airport site has an important heritage, but its future as an airport looks increasingly unlikely, as Sir Roger and Riveroak have signally failed to produce a business case to back their grand assertions".

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