Manston

Is there time to rescue Manston?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, May 6 2014

First, the good news: Manston undoubtedly has a future.

The bad? It won't - barring a miracle - be as an airport. Despite a huge amount of goodwill and support among the community and at least one consortium putting in a bid to take over Manston, its owner Ann Gloag has announced that the offer was not viable and she intends to close the airport within weeks.

There is no room for sentiment in these decisions and an outpouring of public support and warm words from politicians was never likely to be enough to persuade the current owners to rethink their shock decision.

Manston to close,say owners>>>

What had been required was a coherent, viable alternative from someone. One was submitted by an American investment corporation RiverOak Investment Corps,which indicated in a press release that it had offered a consideration  "significantly higher than the entire capital investemnt expended by the current owner".

According to the current owner, however, the bid would have required continuing subsidies to service the huge debts.

In its press release, RiverOak said it had "developed a long term plan to own and manage Manston as an airport in line with its investment philosophy of diversified investing in asset backed businesses." It added that it continued to be committed to investing in and devloping Manston as a successful diversified aviation service., although it does not spell out exactly how it will deliver on that commitment.

MP Sir Roger Gale did, along with his colleague Laura Sandys, make valiant attempts to pull together a bid but even they seem to have acknowledged that time is running out.

Proposals were also put forward by staff involving developing the freight side of the business but this too assumed there would have to be continuing subsidies for a time. It's worth remembering that it has been losing £10,000 a day as an airport, a colossal drain.

KLM has already walked away and says it won't be back, as have various freight operators. Which brings us to the speculation that the site, partially or wholly, may in turn be sold off to developers for housing. There is a strong feeling that at some point, some of the site will inevitably go to housing developers

But there have been as many twists and turns in this long-running saga as there have in the race to win the Premier League, so with two weeks to go before the door is shut on Manston, anything could happen.

Today, though, it seems its days as an airport seem numbered.

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It is interesting to see that  RiverOak has turned for its PR to someone with intimate knowledge of Manston airport and was closely involved in various efforts to develop flights from it back in the early 2000s.

Tony Freudmann was vice president of the Wiggins Group, which owned and ran the airport before it was sold to PlaneStation, where he was senior vice president between 1994 and 2005.

Mr Freudmann has also had his own consultancy - FT International - between 2009 and 2013 in which he "delivered high level consultancy services in relation to aviation and tourism development to the public and private sectors in the UK, Germany and America."

He is now chief executive officer of a firm called Annax Aviation Services in which he manages "the global regional airports and airlines strategy of a priately-owned investment group."

He was also instrumental in the failed attempt to establish flights between Manston and Virginia in America back in 2006. The plug was pulled on that after poor ticket sales. Kent  County Council lost £300,000 in the venture.

 

 

 

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Categories: Manston | Margate | Politics

Travel Back in Time in Thanet

by Emma's Kent Adventures, by Emma-Jane Swaffield Tuesday, October 8 2013

The district of Thanet boasts a large number of exciting destinations and attractions. History lovers will find a large number of enchanting towns and villages to explore in Thanet, many of which have preserved their prominent landmarks and offer a wealth of interesting historical attractions. Here is a selection of some of Thanet’s most captivating and vibrant historical attractions.

Margate

Exploring the traditional Old Town of Margate is an uplifting experience that people of all ages are sure to love. Old Town is home to Margate’s first harbour, which was built in 1320 and offers visitors an insight into local life in the 17th and 18th centuries. The area is also home to the Theatre Royal, the second oldest theatre in the whole of England. Culture vultures will want to make sure that they catch a show in order to appreciate the layout and acoustics in all its glory. Many of the buildings around the harbour are from different eras and have been restored and renovated to their former glory so this is a great place to wander around and explore on a sunny day.

Image courtesy of ©Iain Farrell (Flickr)

Ramsgate

The charming seaside town of Ramsgate is steeped in rich history and can be found high on a cliff overlooking the sea. Taking a trip to the Maritime Museum is the perfect way to gain an insight into Ramsgate’s rich maritime history and can be found in the impressive and eye-catching Clock House (which dates back to the turn of the 19th century) at the Royal Harbour. This harbour has the unique distinction of being the only harbour in the UK awarded the right to call itself a “Royal Harbour”. The title was bestowed upon it by King George IV after he was touched by the hospitality and adoration shown by the people of Ramsgate when he used the harbour in 1821.

Other local attractions that should not be missed by local history buffs include St Augustine’s, a gothic era church designed by August Pugin and completed by his eldest son, Edward, who was also an architect. While you are there, be sure not to miss The Grange (aka St Augustine’s Grange). This is a Grade I listed Victorian Gothic style building that was also designed by August Pugin, the interior was designed before the outside which was in contrast to the Georgian style that preceded it and was designed to be his personal family home. The interior of the house was completed in 1850 and Pugin passed away just 2 years later at the age of only 40.

Visitors will be able to check out a range of vintage gaming machines in the Pinball Parlour, which is situated inside a stunning Georgian period Italianate greenhouse.

Image Courtesy of ©andyj300 (Flickr)

Broadstairs

Situated just a few miles along the coast from Ramsgate, the town of Broadstairs is simply bursting with old world charm.

The town enjoys connections with the popular novelist Charles Dickens as it is said to have been his favourite holiday spot. Visitors who are interested in the life and times of the great writer will want to head straight to the Dickens House Museum. In addition to the hordes of prints and photographs that can be found in this well maintained museum, visitors who wander through the streets of Broadstairs’ old town will find numerous other connections to Charles Dickens.

Wandering along cobbled streets in the pedestrianised section of the town really sets the scene for history lovers, while many of the local cafes and restaurants have been restored to their 19th century appearance and some have even taken on the name of famous Dickens characters. Taking a trip to Bleak House is the perfect way to follow in the footsteps of Charles Dickens, as this impressive cliff top building is the place where the writer spent his holidays in the 1850s and 1860s.

Visitors can also take one of the local heritage tours, while the Crampton Tower Museum displays a wealth of interesting machines and is a tribute to Victorian era engineering.

Image courtesy of ©Jon Curnow (Flickr)

Birchington-on-Sea

Take a trip to the tiny village of Birchington-on-Sea to admire the colourful stained glass window that commemorates the burial of poet and Pre-Raphaelite hero Dante Gabriel Rossetti in the Parish church there. His grave is also there and is marked with a large Celtic cross for his gravestone which was designed by his old friend Ford Madox Brown.

Visitors will also want to take the time to wander through the picturesque Quex Park, which is home to a number of interesting historical attractions such as Regency Quex House with its 7 acres of elegant, picturesque, Victorian gardens and natural woodland or the Powell-Cotton Museum, which contains a large number of local curios and one of the most fascinating collections of natural history in the UK.

Manston

Why not visit the tiny village of Manston to discover the important role that Thanet played during World War II? A number of legendary aircraft can be viewed in the impressive RAF Manston History Museum and several of the stories of local airmen are retold here in exciting detail.

Minster

The village of Minster has been an important religious site since 670 and visiting the gently crumbling Minster Abbey is the perfect way to get a feel for this. Minster Abbey was one of the earliest monastic foundations, rebuilt in 1027 after the original buildings were destroyed during Viking raids of the 9th and 10th centuries. It is believed to be possibly the oldest inhabited house in the country and is now inhabited by Nuns who give guided tours giving an explanation of the historic background to this ancient site.

Visitors can also find the St Augustine’s Cross nearby which, according to legend, marks the very spot where St Augustine met with King Ethelbert and preached his first sermon to people of England in 597. There is a Latin inscription on the base of the cross which can be translated as:

 

"After many dangers and difficulties by land and sea Augustine landed at last on the shores of Richborough in the Isle of Thanet. On this spot he met King Ethelbert, and preached his first sermon to our own countrymen. Thus he happily planted the Christian faith, which spread with marvellous speed throughout the whole of England. That the memory of these events may be preserved among the English G G L-G Earl Granville, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports has erected this monument, AD 1884"

Image courtesy of ©Shirokazan (Flickr)

Where to Stay?

There are many wonderful places to stay in this beautiful area to tie in with the rich history that this area has to offer such as Bleak House in Broadstairs where Charles Dickens himself used to stay all those years ago, or how about the beautiful Victorian building that is now the Comfort Inn at Ramsgate? Then there is the Georgian Grade II listed Royal Harbour Hotel, a delightfully quirky 19 bedroom townhouse with magnificent views of the harbour and sea. Or why not take a break from all the culture and history by staying in the wonderful holiday lets provided by Beeches Holiday Lets? These wonderful and functional self-catering houses come in a range of sizes and are “homes away from home” with all the comforts you could ever need. There is a wide variety available across the areas of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs.

So as you can see, there are many wonderful places to explore a wealth of rich English History in Kent that is fascinating for the young and old alike. You can walk in the same footsteps as many important figures from our past and visit the places that inspired many historical greats. Why not take the children and give them a history lesson they won’t forget?

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Categories: Charles Dickens | Curious Margate | Education | Entertainment | History | Holiday | kent | Leisure | Manston | Margate

How KCC used an FOI response to criticise press coverage of Op Stack report

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Thursday, October 6 2011

One of the key elements of the Freedom of Information Act is that it is motive blind - in other words, public bodies like councils or police forces are not supposed to take into account why someone has sought information from them.

It goes without saying that there is often a suspicion among people like me that this part of the Act is not always adhered to quite as strictly as it should be when it comes to FOI requests from the media.

Such suspicions were reinforced this week when Kent County Council responded to my request for details of the costs associated with preparing a draft environmental report on the Operation Stack lorry park off the M20.

How KCC spent £417k preparing Op Stack report>>>

This request followed an earlier one seeking a copy of the report, which was initially rejected by KCC but then accepted after we appealed.

As a result of that request, we published a story in August that highlighted how Kent Fire had flagged up some serious issues about how they would cope in the event of a serious incident at the site unless certain steps were taken.

At the time, KCC was offered the chance to comment - as was Kent Fire - but both declined, with Kent Fire saying that as the scheme was one that may not happen, it did not see much merit in it responding.

You can read that story here

KCC responded to our second request for the costs this week and provided all the information we had asked for (albeit on Day 20).

What was equally interesting was that the response criticised our previous coverage, saying we had selectively reported part of the Jacobs' report - it was 1,700 pages by the way - and had therefore "failed to provide the public with an accurate reflection of the facts."

It's not unusual for KCC - and many other councils - to take issue with the way in which their activities are covered.

But this is the first time I've seen an FOI response deployed to direct criticism at media coverage. It's especially odd given that the authority was offered a chance to comment at the time of the first story but declined. It didn't even respond at the time the article was published. (And it wasn't entirely right in asserting we had not referred to the need for measures to reduce the risk.)

I've no idea why the response incorporated this or who decided it should be. But I feel an FOI request coming on.

Read KCC's FOI response here:

 20111006112628405_0001.pdf (513.93 kb)

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Categories: Manston

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