All posts tagged 'airport'

More ups and downs in the Manston Airport saga.

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, September 26 2014

The saga over Manston Airport has already thrown up plenty of surprises but perhaps the biggest one came this week.

Just days after minister Grant Shapps declared his unwavering support for the airport and left campaigners in a euphoric mood came the news of its sale.

And the new owners dropped a bombshell: in their grand masterplan, regeneration specialists Chris Musgrave and Trevor Carpenter declared there was no place for an airport or any aviation-related services.

There has inevitably been speculation that the idea of a "mixed-use" commercial development outlined by the new owners means something else, namely a sprawling housing development.

The owners firmly reject the claim of uncontrollable housing sprawl insisting they are genuinely committed to establishing a site which has a variety of commercial uses, as well as some residential development.

Either way, Thanet Council is facing both a quandary and an opportunity. The ruling Labour administration is in the throes of deciding whether to push for a CPO in partnership with the American company RiverOak.

The latter has said that so far as they are concerned, the sale of the site to new owners makes no difference to their plan and a commitment to the council to underwrite the costs.

In a sense, RiverOak is right but the same cannot be said for the council.

From a position where there was only one offer on the table, the council now has another, which looks on the surface to have some credibility and would dovetail with the work underway to redevelop the former Pfizer site, the Discovery Park.

The difficulty for the Labour leadership is that it has, until now and very publicly, stood four square behind those who want to see Manston retained as an airport.

Behind the scenes, we know, however, that there is some disquiet among Labour councillors about supporting a CPO even if it is underwritten by RiverOak. Some of that disquiet is also felt by members of the Conservative group.

The report council officials will present to next month's cabinet meeting cannot overlook the new owners' plans, and neither should it.

The political quandary is which option to back. Support a CPO which is bound to lead to a lengthy legal tussle with no guarantee of success or swing behind the alternative business park scheme with its promise of jobs (albeit rather imprecise) and investment.

The consolation for Labour is that precisely the same conundrum faces the Conservative party, which has also been fairly explicit in supporting those who want Manston to be retained as an airport.

The odds last week were on the council backing a CPO. This week, I would say those odds have lengthened considerably.

But next week? Who knows.

Tags: , , , ,

Grounded: is it the end for Manston airport?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, March 19 2014

When Manston Airport was sold for £1 last year, new owner Ann Cloag was optimistic about its prospects. In a statement issued at the time, she said:  “Whilst this is a loss making airport, I hope that with the co-operation of our neighbours and the wider community of Kent, the airport partners and staff, we can capitalise on the opportunities available to give Kent the best chance possible of having a successful and vibrant airport."

Manston Airport closure shock>>>

Just three months on comes an announcement that the airport is consulting on closure.

It is undeniably a big shock and appeared to come out of nowhere. Certainly, neither KCC or Thanet appeared to have had any prior notice. The 150 staff affected were told at a meeting this morning and were understandably dismayed. Thanet has an unenviable reputation as an economic blackspot and jobs are hard to come by.

Various factors contributed to the decision.

The most significant was that talks with Ryanair owner Michael O'Leary about bringing some routes to Manston had come to an end after the operator signalled it had its own financial difficulties. No airport can be sustained on a long-term basis without using its capacity and it is understood that even with the presence of KLM  and regular flights to Schipol, it was haemorraging money on a daily basis. There would have been no room for sentiment by  the consultants commissioned to investigate whether it had a future. 

Add in the uncertainty about what role Manston might have had in the aftermath of the Davies Commission and the ongoing issue about  the lack of good road connections and its peninsula location and Manston has been battling the odds for a long time.

And it is worth noting that Manston has also had to compete against the increasingly successful Southend Airport, whcih has become one of the fastest-growing airports in the UK.

This is not the first time Manston has, in its chequered history, faced the threat of closure. But you sense that this time, it is highly unlikely to survive. Given the hard-headed conclusions of the turnaround team brought in to assess its prospects, it is almost inconceivable that someone else could come in to give it a go.

The fact that the airport is consulting staff over closure - rather than putting it on the market - tells its own story. The airport insists that it is not ruling out that possibility but there is already speculation that developers are circling with an interest in developing it for houses, rather than for planes.

This time, it does feel like it is the end for Manston - at least as an airport.

Tags: , , , , ,

We need a Manston Express!

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Wednesday, December 28 2011

Flybe’s decision to pull out of Manston is another blow to the airport, especially disappointing at the turn of the year.

However attractive we in Kent think Manston is, it seems that not enough people agree.

Flybe’s bold experiment to run flights to Edinburgh, Manchester and Belfast was welcomed, but once again it ends in disappointment. The Manchester service was pulled some time ago, and the Belfast operation was grounded at the end of the summer.

Edinburgh has been popular with leisure flyers, students, servicemen and women, and some business folk. But the lack of a day round trip made it inconvenient for business.

It was a similar disappointment a few years ago when the Irish-based airline EUjet went belly-up after stretching itself over too many services.

So despite the smiles on the ebullient airport CEO Charles Buchanan, Manston has a problem with scheduled passenger services. What message does Flybe's decision send to other would-be operators?

Manston has no difficulty with freight - including horses through its new equine centre - and charter flights to holiday places in the summer do pretty well. Car parking is a breeze. Two minutes after unloading the boot, you are in the terminal.

Yet there just doesn’t seem to be a big enough market for scheduled services. Why is this? OK, the downturn has not helped but there must surely be something more fundamental than that.

One factor is constrained night-time flying. Thanet council should back the airport's modest demands, despite opposition from some residents. It would, after all, be good for jobs and local people desperately need them.

Manston ought to be the solution to over-crowding at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. But the Kent terminal with one of the longest runways in the UK has been largely overlooked in official reports, even though senior Kent people are always talking up its credentials.

Manston’s disadvantage is that it’s more than 60 miles from London. At the eastern end of the UK, It is not surrounded by chimney pots.  But remote airports are not seen as a disadvantage by the likes of Ryanair and EasyJet who bus people miles from a cheap out-of-town terminal.

Roads like the Thanet Way are pretty good but potential customers from South East London probably think they are worse than they are.

So make it easy.  A Manston Parkway station and dedicated high-speed railway –a “Manston Express?” – would make a huge difference. The Regional Growth Fund allocated some welcome cash for a track upgrade. For a fraction of the cost of a Boris Island or Foster's Grain proposal, upgraded links would transform Manston's image. It would be great to see politicians "getting it" in 2012.

But the sad truth at the moment is that investors - and other scheduled operators - will be wary of committing to a terminal that keeps suffering setbacks.


Tags: , ,
Categories: Airport | Transport

Boris Island Part 2: Why the Thames Estuary option will be pursued

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, January 18 2011

The most telling phrase in the report published today about the Mayor of London's case for increasing aviation capacity was the one that talked about the need for "a brand new airport."

Not extending an existing airport but a brand new one. Which suggests to me that when Boris comes to issuing a report later on this year identifying particular locations as part two of his assessment, the Thames Estuary will be the number one favourite.

We were told several times - rather unconvincingly - that the Mayor and Transport for London were open to all suggestions although when pressed about whether that included extending Heathrow - which Boris and the coalition have ruled out - there was a bit of subtle manouevering to indicate that this, ahem, wouldn't be among the options.

Indeed, the only specific place mentioned in the Mayor's 70-page report is the Thames Estuary - and in a classic piece of under-statement, the report notes that it "will require sustained political determination to deliver such an airport."

You can say that again. But no-one should under-estimate the seriousness with which Boris is taking this. He made a compelling case on economic grounds, pointing out that together London airports can muster just five daily flights to China - half the number from Paris and Frankfurt.

He also pointed out that David Cameron's plans for greater use of existing regional airports would only absorb about 10 per cent of the extra capacity expected to be generated at Heathrow as the number of passengers increases from 240m to 460m over the next 20 years.

Boris reignites row over airport plan for Kent>>>

So, he ploughs on in the face of implacable opposition from council chiefs and most MPs. But one thing that did strike me at today's seminar was that many businesses actually seem quite keen on the idea and believe that there has been a pretty one-sided debate so far.

As to ManstonDaniel Moylan, vice chairman of Transport for London, was fairly dismissive - revealing that it would only work if it became a four runway hub of the sort Boris wants. Intriguingly, this proposal was put to KCC leader Paul Carter but he demurred at the suggestion.

So, Boris may not be terribly popular down here but seems remarkably unperturbed. You could even say he's rather relishing the challenge.

Mind you, it was a shame he didn't stick around to answer any journalists' questions.

Tags: , , , ,
Categories: Politics | Thames Gateway | Transport

Got a bee in your bonnet?

Bloggy BeeIf you have a voice, and would like it to be heard, why not consider writing a blog for our site?

Click here to send us a message and let us know!

Welcome to our blogs!

Our Blogs

Tag cloud

Top Posts of the Week

Topics of Conversation