All posts tagged 'aviation'

The Friday Five - a round-up the week's top political stories in Kent

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, September 5 2014

The Mayor of London considered it a dream but others saw it as nightmare. But it was Boris who woke up in a cold sweat this week when Sir Howard Davies finally sunk his grand plans for a Thames Estuary airport.

In a conclusive demolition of the scheme, the Commission said it was too costly, too environmentally damaging and too disruptive. Boris reacted in characteristically forthright fashion. "In one myopic stroke, the Commission has set the debate back by half a century," he railed. But for all his fluster, the scheme looks dead and buried. Unless BoJo becomes Prime Minister.

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There was not much evidence of entente cordiale as migrants gathered at Calais resorted to increasingly desperate attempts to cross to the UK. The Mayor of Calais threatened to blockade the port - a threat that didn't go down terribly well with Kent MPs or ministers. UKIP leader Nigel Farage remained uncharacteristially quiet...

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It was described by its creator as a "abstracted diagrammatic river...and a calligraphic motif simultaneously embedded in and separate from the surrounding streetscape." But the £100,000 concrete "flume" - an artistic feature of the divisive shared space road scheme in Ashford is falling apart and is to be ripped up. And who is to pay for it? Have a wild guess...

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After the defection of Douglas Carswell from the Conservatives to UKIP, the spotlight shone on other likely suspects who might follow suit. The Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless was the subject of this speculation but killed it off swiftly while Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson revealed he had been contacted by someone asking if he would like to consider joining. No, he said.

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Still, the UKIP bandwagon keeps rolling on although I doubt very much that Mr Cameron will be quaking in his boots just yet to learn that the Conservatives have lost a by-election in Folkestone.

Congratulations to David Callahan, though, who took the seat from the Conservatives with 27.9% of the vote, six points ahead of Tory candidate Rodica Wheeler with 21.7%.

 

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Categories: Precept | Relationships

Dropping Boris Island won't make the next airport decision any easier

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, September 2 2014

For Boris Johnson, it was a dream solution but for many in Kent and Medway, it was a nightmare.

Now the Mayor of London has seen his vision of a four-runway hub airport grounded and unlikely to take off again at any time in the near future.

Grounded: The estuary airport plan is cut adrift>>>

For all the Mayor's protestations, the one thing he cannot complain about is that the Davies Commission didn't give him a fair hearing.

The review of the option allowed the Mayor and Lord Foster to argue their case again with the commission but it was to no avail - and some suspect it was always going to get knocked back.

The costs, the environmental damage and the disruption caused by closing and relocating an airport were all cited as difficulties that the commission concluded would be insurmountable.

It was not as if the arguments were finely balanced. The case against going ahead was fairly clear despite Lord Foster's assertion that the conclusion reached by the commission meant a fairly predictable compromise.

Attention now focuses on whether Heathrow or Gatwick should expand and both options are politically awkward.

Expansion of Heathrow would expose the Conservatives to the legitimate charge of performing a huge U-turn. Expanding Gatwick risks opposition from traditionally Conservative supporting heartlands - including west Kent.

The review will not report back until next September, conveniently after the general election.

What happens then is anyone's guess - particularly if there is a change in government and the possibility that Boris is back at Westminster.

The major problem with addressing aviation capacity in the south east is perhaps the fact that politicians are involved.

No decision will be taken until all the political ramifications are carefully calibrated and measured against the economic arguments.

Don't expect a quick decision - even if that is what UK plc desperately needs.

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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

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.






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The government's indecision over a new airport is all politics. Plus: new democracy in action at County Hall

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, July 13 2012

For all its efforts to spin the announcement over its latest consultation on aviation policy, nothing can hide the fact that the government has opted to kick the most controversial decision about how to address the capacity question into the long grass.

Justine Greening may have presented the two-stage process as one which will allow a more considered deliberation but no amount of window dressing about the importance of deciding what "future sustainable aviation growth" should be can disguise that this is a short-term political fix.

We all know the reasons why: each and every option that has been floated, from Boris Island to a third runway at Heathrow, has potentially damaging ramifications for the Conservatives with MPs in sensitive seats - not least in Kent - making no secret that they won't be rolled over if the option of a new hub airport gets government backing.

So, the separate 'call for evidence' due to happen later this Autumn - no doubt after the party conference season - is a fudge of the worst kind. It is illogical, too when you read the full document the DfT has released about the key questions it wants to address.

We are told the exercise is designed to assess the best way of balancing the need for more frequent flights to emerging markets with the need to reduce the impact of airports on local communities.

Precisely the key question that will need to be considered if the Thames Estuary hub airport was part of the equation.

Turn to the section "Air quality and other local environmental impacts" and the lack of logic is even more explicit, with the government telling us: "Loss of habitats, species, landscape and built heritage, and significant impacts on water resources and ecosystems would only be advocated where there are no feasible alternatives and the benefits of proposals clearly outweigh those impacts."

How anyone can respond to Part One of this consultation exercise without any reference to the Thames Estuary scheme of Boris Island - and to be fair, a third runway at Heathrow - is beyond me - if consultees make arguments around this issue, will the DfT disqualify their contributions?

Inevitably, there has been plenty of political mudslinging about delay and dither.

The government may have bought a bit of time but at what cost? Most people seem to think that rather than looking at the national interests, rather narrower parochial interests have prevailed.

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What do county councillors think of plans for what will be the single most significant development in Kent for decades? Ashford council has given the go ahead for a development of 5,750 houses at Chilmington Green which will create effectively a new town.

KCC understandably is a key player and consultee in the debate because it will fall to the authority to provide new schools, roads and other community services as and when it is built. And there has - hardly surprisingly - been quite a debate stirred up about the scheme.

But the views of county councillors - particularly the ones that represent the area - have been silenced.

KCC has decided what its response to the development and a report setting out its views, signed off by the cabinet member responsible - Cllr Bryan Sweetland - was recently presented to one of KCC's new "pre-cabinet" committees - set up specifically with the intention of allowing backbenchers input into the decision-making process before decisions are taken.

So, was there a discussion about whether KCC had got it right? Were backbenchers asked to give their views on the process? Er, no.

The report was an 'urgent' report that effectively relayed that the decision had already been made because KCC had to respond to the Ashford council's consultation timetable.

The committee was told in no uncertain terms by the Conservative chairman David Brazier that he would not countenance any debate because the constitutional process had been followed.

A decision had been made and that was that. When the mild-mannered councillor Elizabeth Tweed did venture an opinion, she got a mild ticking off from Mr Brazier.

A fine example of democracy in action.

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Categories: Precept

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