Monday, 22 September 2014

Grant Who a CPO for Manston Airport?

So the best Iris Johnston and Roger Gale could do to save Manston Airport was to invite Grant Shapps MP to Thanet for a couple of hours. Not a  “proper”  Government minister with an aviation or regeneration portfolio; nor an influential  heavyweight in  the corridors of power at Westminster; Shapps is the  Tory Party Chairman. A  post generally occupied by failed Tory wannabes who  didn’t have the talent to make it to the top table,  or for those politicians who have seen better days and who are being gently eased out of their senior responsibilities and retired from the A team.

Ever Get the Feeling You've Been Cheated?
But its not the fact that a political nobody turned up at Manston Airport last week, but that
this nobody said nothing, which should be of concern. His 2 minute speech was full of   gushing hyperbole, yet Shapps failed to give a commitment that his Government would support  Thanet Council’s moves to compulsorily  purchase the airport site. In fact he didn’t  mention the CPO once. And sadly the short film of Shapps meaningless rhetorical flannel illustrates, through the applause he received, that it is indeed possible for politicians to fool most the people most of the time.

Because  just like Thanet Labour who are cynically manipulating the Manston CPO to gain votes in 2015, here  was the Chairman of the Tory Party,  whose job it is to manage the Tory general election campaign,  doing exactly the same thing  in order to shore up  support against the UKIP onslaught in Thanet in 2015.  The spectacle of Johnston and Shapps shoulder to shoulder at Manston was nothing less than a shameful circus sideshow of  rank political opportunism by politicians from the 2 old fashioned  parties who are underwear soilingly fearful of the future.

Should You
 Trust Her??
The real truth is that both Labour and the Tories know damn well  that securing a CPO on the airport will be an incredibly expensive and high risk long shot with no guarantee of success. They know that there  is nothing they could do to prevent would be investor RiverOak, or any other investment partner, from acting in precisely the same way as Anne Gloag if they got their hands on the airport lands. They know that the  best brains in the aviation business; the cleverest airport consultants; the most well-informed aeronautical strategists have,  through expensive  hands-on experience and rigorous market evaluation, all  concluded that Manston Airport does not have a long-term sustainable future.  Shapps and Jonhnston know this too but have chosen instead to opt for political expediency and deceit instead of being honest and open with the people.

To mislead and to give publically funded false hope  in order to protect your political party's arse  is manipulation and cynicism of the first order, which in my opinion verges  on the immoral, if not possibly the downright criminal. Yet  this is precisely what the  Labour and Tory parties,  through the personages of Shapps and Johnston, appear to be doing.  I make this allegation  because whilst espousing the Save Manston mantra and leading the  CPO battle cry the Labour and Tory parties  have been formulating policies based upon having no airport at Manston for at least a year  before Anne Gloag owned the site and long before she announced it was going to close!  Here’s the evidence of the deceitful game played by old fashioned  Labour and Tory politicians.    

First, in December 2013, 4 months before the airport closure was announced by Anne Gloag, the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership (KMEP), a secretive organisation made up of Kent’s Council Leaders (including Clive Hart and more recently Iris Johnston)  and senior Kent  businessmen, including several developers builders and financiers, published a document called “Unlocking the Potential; Going the Growth - Kent and Medway’s Growth Plan: Opportunities, challenges and solutions”. This 71 page document contains lots of interesting ideas for  improving the economic fortunes of Kent, many of which I agree with. But most intriguingly it includes  a list of 32 locations in Kent where plans for economic and population growth will be located.

This list of 32 includes “Manston/ Thanet Central Island” where, according to the document, there is a large supply of commercial and residential land available. However  the viability of this land, so the report argues,  needs to be improved by public sector intervention including the speeding up of the HS1 rail-link to London, the development of Thanet Parkway Station and support by the Council of large housing projects such the East Kent Opportunities development at New Haine Road which was recently subject to a planning appeal,  and the forthcoming Manston Green development which comes before TDC Planning Committee shortly, and which is  situated extremely close to the airport runway. It may well be that discussions, earlier this year,  about building 1000 houses on the airport’s northern grassland are not unrelated to the KMEEPs document as well. But quite clearly the direction of travel of this document is for a major commercial, industrial and residential development in the Manston/ Thanet Central Island area which could  not realistically be accomplished with a  commercial airport operating in the middle of the same location.

KMEEP’s  large, well-researched, comprehensive document  must have taken many months to prepare. There would have been extensive discussions between senior politicians and council officers such as Thanet‘s then Labour leader Clive Hart and, currently indisposed  Chief Executive, Sue McGongigal. There must have been detailed discussions with the developers, financiers and builders from  KMEP who’s ears must have been become embarassingly erect in anticipation of the exciting  and increbily  profitable opportunities likely to be coming their way on the insider track. There must also have been plenty of unofficial discussions with the owners of the rolling acres of real estate in Manston / Thanet Central Island area, including Infratil, the largest landowner of them all,  to help formulate, facilitate and shape the KMEP policy document. This process most have taken at least year or longer before the December 2013 document was finally published.

So as early as 2012 senior politicians, council officers and businessmen were already actively discussing and planning for the  Manston/ Thanet Central Island area to become  a major  centre for residential, commercial and industrial growth  without the need for an airport.

Although of course no-one was stupid enough to say this out loud, it’s not inconceivable that Infratil, a company with close associations with Anne Gloag’s Stagecoach, or perhaps a politician or  a council officer,  may  possibly hvae briefed Gloag about KMEPs  emerging plans for the Manston/ Thanet Central Island area. Gloag would have immediately realised just how massively  lucrative buying the airport and closing it down it could be for her, as the land she owned was central to  KMEPs plans for the area. Its entirley possible that Labour and Conservative polticians, or senior council officers  closely associated with KMEP prvately encouraged Gloag to  buy and then close the aiprort  with promsies of a touble free planning application process nas astronomic profits.  But of course this is purely conjecture on my part.

Speculation aside, KMEPs  plans for major, commercial, industrial and residential growth in the Manston/ Thanet Central Island area were eventually  fed into the South East England Local Economic Partnership’s (SEELEP), bid for  Government Growth Fund money in early 2014. The SEELEP  bid document “Growth Deal and Strategic Economic Plan”,  was submitted shortly after Ann Gloag began the  consultation on the future  of Manston Airport , yet even  though the airport was  not formally closed,  the  document appeared to describe  a future without it.

The document pointed out that “the area around Manston and Discovery Park contains extensive land suitable for residential and  employment use, and is well connected by new infrastructure”. In order to open-up this land, and make it more attractive for developers, the document  requested the Government to

·       provide “£3.5 million Local Growth Fund finance to support commercial development at Manston and Discovery Park

·       invest “in Thanet Parkway station as a priority to reinforce the success of Discovery Park and support investment at Manston”

·       invest  in the Westwood Relief Strategy, eliminating a major bottleneck impacting on residential, employment and commercial growth in Thanet Central Island.

So, well over a year before  there was  any mention of the airport closing  and shortly after Gloag opened the closure consultation, senior  Conservative and Labour  politicians of the 12 Kent District Councils; Medway Council;  Kent County Council Leader Paul Carter;   and the developers, builders and financiers who together make up the secretive KMEP and SEELEP network (about which I will write separately in the near future) had already decided that the future of the so-called  Manston/ Thanet Central Island area would be  a large commercial, industrial and residential area with no room for an airport.  Indeed the closure of Manston was  manna for the planners, allowing them to develop grander more extensive strategies for the rural open spaces of Thanet than the inconvenient  presence of an airport would otherwise have allowed for.

And therein  lies the jaw-dropping hypocrisy and deceit of Thanet’s Labour and Tory Parties. Because the political bosses of these parties and senior council officers, knew damn well that significant and extremely serious plans were  emerging within the KMEP and SEELEP network to transform Manston and Thanet Central Island into a major commercial, industrial and residential centre with no airport. But instead of telling the truth and being honest with residents they gambled on no-one knowing about the secret machinations of these shadowy bodies and instead chose a path of deceit, dishonesty and political corruption over the fate of the airport.

So where does this take us? Well I think the big question is how will this game play out. My guess is that that the last thing the local Tory  and Labour parties want is to be caught with their knickers down and be exposed for their deceit before the 2015 election. What they have probably done is use their influence with Ann Gloag to ask that she holds back her planning applications for the airport until after  the election has taken place, with the promise that her plans will be  fast tracked and expedited for being patient. The “nobody saying nothing”,  Grant Shapps, may also be persuaded to use what little influence he wields with Government grandees to hold back the announcement extending the Discovery Park Enterprise Zone to Thanet. That way nobody will sniff out the  rat-like stench associated with the double game being played by our politicians. In the meantime RiverOak or whoever becomes TDC CPO partner, will be played for a fool, at great public expense, by Thanet Council who will delay and drag out the legal process until after the election, when of course support for this solution will collapse in face of Gloags plans and Thanet’s  new Enterprise Zone status.

Alternatively  it may be possible that  I have credited Thanet Council and its  politicians with too much intelligence and cunning to have planned such a Machiavellian course of action. In which case Gloags plans for the airport, the intentions of KMEEP and SEELEP for Manston, the announcement of the Enterprise Zone extension and the collapse of the CPO may, bit by bit, become known before the election takes place. Indeed this appears to be happening already. The Government announced in July  £10 million in principle funding for the Parkway station even though they knew that Manston  airport had been  closed. The controversial East Kent Opportunities planning application for 550 houses at New Haine Road is in Secretary States, Eric Pickles, in tray for decision shortly. The 850 house planning application for the Manston Green development will be discussed by  TDC planning committee in October or November. And any day now I am expecting to hear about plans for  the development of a major logistic centre, depot  and vehicle repair hub for  east-Kent  monopoly transport outfit Stagecoach buses in one of the hangars at Manston. Which of course will create hundreds of new jobs, and enjoy the benefit of zero business rates when the Discovery Park Enterprise Zone is  expanded north-eastwards into Thanet. And perhaps 1000 houses on the northern grassland might be thrown in for good measure.
Either way there is no doubt in my mind that the 2 old fashioned parties, Labour and Tory, have cynically manipulated and deceived the people of Thanet about saving the airport and securing a CPO for political gain. When this stinking , politically corrupt game became evident to me is when I stopped arguing for the CPO and began calling for a public discussion on Plan B for Manston. Because whether you agree with my politics or not I believe above all else that public affairs should managed in an open and transparent way.

As one my heroes Johnny Rotten once said “ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated”.


  1. I think you mean Grant Shapps no "c".

  2. On the 26th of October, Thanet councillors will be taking a vote on whether to proceed with the CPO. You might imagine that before making a decision of such magnitude, the council would ensure that councillors were in possession of all of the information they would need to make an informed decision. Let's look at some of the information councillors ought to have, but which they haven't bothered to commission: They won't have any information about the airport which will be created using the CPO. Riveroak has published a fictional account but there is no planning application and nothing which Riveroak could not change if they so wish. In the absence of any kind of plan for the airport to be created, there is no environmental information about the impact this airport would have. In particular there is total confusion over whether night-flights would be an integral part of the new development. The council has done no kind of financial risk assessment. Getting involved in any protracted arrangement of this sort carries a significant degree of financial risk from a number of directions. For example, the decision to CPO to create a freight depot would blight and devalue properties in Ramsgate and adjacent to the airfield. The compensation claims will be made against the council. Councillors need to know about the potential liabilities if they are to make an informed decision. Finally, and most amazingly, it would appear the council has taken no independent legal advice to tell them whether a CPO of this sort would be legal. They could easily find themselves in court racking up millions in legal fees and losing the case. With all of the things TDC hasn't done, you have to ask what they have done. They don't appear to have done anything they would need to have done to allow them to make a sensible decision. This could render the decision open to Judicial Review, but I doubt if they've taken legal advice on that, either.

    1. Sufficiently negligent to involve 'personal liability' ?

  3. Looks like Grant Shapps was invited by wannabe MP Craig (the speech isn't here? but CPO not even mentioned?)to be seen to be doing something.

    But if the CPO are Manston fail then he's shot himself in the foot already?

    Absolutely right Iris etc are playing us for fools over the CPO and doing nothing on the Manston contamination they've known about for years.

    The Parkway proposals are foolish given the airport has closed: another £20M wasted. And where is Macgonigal? We are still paying her? Sick leave then a payoff to avoid the investigation?

  4. Well said 20:04 the CPO review is a sop to shut up the SMA lot. Not a shred of fact to it - and we should know how much this has cost us so far in public funds and the likely costs going forward in monitoring, pollution cleanup etc? TDC certainly seem to have deliberately avoided the latter for years...

  5. I think the parkway is intended for whatever is built post airport.

  6. You make some very interesting points, Councillor Driver, some of which are indeed better for the light of day shining upon them.

    However I will point out that the Cabinet Minister is a pilot himself, and has made some interesting observations in aviation journals, which there was not room for in a two minute speech. In some of these he is in very close agreement with points made by RiverOak, to the Aviation Commission :

    Cabinet Minister says “In terms of the potential for so called STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – General Aviation offers it all…."
    I ask you to join the debate :

    Cabinet Minister Grant Shapps has said, “There is already a Department for Transport tendering process underway in order to establish the full scale of the contribution made by General Aviation to our economy. We will then carry out an evaluation of the need for a strategic network of General Aviation airfields in order to support more jobs and growth in the UK.
    “This red-tape cutting Government has offered is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for UK General Aviation. This Government has made it clear that we want to see regulations reduced and red-tape cut. Now it’s up to the UK’s General Aviation community to grab this opportunity, rather than just waiting for its direction to be set by others. If GA doesn’t take up this chance then decline in the sector is the only other plausible outcome” .

    RiverOak are 100% into General Aviation and believe that it will lead Manston Airport to profitability, and talk about the training and educational possibilities : “The scale of the airfield means there is also huge scope for developing MRO and aircraft teardown facilities. Both OEM and teardown are high-skilled processes and we recognize, therefore, that there we will need to work with local partners in Kent to develop an academy facility to meet the specialized labor requirements of those companies.” They also discuss the training possibilities at the RAF museum.

    These two guys were both at TDC offices on Thursday, I do not know it they talked with each other, but they are both singing from the same hymn sheet.

    Grant Shapps has also said “In terms of the potential for so called STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – General Aviation offers it all. Not only can GA inspire the next generation, but it can also train them too, and not just as pilots. So we need to protect the sector that we’ve got and to set it free from the kind of red-tape that stifles innovation and future careers. Britain once helped lead the way in aviation - and we can do so again.”

    So what do you think guys ? - particularly you guys that really know the airport inside out - what do we do, what message do we take to Grant Shapps, the government and the Aviation Commission ? They seem to be ready to listen.
    Are these initiatives we need to back, for the benefit of the kids currently in school ?

    1. We "guys" should tell Shapps to butt out and explain that grabbing a piece of real estate to hand over to a group of yank speculators will benefit no-one but their investors.

    2. Nice attempt Beau to weave some vague statements about aviation by Shapps into somehow possibly being relevant to Manston. Utter cobblers of course given Manston is closed and sold off.

    3. How is it that Riveroak are "100% intoi general aviation", yet neither own nor manage an airport anywhere in the world, but they do have a huge portfolio of property they have developed all over the US, not forgetting of course that their representative is the only person thus far to have suggested permission be given at Manston for any houses.

      I also note Beau, that elsewhere, you have claimed 2000 jobs have been lost at Manston, and AG wants to build 1000's of houses there. Can you evidence either of these claims, or are they the usual inaccurate SMA fare. I would be very interested to see your evidence for these figures.

  7. One problem I have with this, Stagecoach has a monopoly of bus routes in East Kent already, adding more buses of any kind could be breaking Monopoly laws of some kind.

    Plus if you have proof of KMEP, spill the beans.

  8. Thanks for this information Ian Driver. I now know I wont be voting Tory or Labour next year and as you are a trouble maker I have decided I be voting UKIP.

    1. With such a mercurial unprincipled voter, I for one don't give a toss who you vote for, but warn you that you will get the government you deserve and representation locally by a bunch of inneffectual charlatans.

  9. Shapps was only there for a photocall with Mackinlay. The SMA members were being used as a backdrop for this Tory PR stunt. Presumably, they were happy to be used in this way. In the footage you can see the moment when Iris realised she was a gooseberry in a Tory love-fest. She looks like she's bitten a lemon.

    1. SMA are happy to "be a backdrop" to any party that supports Manston, even the Green party until recently. But like others, I'm disillusioned with the local antics of Tory, Labour and Green. So it's UKIP for me too at the next election.

    2. Ukip haven't said anything about Manston since Farage was nominated. ..

    3. Be fair, Iris always looks like she's bitten a lemon.

    4. Rubbish 00:41. Roger Latchford OBE spoke about it at a meeting just last week.

    5. UKIP, ha, people are so stupid thinking that Farage, a one man show with the serially racist party members, will do anything but continue messing with the UK. Their campaigning incompetance is staggering. Only a fool will vote UKIP.

    6. 10:19 which meeting and what did Latchford say

  10. Grant Shapps may be a pilot but then so are many other people including the famous, But none of them have established and run a successful airport. Unlike Alastair Welch who lead the turn round of Southend airport and the man bought in by Manston's new owners to see if it was possible there,

  11. Disvovery Park owners buy Manston...for warehouses and houses. So much for Iris andLLatchford and the other aviation politicians

  12. Did Iris Johnston know nothing about this impending deal when she was cheerleading alongside the SMA? Whichever way, surely she must do the honourable thing and resign?

  13. This is the statement that Iris and Thanet DC have issued today:-

    Council will still consider a CPO of Manston Airport
    "The council is already part-way through a process to review whether compulsory purchase of the site is a viable option following a petition presented to the council on 10 July.
    The outcome of a soft-market testing exercise to identify suitable indemnity partners to cover all of the associated costs of a CPO will be taken to Cabinet on Thursday 16 October.
    The council will then undertake a wider review of the options for the site and as part of this would seek further details from the new site owners to understand more about their proposal.
    A report outlining all of the options for the future of the privately-owned site will then be brought to a Full Council meeting for all 56 Councillors to consider.
    The council has been clear that a CPO will not go ahead unless there is evidence of the economic viability of the site operating as an airport and a suitable investor identified to cover all of the costs required."
    – Thanet District Council

    If Iris has not started off with all these CPO threats to Ann Gloag, she would have found herself in the information group instead of hearing about it today for the first time.

  14. The discovery park in Sandwich still has space that nobody wants. So if you really believe that 4,000 jobs will be created then you're even more gullible than the SMA lot!

  15. The key thing about ALL of the political parties in Thanet is that they ALL backed reopening the airport and they have ALL backed the wrong horse. Should you vote for someone who shows such poor judgement?

  16. Iris aligned herself far too closely with the SMA campaign and scuppering any chance of a positive working relationship with Ann Gloag. We need a new Leader who isn't tainted by failure and poor judgement.

  17. Who would you suggest for the new leadership 18:52?