Kent

Thanet councillors walkout of Manston Airport meeting

Manston Airport Image copyright PA
Image caption Manston Airport closed in May with the loss of 150 jobs

A mass walkout was staged by Thanet councillors during a meeting about the future of the closed Manston Airport.

Labour councillor Will Scobie left after branding the full council meeting "a bit of a sham", followed by the entire Conservative group.-

The meeting was the first opportunity for councillors to discuss last week's cabinet decision to not pursue the compulsory purchase of Manston Airport.

Leader Iris Johnston said the remaining councillors approved two key items.

Manston, which closed in May with the loss of 150 jobs, has been sold to regeneration specialists who plan to develop the site for manufacturing, housing and schools.

The councillors who walked out of the meeting on Tuesday evening claimed they were not able to discuss the airport and the compulsory purchase issue properly.

'Deplorable behaviour'

Mr Scobie told the council: "This is no way to run a council and to be honest with you I'm not going to sit here and waste my time in a meeting where we have no decision-making power, no access to information."

"We walked out en masse because I think that we, and more importantly the public, were expecting a wide-ranging debate about Manston this evening," added Conservative shadow leader councillor Robert Bayford.

"We were told very clearly by the leader that we weren't there to talk about RiverOak and the CPO process and then she immediately introduced a motion which was going to lead to a debate about the new owners and their plans for the site."

But former council leader Clive Hart said the walkout was "deplorable behaviour".

"How on earth any councillor can possibly believe that trouncing out of a meeting in any way fits the extremely privileged role of representing local residents I simply do not know," he said.

"Those who did desert their posts should each and all be totally ashamed of themselves."

'Working party'

Labour's Mrs Johnston, the council leader, said the meeting had not been a waste of time.

"I think that the most important thing was that we had council approval, from those who were left in the room, to be allowed to speak to the owners of the airport without any criticism," she said.

"We have to [talk to them], they are the owners.

"The second thing was the setting up of a working party that Councillor [Richard] Nicholson is arranging, cross-party, so that was the next stage for us."

About 150 people held a protest outside the council building in Margate during the meeting to protest against the Manston Airport development plans.

Prior to the sale, RiverOak Investments expressed an interest in buying the airport to focus on cargo flights.

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