Kent

Manston Airport: Ann Gloag told to reveal sale details

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

The former owner of Manston Airport has been told by MPs to make details of her deal with its new owners public to counter claims of asset stripping.

The Kent airport closed last May, seven months after being bought by Ann Gloag, co-founder of the Stagecoach Group.

She subsequently sold a majority stake of the 700-acre site to regeneration specialists for redevelopment.

The Commons Transport Select Committee said Mrs Gloag should make clear who would benefit from any redevelopment.

A spokeswoman for Mrs Gloag said she would not be commenting on the MPs' report into smaller airports, which follows evidence given to the select committee in February.

In a statement, regeneration specialists Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner said the stake they had bought "gives us a controlling interest, and future redevelopment rests with us".

"Mrs Gloag's stake in no way gives her control over the site or the joint venture company, though she will benefit from the successful redevelopment."

Mr Musgrave and Mr Cartner said their interest was "solely in redeveloping the site for the benefit of the local economy".

"The fact remains Manston Airport, as pointed out in the MPs' report, has not proved economically viable despite the millions spent to make it a success," they added.

'Public uncertainty'

Campaigners fighting to keep the airport open petitioned Thanet District Council following its closure asking it to compulsorily purchase the site.

In December, the council considered a compulsory purchase order (CPO) involving US investment firm RiverOak as the indemnity partner, but decided not to proceed with it.

However, in the select committee report, MPs said Kent County Council (KCC) should have done more to support Thanet as it considered the CPO.

They said KCC had failed to fulfil its "strategic oversight function as the local transport authority".

KCC leader Paul Carter said the authority "worked very closely with the district council".

"I've read the details of what we said we'd do and we've done everything we could possibly have done in helping and supporting Thanet District Council."

He said the Thanet-commissioned study into Manston concluded that unless the owners had £100m to start off with, the viability of the airport would always be "enormously challenging".

"What I would like to see is the owners of Manston Airport creating significant employment opportunities for the people of east Kent and helping to support and grow the east Kent economy," he added.

'Pulled rug out'

Conservative MP for North Thanet Sir Roger Gale, who is in favour of keeping Manston open, said the select committee had "absolutely got a point" and criticised Mr Carter.

"The county council passed a resolution unanimously supporting the airport and Thanet council in its endeavours to go for a CPO.

"Fairly shortly after that, the leader of Kent County Council pulled the rug out from under Thanet."

Sir Roger claimed Mr Carter was "distracted by the possibility of a development site".

Earlier this month, a government review was ordered into the decision not to go ahead with the CPO.

The committee concluded that although welcoming the decision, "the uncertainty faced by the public and other interested parties could have been reduced if it had not taken three months before the Department for Transport acted".

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