No Night Flights
The No Night Flights group was started in 2009. Our purpose has always been to oppose scheduled night flights at Manston Airport.
We are not anti-airport, we're anti-night flights.
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What's happening now?
In a nutshell
The airport has been sold by Infratil to Ann Gloag, who then closed the airport and sold 80% to Discovery Park (the people who are regenerating the old Pfizer site at Sandwich). A campaign was launched to "save" the airport, mostly orchestrated by out-of-towners. They want TDC to compulsorily purchase the airport, using money from an American real estate company called RiverOak. TDC have decided that RiverOak are not a suitable partner for the suggested CPO.
Manston has been examined as a case study by the government's Transport Select Committee on Smaller Airports. They were simply looking at the role of smaller airports in the UK's future aviation strategy. They were not deciding whether Manston should be open, or closed, or Compulsorily Purchased.
The next plot point in Manston's life story will be how it is dealt with in the Thanet District Local Plan. Click HERE to see how you can make a difference by nudging the Plan in the right direction.
In a bit more detail
- In 2012, Manston was put up for sale. In 2013, the airport was sold to Ann Gloag by Infratil (the New Zealand company that owned it). Failure to sell it over a period of nearly 2 years meant they were desperate to get it off their books as it was losing £5-6 million a year. They sold it for £1. But Ann Gloag agreed to take on about £4.5 million debt.
- After a few months, it was clear to Ann Gloag that there was no future for the site as an airport. Something that has been demonstrated with various owners ever since it it had become a privately owned, commercial operation.
- Ann Gloag closed the airport.
- A petition alleging huge support to 'save' the airport plus active campaigning by Roger Gale persuaded Thanet District Council to explore the possibility of a compulsory purchase of the site. As the council has no money of their own to do this, they would need a back to back partner who would bear all the costs.
- Groups like ours were against the idea of a CPO. Even exploring the idea of a CPO is costing us money. A CPO is a lengthy, costly and litigious business. We have always said that the airport has proved unviable and that new ideas should be explored with the owner(s).
- Groups like ours, through Freedom of Information requests, discovered that there was no verification of signatures on the original petition and that many of the signatories, even if real, were those of people living outside Thanet. It became clear too that aviation enthusiasts, pilots, other groups campaigning against airports in their own area and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all had been asked to sign the petition.
- TDC were trapped in a process by now though. A soft market testing exercise was set up to see if any potential back to back partner could be found. This would need to be a partner that could cover all costs which means not only the massive investment it would take in setting up a new aviation operation but also the huge compensation costs to the owners plus the legal fees that they would be entitled to. To date, TDC hasn't undertaken any valuation of the site. The only valuation is one offered by RiverOak, who are interested in being that partner. We don't think that's good enough.
- RiverOak appear to be the only potential indemnity partner. They have no hands-on aviation experience. They are a real estate investment company. They have as their spokesperson and, potentially, the person heading up their UK operation if they ever did secure the site, Tony Freudmann. He used to be in charge at Manston in the days it was owned by Wiggins (a.k.a. PlaneStation) - when it failed. He's tried running other airports and businesses, without any lasting success.
- The Council commissioned a report from independent aviation experts, Falcon Consultancy. They said that Manston is just not viable as a passenger operation. They said that even with £100s millions, success for that site as an aviation operation would not be guaranteed. They said that only a massive cargo hub/airport city would potentially be viable. We are opposed to any such idea. This would inevitably mean night flights, plus - what would such a huge operation in the middle of Thanet mean for our quality of life, health and the local tourism economy?
- The deadline for TDC to report back on whether RiverOak or anyone else has met their criteria for an indemnity partner has been and gone. It has been extended twice for RiverOak. It seems they had some difficulty in meeting the criteria, and TDC seems to be having a problem drawing a line under this. This group has asked how much money, placed in escrow (third party hands) the council have asked for as part of their criteria to ensure financial capability. We don't know. We haven't been told. But it seems that RiverOak are having a real problem in assuring TDC that they have the money. And that's even with TDC not knowing the real value of the land.
- Riveroak's 'plans' hardly have a great deal of detail to them. What they seem to offer is more of what the old Manston was (which we know was a failure), plus an old planes knackers yard, plus a bit of an aviation training school. Not what the aviation experts said at all. In other words, hardly likely to be viable. We have questioned their motives given their track record and that of Tony Freudmann. Perhaps they want to secure the site and then do what they do best - property development. So, either we have a massive cargo hub or we have a foreign owned company that could do exactly as Ann Gloag did - get hold of the site, run it as an airport for a bit and then close it. Neither is good for Thanet. Why not see what the actual owners' propose instead and TDC could exert a fair bit of control over that process.
- It's frustrating that TDC have repeatedly extended the deadline for a company that seem to lack credibility and who seem to have no way of accessing the hundreds of millions it would take to both secure and then invest in the site. Meanwhile, the actual owners of the site (Cartner and Musgrave - to whom Ann Gloag sold an 80% share of the site) are trying to interest the council, and presumably investors, in their plans. One might assume that any council would be desperate to consider plans that promise jobs and regeneration. Of course at the moment these are just plans but Manston as an airport has had nearly 20 years and massive amounts of investment - a lot from the public purse. It is time for a new beginning as this chapter of Manston draws to a close.