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Herne Bay, England, CT6
United Kingdom

Community website for all things Herne Bay (Kent, UK). Covers: The Downs, Herne Bay Museum, Herne Bay Historical Records Society, Herne Bay Pier Trust, Herne Bay in Bloom, East Cliff Neighbourhood Panel, No Night Flights, Manston Airport, Save Hillborough, Kitewood, WEA, Local Plan and much, much more...

No Night Flights

KCC tells it like it is

HBM

The recent statement from Kent County Council is an accurate summary and a welcome clarification. Its arguments and conclusions match those of No Night Flights and Manston Pickle, for the simple reason that they too are based on facts and evidence. 

It’s refreshing to see the important distinction being drawn between the nostalgia and sentimentality that has characterised much of the “pro-CPO” campaign, and the vision and hard-headed realism that must guide the future use of the site.  

Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill has emphasised that the commercial realities of a competitive market must over-ride any desires to intervene. You can’t buck the market, and Manston has proved a failure in the aviation market. 

For years Manston was seen as key to local regeneration, and was given every assistance. Kent County Council fully backed the airport at Manston in principle and in practice, in words and deeds. So did Thanet District Council. Despite this, Manston failed as an airport. Kent County Council has correctly moved from bending over backwards to help Manston Airport to throwing its weight behind “Plan B”. This is to be applauded. 

The CPO proposal is a blind alley, a red herring. The shameless electioneering by those calling for a CPO is damaging East Kent's economy by holding back the owners’ development and job creation plans for the site. Our elected representatives, at all levels, must work with the legal owners of the site to produce the best outcome for East Kent. 



No Night Flights home page

Select Committee Report

HBM

Manston: one last diversion

One of the few pieces of advice I’ve ever paid attention to is: ask yourself “What’s really going on here?” So… what was the Select Committee about, and why did it spend so much time looking at Manston?

The publicly stated remit for the Committee was to inquire on the “role of smaller airports, and the steps the Government and EU are taking to support them”. In practice, there was little exploration of their role, and much more emphasis on how to support them. In aviation, support usually means tax breaks - in this case the tax is Air Passenger Duty (APD).

The aviation industry has complained about APD ever since it was invented, and regional devolution has made things worse. Northern Ireland’s Belfast airport clearly illustrates the disadvantage of APD in the business it loses to neighbouring Dublin airport. Scotland has the power to drop APD, which would jeopardize Newcastle airport. If Wales does likewise, Bristol airport would be threatened. All the smaller airports in England are getting twitchy, complaining it’s not a level playing field.

The Select Committee provided the aviation industry with a forum to air its grievances about APD. The Committee’s report provides the Department for Transport and the (English) smaller airports with a stick with which to beat the Treasury. In that respect, it’s served its purpose.

So what about Manston?

Manston airport had already closed before the inquiry started. The Select Committee considered Manston as a case study "both to inform our wider recommendations and because the Kent public are concerned". In fact, the amount of "concern" in Kent had been exaggerated by aviation lobby groups, and then magnified by Sir Roger Gale’s access to Ministers and media. Manston turned out to be little more than a diversion.

Inexplicably, the Select Committee failed to take the opportunity to be “informed” by the people they questioned. Alastair Welch had been General Manager at Stansted, and then bucked the national trend in making Southend Airport a success. In contrast, Tony Freudmann (part of the team that wants to grab the site) has been closely involved with more aviation failures than anyone else I know.

It was a perfect opportunity for the Select Committee to find out what makes a small airport succeed, what makes it fail, and what role APD might play. And they fluffed it. Instead, they spent a large portion of their precious time delving into the share-holdings and ownership of the companies that own the ex-airport site.

I got the impression that the Committee Chair, Louise Ellman, didn’t fully understand the questions she was asking on this subject, let alone the answers. I suspect she had been fed the questions by Sir Roger, who in turn had been fed by the “pro-Manston” groups. The Select Committee learnt nothing from their case study of Manston that could usefully be applied to other smaller airports, or to their consideration of the impact of APD.

The Committee’s remit covered 40 or so airports across the country - open, active airports. Why did they spend so much time asking Sir Roger’s questions about a closed airport? For the same reason Minister Hayes came to Kent to re-announce a DfT inquiry while standing next to a parliamentary candidate - electioneering.

Anyway, on with the report…

* * * SPOILER ALERT * *  *

There’s a lengthy rehash of the time wasted on the 2nd and 23rd Feb - Manston’s history and irrelevant questions about ownership. Ann Gloag is invited to publish her commercial arrangements, TDC is dissed for being small fry, KCC and DfT are rebuked for not having been more helpful, DfT is encouraged to play the sensible grown-up, and the Government confirms it has no interest in buying Manston.

In TDC’s place, I would be peeved - central Government has no “right of oversight”, the Council has followed due process, and that should be the end of it. The Committee haven’t considered the possibility that it didn’t take long, and didn’t cost much, for TDC to reach their decision simply because it was so obvious. (Is this 6 month old company, based in a foreign tax haven, with no accounts, and no up-front cash a prudent choice? No.)

In KCC’s place, I would be peeved - yes, KCC did change their minds… because the facts changed. For years assorted owners had been telling KCC that the airport was a sure-fire winner. Then the owner tells them it’s a dead duck. And it’s not central Government’s place to tell KCC how to spend its budget, just as it's not KCC's place to prop up a failed business. KCC's job is to focus on what's best for Kent, and KCC has clearly decided that regeneration is the best available option.

In Ann Gloag’s place, I would tell them to take a running jump.


Click on the little boxy symbol next to the magnifying glasses to make it go full screen. Click on any item in the Contents list to jump to that page.


No Night Flights home page

Have your say in Manston's future

HBM

This Is YOUR BIG CHANCE To Say What You Think Should Happen To The Ex-Airport Site At Manston.

This is what you'll see on the left of the screen when you're being heroic...

This is what you'll see on the left of the screen when you're being heroic...

Thanet District Council are consulting on their "preferred options" in the Draft Local Plan. This consultation runs from 9th January to 6th March 2015. To be honest, it's rather tedious, and leaves you thinking "have they deliberately tried to make this awkward?".

BUT (and it's a big "but") this is your only chance to influence the Plan that will shape the next 15 years. Please note - you don't have to be a  Thanet resident to comment on the Plan. So grab yourself a gallon of tea or a pint of gin, and knuckle down for a brief spell of "dull but useful"...

Click HERE to go to the bit of the TDC website that tells you what you need to know. You'll need to register before you can make comments (just like the Canterbury Local Plan, if you did that). There's a helpful step-by-step guide, and they do point out that you don't have to do it all in one go - your comments are saved as you go, and you can come back to it as often as you like.

I've been through the 263 page document (!), identified the bits that refer directly to the ex-airport at Manston, and listed them below. All of these refer to the menu-type thing that you'll see at the left of your screen on the TDC consultation site (shown in the picture on the left here). This should make it easier for you to home in on the relevant bits.

(If you're allergic to their online consultation site, you can send your comments directly to local.plans@thanet.gov.uk)


If you only do one of these, do the first.

  • Strategic Proposals | Economic Strategy | Manston Airport [SP05]
  • Thanet Preferred Option Draft Local Plan | Strategic Priorities and Objectives | Strategic Priority 1 [SP01]
  • Strategic Proposals | Economic Strategy | Employment Growth | 1.7 [SP02]
  • Strategic Proposals | Economic Strategy | Manston Business Park | (3) [SP04]
  • Strategic Proposals | Town Centre Strategy | Ramsgate | 2.54 [SP09]
  • Strategic Proposals | Housing Strategy | Strategic Housing Allocations | Manston Green | (4), (5) [SP13]
  • Strategic Proposals | Transport Strategy | Safe and Sustainable Travel | 6.3,  6.4 [SP34]
  • Strategic Proposals | Transport Strategy | Connectivity | 6.12 [SP37]
  • Development Management Policies | Safe and Healthy Environment | Groundwater Protection | 16.16 [SE04]
  • Development Management Policies | Safe and Healthy Environment | Aircraft Noise and Noise Sensitive Development [SE08]

I think the single most important fact to try to get across is that the airport has closed, it has been shut for months, and the owners have no intention of re-opening it as an airport. Everything that assumes an operational airport is, in my opinion, a deliberate mistake which needs correcting.

TDC have gone "rabbit in headlights" in response to a gobby minority demanding that they risk bankruptcy by CPO-ing the site on behalf of an American firm who can't afford to pay its full market value themselves. So they've come up with a peculiar fence-sitting strategy that means they keep assuming it is (and will be) an operational airport, AND are setting up an Area Action Plan which assumes it isn't.

Personally, I think they'll get a kicking from the Planning Inspector for asking people to consult on a Plan that talks about the operational needs and growth potential of an airport that's shut, but that's their lookout.

The plane fans who want to see a 24 hour cargo hub and the UK's biggest aviation knackers yard will be writing in. Don't let theirs be the only voice.


No Night Flights home page

Transport Select Committee - public hearing

HBM

We submitted our written evidence to the committee in October 2014. On February 2nd, we went along to Portcullis House (just across the road from the Houses of Parliament), to do our bit.

For you.

Here you can watch the committee in action. We start with:

  • Pauline Bradley (Director, Manston Skyport Limited)
  • Alastair Welch (Interim Director, Kent Airport Limited)
  • Alan Mackinnon (Interim Director, Kent Airport Limited)
  • George Yerrall (Partner, RiverOak Investment Corp)
  • Tony Freudmann (Partner, RiverOak Investment Corp)

At about 51 minutes in, we move on to:

  • Paul Carter (Leader, Kent County Council)
  • David Smith (Director of Economic Development, Kent County Council)
  • Councillor Iris Johnston (Leader, Thanet District Council)
  • Madeline Homer (Acting Chief Executive, Thanet District Council)
  • Paul Cook (Interim Director of Corporate Resources, Thanet District Council)
  • Sir Roger Gale MP

At about 1 hour 28 minutes in, we get:

  • Ros McIntyre (Chair, No Night Flights)
  • Dr Beau Webber (Chair, Save Manston Airport Group)
  • Angie Sutton (Why Not Manston?)

No Night Flights home page

RiverOak

HBM

RiverOak Investment Corp. LLC

RiverOak seems to have been brought into this by Tony Freudmann. RiverOak is a US real estate company that is registered as an LLC in Delaware. This gives RiverOak considerable protection from prosecution. We’ve been looking at some Delaware Supreme Court judgements. As the Court says:

“…ultimately, LLCs and corporations are different; investors can choose to invest in an LLC, which offers one bundle of rights, or in a corporation, which offers an entirely separate bundle of rights.”

We think that TDC (who now has no Head of Legal) has no idea what kind of organisation the Council could be hopping into bed with.

RiverOak says that: "RiverOak funds invest in gap equity positions of $2 million to $5 million per transaction in deals that are typically $8 million to $50 million." So, they don't buy assets outright and they don't typically spend more than $5m.Their most recently launched fund was $50m and some of this money has already been invested. A senior construction industry contact of ours has said that the brownfield land at Manston, if Ann Gloag could get permission to develop it, would be worth around £1m per acre. If he’s right, that 720 acre site has to be well outside of RiverOak’s funding reach.

RiverOak invests in student housing; medical establishments and some domestic housing. The company says that one of their senior managers was involved in the refinancing of Alliance Fort Worth Airport when he/she worked for a previous employer. We can find no evidence anywhere that RiverOak as a company has any aviation experience, and definitely no trace of the company ever having been airport operators. We suspect that RiverOak wants the land for housing.

RiverOak Investment Corporation LLC set up RiverOak Aviation Associates LLC on 3rd July 2014. This suggests to us that Manston would indeed be RiverOak’s first ever foray into aviation. Ann Gloag said in her Gazette interview that she did not like the way that RiverOak/Freudmann did business and that RiverOak was not credible as an airport operator. 


No Night Flights home page

Petitions

HBM

We keep being told that a petition to “save” Manston airport was submitted to TDC with more than 8,000 signatures. It is also claimed that a petition of over 26,000 signatures was delivered to Downing Street. It’s really hard to get TDC to spell out the truth about the validity of the petitions that were submitted to the Council. Here’s what we know so far.

On 10th July two petitions were discussed by TDC. The Council report about them says:

2.1 An Epetition organised by Oscar Maynard (Save Manston Airport Group) has been signed by 3361 persons. The petition prayer reads:
“We the undersigned petition the council to make a compulsory purchase of Manston, Kent’s International Airport. We would also like Thanet District Council to look into the possibility of members of the public to buy bonds into this purchase."
2.2 In addition to the 3,361 persons who have signed the Epetition, 4,330 persons have validly signed a paper petition containing the same petition prayer as the Epetition. Officers cannot check whether these two sets of signatures “duplicate” any signatories, as those who have signed the paper petition have not always given a full first name and surname, so therefore it is not possible to add them together to determine a “total” number persons signing the petition.

We asked TDC what checks were done on the petitions. TDC’s reply on 22nd July said that no check of the residential addresses of petitioners was undertaken. We have a detailed FOIA request about this and TDC’s answer.

Given that the two petitions cannot validly be added together, it looks as if there was a petition with a maximum of 4,330 signatures which have not been checked in any way. We know from reading comments on the various Save Manston sites that some people have signed more than once and that some people live elsewhere in the UK or abroad, so the petition asking TDC to CPO Manston is not a strongly local one. Interestingly, the petition does not ask TDC to find an indemnity partner to acquire the airport from TDC following a CPO – it asks the Council to CPO the airport and to investigate the possibility of a public bonds issue.

We have asked Downing Street about the 26,000 signature petition. They have no trace of it, as it has been "lost" in its travels between government departments.


No Night Flights home page

NIMBYs

HBM

The most vocal supporters of the "cargo hub and knackers yard" pipedream, the starters of petitions, the cheerleaders for foreign property developers, and those who would have TDC take a "leap of faith" into the financial abyss... don't live under the flight path and wouldn't have to live with the consequences of their actions. But they're perfectly happy to inflict a freight hub on those that do live under the flight path.

  • Roger Gale lives in Preston - a quiet little village to the West of Thanet
  • Keith Churcher lives in Wouldham - a quiet little village to the South of Rochester. He is opposed to an Estuary Airport
  • Beau Webber lives in Littlebourne - a quiet little village to the East of Canterbury
  • Mike Barker lives in Dunton Green - a quiet little village to the North of Sevenoaks
  • Nicholas Reed lives in Folkestone
  • Oscar Maynard comes from Deal and is a university student, living in Holland.

Click it to big it


No Night Flights home page

Transport Select Committee - written submission

HBM

The Department for Transport has set up a committee to examine policy and make recommendations to the Government on the role of smaller airports. To our astonishment, they decided to spend an entire session looking at Manston, even though it's shut. Before the hearing, we submitted our written evidence.


No Night Flights home page

Letter to Discovery Park

HBM

Discovery Park (Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave) now own 80% of the Manston site, and Ann Gloag is a minority shareholder. In a better world, TDC would now be talking to Discovery Park about their plans, in the hope of conjuring the best possible deal for Thanet. In practice, TDC are still fixated on the idea of CPO-ing the site on behalf of RiverOak so that they can run it as a freight hub.

Unfortunately, the only attention that Discovery Park seem to have received so far is a rather presumptuous letter from the Save Manston Gang, telling them what they can and should do with their property. In the interests of them having a more balanced view, we thought we would drop them a line, and copy it to some TDC bigwigs (Mr Boyle is their legal beagle).


Dear Ms Homer and Mr Boyle,

Please find attached a letter to Messrs Cartner and Musgrave about future development at their brownfield site at Manston. We thought you might find it useful as a counterbalance to the letter sent by Dr Beau Webber on behalf of the various groups who want to see an airport developed at Manston.

We are very surprised by the enthusiastic and one-sided support that many Councillors have shown for a cargo hub to be developed at Manston by an untested and inexperienced (in airport operating terms) business partner. Could you let me know when talks will begin with the site's owners about their plans for the site? You will know that, without "exhaustive" talks with the owners about their plans for the site, the Council is not in a position to progress a CPO.

We look forward to hearing from you.


No Night Flights home page

RiverOak's proposed CPO deal with TDC

HBM

I would be most grateful for any of you who are legally or contractually minded to have a quick look at this document. It's the Heads of Terms for CPO Indemnity Agreement between Thanet District Council and the newly formed RiverOak Aviation Associates LLC.

I am not legally or contractually minded, but it appears to me at first glance that (1) RiverOak are in a tearing hurry, and (2) the risk is loaded on to TDC. Do let me know if I'm right or wrong.


No Night Flights home page


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