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Ukip council considers buying airport

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Ukip’s first majority-controlled council is to attempt to compulsorily purchase an airport, putting it on collision course with the site’s owner.

Thanet DC leader Chris Wells (Ukip) has called an extraordinary council meeting next week – only seven days since gaining power – to reopen the idea of compulsorily purchasing Manston airport.

Manston’s owners have denounced Ukip’s move as futile and a waste of public money.

Thanet’s previous minority Labour administration considered compulsory purchase after the airport closed in May 2014 but eventually rejected the idea citing the lack of a commercial partner willing to invest sufficient money to keep the airport functioning for aviation.

Manston was an RAF base in both world wars and boasts one of the country’s longest runways at 2,748m.

But it struggled after military use ended in 1999, seeing only sporadic use by holiday airlines.

Stagecoach bus magnate Ann Gloag brought the airport for £1 in 2013 but closed it the following year.

Entrepreneurs Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave, who own the Discovery Science and Technology Park in nearby Sandwich, then bought Manston and plan a similar project there.

A report for the council meeting said Manston “represents a significant land holding that will have an impact on future economic development in Thanet”, and the cabinet should revisit compulsory purchase with a view to retaining the airport.

Then transport minister John Hayes in March commissioned a report from consultant PwC on Manston’s future, which is due to report later this month.

A statement from Manston’s owners said: “There is no foundation on which a compulsory purchase order process can be progressed and this has more to do with politics than the interests of the public.

“If Thanet DC continue they will have wasted taxpayers money on a venture they could not win.”

They said they would unveil plans this summer for a business park on the site that would create 4,000 jobs.

 

 

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