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WIGGINS PINS HOPES ON AIRPORT IN KENT

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Property group Wiggins took another step towards its aim of becoming a mini-British Airports Authority last week wh...
Property group Wiggins took another step towards its aim of becoming a mini-British Airports Authority last week when the Civil Aviation Authority gave it the go-ahead to offer passenger flights at Manston airport in Kent, reported Sunday Business (p11).

The company paid£4.5m for the former RAF airfield in 1997. It has since spent£10m trying to turn it into a civilian airport in the face of scepticism from rival airport owners and City pundits who, among other things, point out that Manston is 60 miles from London,

a journey of well over an hour by train. But Wiggins's chief executive Oliver Iny has defied his detractors by securing the CAA licence for passenger flights. 'I said when we bought Manston that it would be London's fifth airport. London's existing airports are bursting at the seams'.

The number of air passengers is growing by 7% every year, yet there is no room for expansion at Heathrow or Gatwick. Stansted and Luton have some room for growth, but that is likely to be used up in a few years' time. Neither is there any prospect of new runways being built at the existing south east hubs. BAA's plans for a fifth terminal at

Heathrow have been held up by a three-and-a-half-year public inquiry - and new runway plans are likely to be even more strongly opposed.

Manston's big draw may be for freight flights. It has one of the longest runways in Britain enabling cargo plans to take off carrying maximum payload rather than having to accept weight restrictions. The airport has been handling freight traffic for six months and plans to

increase the number of freight flights.

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