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Manston airport: Campaigners say it will reopen 'if not this year, then next year' despite owners deciding not to reply to Airports Commission

By Chris Price

Campaigners remain resolute that Manston airport will reopen despite its owners revealing they have no plans to consult on a new paper released by the Airports Commission.

The Save Manston group says the airport will begin operating again "if not this year, then next year" as it tries to keep pressure on owner Ann Gloag to sell.

A spokesman for the Stagecoach founder confirmed there are no plans to submit evidence to a new line of inquiry by the Airports Commission looking at how regional airports can help with growing passenger demand.

The last KLM passenger flight leaving Manston airport in 2014. Picture: Tony Flashman

The statement has been branded as "more evidence she [Ann Gloag] never had any intention of running it as an airport", by Save Manston chairman Keith Churcher.

Yet he remains positive about the airport's future - despite its certain omission from the commission's consideration.

Thanet District Council is considering the viability of a compulsory purchase order for the site and Mrs Gloag is due to meet council leader Cllr Iris Johnston in the coming months.

Mr Churcher said: "We are going to be opening an airport if not this year then next year.

Save Manston Airport group chairman Keith Churcher

"It will be dealing with cargo primarily as that is where the money is. Passenger flights cost the airport money over the first few years.

"I have every faith in the team working on it. Thanet District Council has had a reshuffle and they are doing an incredible job and there is huge support for it from local people.

"Ann Gloag is under increasing pressure to sell and she’s not going to get houses on the airport.

"We will then tackle its support for UK runway capacity when the airport is up and running again."

Businesswoman Ann Gloag owns 20% of the site along with Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave. Picture: Craig Watson/ SWNS.com

The new Airports Commission paper was partially completed before Manston's closure, but does offer a glimmer of hope for the site in a later referral to its demise.

It says: "Discussions are still ongoing about whether the airport can be reopened as an active airport, with a new buyer or support from the local council, or whether the land should be used for other purposes (for instance housing)."

Economist Sir Howard Davies conducted the aviation review

Airports Commission chair Sir Howard Davies said: "Regional airports and those in London and the South East other than Gatwick and Heathrow remain critical to the commission's analysis.

"It is clear that in the future these airports will play a crucial national role, especially at a time when the major London airports are operating very close to capacity."

Meanwhile, Unite are pressing ahead with their formal grievance process against the redundancies of staff, with a series of hearings with ex-workers at the airport today.

The meetings will conclude on Monday, June 23, at which point the union will consult with lawyers about whether there is a claim which can be launched against the owners.

Unite regional officer Ian McCoulough said: "Based on my experience I believe there may well be a claim.

"The consultation was a sham and they clearly never had any intention of keeping it open as a viable business.

"What they have done may have been lawful but from a moral point of view I'm not sure."

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