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A ray of hope for Manston Airport was announced by North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale to the cheers of hundreds of passionate protestors united in overwhelming support against its closure.
He laid the key to a possible sale on face-to-face negotiations between airport owner Ann Gloag and American consortium RiverOak - whose previous £5 million bid was this week turned down.
Sir Roger told the emotionally charged gathering that American businessman Stephen DeNardo remained “determined in his ambition to buy the airport” - minutes after the two men had spoken.
But “it takes two to tango” Sir Roger told several hundred people holding out hope for the airport which faces closure next Thursday.
The crux of the matter, according to the MP, was whether owner Ann Gloag could strike a face-to-face deal with investment company RiverOak for which Mr DeNardo is chief executive officer.
Sir Roger told the KM Group that just before he arrived at the rally, Mr DeNardo had called the MP to thank all the campaigners for the airport for turning out in a show of support.
Sir Roger said: “He asked me to tell them that he is absolutely determined and that his company is absolutely determined to buy the airport.
“They have the money, they have the business plan. As we’re speaking now, his team are out drumming up new business for the airport. That’s how serious he is.
“All it requires now, I think, is for us to cut out the middlemen and to cut out the politicians. Let Stephen DeNardo from RiverOak talk to Ann Gloag, and if that can’t strike a deal, then I don’t know what can.
“Stephen DeNardo said to me this evening it ‘takes two to tango’. He can send all the emails in the world. He has sent emails to her personally, he hasn’t had a response yet. Now, she has been in America so maybe she hasn’t yet picked up on her office work. But there has to be two people, two parties to a negotiation.
"He’s serious and he wants to talk to her, so let’s hope that having said to me, without equivocation, ‘I want to sell Manston’, on the terrace of the House of Commons before Easter, if she means that, and I have to assume that she does, then there is a deal to be done. So let’s do it.”
Against a background of chanting “Save Manston, No to Gloag” as campaigners waved placards and banners, Sir Roger described the strength of feeling and support for Manston from airport supporters as “amazing”.
He added that he was not in favour of some of the personal criticism of Mrs Gloag, not believing that it was helpful.
He continued: “I understand the strength of feeling - that Manston is important and that maybe someone a long way away doesn’t actually realise what it means to people here. So though I don’t condone it, I do understand the sense of frustration. There is fantastic support for the airport and that message has to go home.
“Myself and Laura Sandys have been saying all along that it is real people, real livelihoods here. They are skilled people, hard working people and decent people. If the airport had to close because it simply couldn’t be made to work and there wasn’t anybody around to buy it and nobody cared, then fine, you would have to say they would have to be made redundant.
But that’s not the case, there is a buyer. A real buyer. I have seen the smokescreens coming out about ‘the wrong kind of people’ and all that. RiverOak is a highly reputable company and they’ve got the money, so let’s get the two people that matter together: Ann Gloag and Stephen DeNardo, and let’s get a deal done.”
For more reports from tonight’s meeting and updates on the Manston situation, keep following www.kentonline.co.uk.
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