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Home   Kent   News   Article

Manston, Lydd and off-shore hub airport on Goodwin Sands all dismissed by Airports Commission interim report by Sir Howard Davies

17 December 2013
by Paul Francis

Plans to expand airport capacity at several locations in Kent have been dismissed by the Airports Commission’s interim report delivered today.

Proposals at Manston, Lydd and a new airport on the Goodwin Sands off the coast of Deal were all deemed inadequate.

Although plans for a Thames Estuary airport have not been shortlisted, commission leader Sir Howard Davies is still considering plans for a £50bn airport on the Isle of Grain and says he will reach a verdict on the idea by the end of next year.

What the proposed four-runway airport on Goodwin Sands off Deal could look like

What the proposed four-runway airport on Goodwin Sands off Deal could have looked like

A £39bn scheme for a four-runway hub airport off the east Kent coast had set out proposals for a round-the-clock airport with high speed rail link for passengers to connect to London.

But the interim report said the idea by maritime engineers Beckett Rankine for the Goodwin Sands off the coast of Deal “has fewer benefits than those proposals based on a similar strategic case for an off-shore site in the outer Estuary”.

The commission also rejected plans by Lydd Airport in east Kent to expand by two runways.

The interim report said there would be “operational and capacity constraints due to its proximity to Dungeness nuclear power station and its associated restricted area of airspace”.

It added: “The significant distance of Lydd from London and key centres of demand make this an unattractive prospect.”

Lydd Airport's Hani Mutlaq

Lydd Airport's Hani Mutlaq

Bosses at the airport will be contacting the Davies Commission to “set them straight” about so-called operational and capacity restraints.

Senior managers are unhappy with the way the interim report has dismissed its ambitions for growth.

Executive manager Hani Mutlaq denied Lydd Airport’s location was hampering its growth potential.

This year it won planning permission for a runway extension and a new terminal building.

He said: “Our business case for future development was thoroughly examined during a nine-month-long public inquiry and our credentials as a viable, modern regional airport were upheld when the Government allowed our scheme to go ahead.

Lydd Airport, which wants to increase its flight numbers

Lydd Airport, which wants to increase its flight numbers

“The airport and the power station have worked together for many years and operational restrictions are in place to ensure both can co-exist while the airport grows.

“The Davies Commission’s interim report presents a potentially misleading picture of the potential for development at Lydd and we will be writing to set them straight about this.

“Extra runways at Gatwick and Heathrow may be the favoured long-term solution to easing congestion in the South East but these options will take many years to complete.

“We need to take immediate action to improve the use of existing runway capacity and ease the pressure on Gatwick and Heathrow.”

A proposal by Manston Airport to become a ‘reliever’ airport for the South East region was also dismissed.

The report said that while the proposal “presents some potential” it did not address “the large question of London and South East capacity”.

Manston Airport chief executive Charles Buchanan said: “The 228 pages and appendices of this report show the extent to which the 52 options put forward have been considered by the Commission and reduced to a shortlist of three.

Manston Airport

Manston Airport

“We will take our time to review the report and give it substantial consideration as we work towards a future plan for Manston.

“Our initial reaction is that we welcome the Commission’s assertion that government policy should promote the benefits of smaller airports in London and the South East system.
 
“We are also pleased to see the call for local authorities to support the development of smaller local airports and, alongside consideration of their environmental impacts, recognise the positive benefits they can bring to their respective economies.
 
“Securing the UK’s connectivity to the rest of the world, and in particular the emerging economic hotspots, will be crucial in terms of maintaining London and the South East in the global league tables.
 
“The Commission is proposing plans for the future capacity of airports in the South East for 10 years or more in the future.
 
Chief executive Charles Buchanan, pictured, will work alongside turnaround specialist Alastair Welch

Chief executive Charles Buchanan

 
“But today passengers can already use our twice daily connection to all corners of the world through Amsterdam and cargo customers can benefit from some of the fastest turnarounds in the UK at the country’s fourth largest freighter airport.”
 
Thanet North MP Sir Roger Gale called on the government to use the airport in the short-term.

He said: “It will take years to get runways built at Heathrow or Gatwick and an Island airport is pie in the sky for the foreseeable future.

“We therefore have to use the facilities that are available immediately to take some of the peripheral freight and package-tour pressure of Gatwick to in turn relieve Heathrow.

“That means using Manston – an airfield that is, in travelling time, potentially closer to Central London than Heathrow and is available immediately.

“I fear that unless we recognise the immediate concern and bridge the gap the long-term “solution” may be irrelevant because the fight for this vital business will have been lost”.

Chairman of the Kent branch of the Institute of Directors Emma Liddiard said: “New runways are needed at Heathrow and Gatwick, but it will be several years before they are built, even if the political process works smoothly.

"In the meantime we need to make better use of other airports in the South East, including Manston, particularly for short-haul passengers from the surrounding area.”

While environmentalists have not welcomed the uncertainty over a possible airport on the Isle of Grain, campaigners have welcomed the report's delay on a decision.

A spokesman for Demand Regeneration In North Kent said: “It’s great news that a north Kent airport plan is still on the table.

“We still have a chance to make the dream come true of tens of thousands of desperately needed jobs, plus at least £100m a year of new cash to raise the quality of public services.

“But the lives of the people of Grain are still blighted and we call on the government to scrap council tax for them until the final decision is taken.

“That’s the least they can do for all the political dithering over many years. Naturally, Medway Council should be compensated.”

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