An MP says a Kent airport can plug the short-term gap in the UK’s aviation capacity while Parliament decides what the long-term solution is.
Sir Roger Gale believes Manston can stop the nation losing business to airports abroad while the debate is had on expanding Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead or building the controversial “Boris Island” in the Thames Estuary.
The North Thanet MP says any delay will harm the country’s supremacy as Europe’s leader in air travel and could cost thousands of jobs.
A report by Sir Howard Davies looking at the options for future aviation capacity in the UK will not be published until after the 2015 general election.
Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, Sir Roger said: “Whatever the long-term solution to runway capacity, whether it be Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted or a Boris Island, we have to plug the short-term gap.
“Manston, with the fourth longest runway in the country and potentially less than an hour from London, has the ability to take business from Gatwick to, in turn, release capacity at Heathrow to maintain the business while the long-term decisions are taken and built.
“We are probably 15 to 20 years away from any new provision. In the meantime Manston is not a local or a regional but a national asset that is available today and that we cannot afford to waste”.
Last month, Manston airport was bought by Lothian Shelf (710) Limited for £1. The company is wholly owned Stagecoach founder Ann Gloag.
Sir Roger added: “If Manston has ever had a time, it is now.
“If Manston`s new owners succeed in taking the airport forward then the potential for thousands of new jobs on and off the airfield can transform the economy of one of the areas of highest social deprivation in the South East.
“If local and national politicians and central government fail to give the project the support through political will and investment in supporting infrastructure, then the consequences may prove damaging and possibly disastrous not just for Kent but for UK Limited.”
Manston Airport chief executive Charles Buchanan said: “We share Sir Roger’s belief in Manston and have always acknowledged that the airport would never be the new hub airport for London and the South East.
“We strongly believe it can be a successful regional passenger and freight airport, that provides critical additional capacity and relief to the region’s already congested airport system.
“Sir Howard Davies, who’s heading up the Government’s Aviation Commission, has acknowledged that smaller airports such as Manston have a role to play.
“In sharp contrast to the major airports of the region, Manston has existing capacity to serve the South East immediately, rather than in a decade or more as would be the earliest case for any new-built facility.”