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It could be months before we can apply for a compulsory purchase order on Manston, says council

By Paul Francis

Thanet council says it could be months before it tries to use planning powers to acquire Manston Airport from owner Ann Gloag.

Council chiefs say they need to take legal advice about whether a compulsory purchase order for the airport needs to comply with EU rules on procurement.

It comes as a petition signed by 26,000 people calling for a reprieve for the airport was due to be handed into 10 Downing Street today.

Manston Airport
Manston Airport

At issue is whether any third party the council decides to be its partner in the buy out needs to be selected under EU tendering rules.

If that proves to be the case, it could take at least seven months to complete the tendering process.

Even if the council does not have to go through this route, it could take three months before the process of applying for a CPO can get underway.

A report to an emergency Thanet council cabinet meeting held last Thursday (17) outlined the two options, both of which could mean the earliest a decision could be made would be in three months time but it could be seven months.

It stated: "There are two options depending whether the disposal to the indemnity partner is subject to EU procurement rules. It will be necessary for the council to secure legal advice as to whether EU rules apply."

If the authority was required to follow EU tendering rules "an indicative minimum timeline in respect of the restricted procedure under the procurement regulations is seven months."

The decision would appear to turn on the potential value of the site.

A consultation has begun into the closure of Manston airport
A consultation has begun into the closure of Manston airport

If it is considered to be worth more than £4.3m, the council would have to follow EU rules and would need to prove it would not benefit financially from any agreement with a commercial third party who would take over the site.

The report says the council will be taking legal advice before deciding what to do - adding to the potential for delay.

Green councillor Ian Driver said: "With that period of time, it is entirely possible for Ann Gloag to have submitted a planning application for the site which would have a significant impact on the value of the site."

Thanet council said in a brief statement that it expected to receive legal advice shortly about the issue by the end of the month

However, in a recent statement, council leader Iris Johnston (Lab) said: "Before deciding whether we should proceed, we have a duty to ensure we’ve considered all of the relevant legal and financial implications this would entail and that we understand the risks fully."

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