Published: 18:00, 16 February 2016
| Updated: 18:46, 16 February 2016
Thanet council says three would-be investors have come forward as potential indemnity partners to run Manston as an airport.
The authority said there had been five expressions of interest following what is known as a soft marketing exercise to gauge interest, after it rejected the American consortium RiverOak as a potential partner last year.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the council said: “The council recently carried out a soft market testing exercise to seek interest in becoming an indemnity partner for the compulsory acquisition of Manston Airport.”
“A Prior Information Notice (PIN) calling for expressions of interest was published in the Office Journal of the European Union (OJEU) on Friday 15 January.
“Parties had until Tuesday 9 February to register their interest. A total of five expressions of interest were received by this deadline.
“The interested parties then had until Friday 12 February to submit responses to a follow-up questionnaire.
"These questions were posed to operators in the market to establish the extent of their interest, capacity and capability. A total of three valid submissions were received.”
The findings of this exercise are to be reported to cabinet.”
One campaigner group welcomed the news. SUMA - Supporters of Manston Airport - said:
"As expected, this shows a significant level of interest in the future Manston Airport. After the follow up questionnaire was returned, there are now three valid submissions. The SuMA team welcomes this announcement as great news for the campaign and another step forward."
But there was a cautious response from rival campaign group Save Manston Airport. In a statement posted on its Facebook page, it said: "We still retain reservations as to whether the current search for an indemnity partner is being carried out with a genuine desire to succeed in saving the airport or as an exercise intended to fail to give politicians a way of saying that they tried to honour their main election promise to restore Manston as an airport."
The council is facing a challenge from RiverOak over the future of the site.
The company is pursuing its attempt to buy the former Manston airport by applying for the same special planning powers allocated to proposals for a Paramount resort in north Kent.
RiverOak said its pursuit of the permission, known as a Development Consent Order, was justified because the runway was a project of national significance.
The current owners of the 800-acre site say they want to develop what they have renamed Stone Hill Park as a mixed-use site for businesses and housing.
A tweet from the owners tonight indicated that they are still determined to carry forward its plans, saying: "We have been consistent from the start about the core elements of our proposed scheme for the former airport.”
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