Published: 07:00, 24 September 2014
A firm which has bid to buy out the Manston Airport site and keep it as a fully working airport has vowed to continue the fight - despite an announcement it has been sold.
Riveroak, which had bids rejected earlier this year to take over the site after its owner Ann Gloag shut it in May, has said it will continue to push for a compulsory purchase of the site.
Speaking in a statement after the sale to developers was announced yesterday, the firm said it believed the development would result in a large housing development on the site.
The new owners say they are looking to transform the 800-acre site with a £1 billion redevelopment, over a 20-year period, into a mixed-use scheme helping to create more than 4,000 jobs.
The Riveroak statement said: "Given Manston’s strategic location and the urgent need for additional runway capacity in the south east, it remains important to reopen Manston as an airport as soon as possible.
"We urge Thanet District Council to maintain its resolve to compulsorily purchase the site.
"Our commitment to underwriting the costs of the CPO remains firm, as does our long term plan to invest in the airport, redeveloping it in a sustainable way for the community.
"Our plans will ensure Manston can not only play its part in reviving the East Kent economy, but also support the thousands of current jobs, in airport-related firms around Manston, that have been left in limbo by Ms Gloag’s abrupt closure of the airport."
The statement comes after it was announced Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave bought the former Manston Airport site in a bid to re-develop it.
The partnership has experience of large-scale regeneration projects and is part of the Discovery Park consortium transforming the former Pfizer facility in Sandwich.
They claimed any future development would be aimed at providing space for a range of businesses, with a focus on attracting companies interested in manufacturing, as well as the provision of housing, shops, schools and community facilities.
Chris Musgrave said: "Whilst it is too early to be specific about our plans, we will be looking to comprehensively redevelop the whole site to create a mixed-use community.
"This is in light of the fact that the airport has closed, the equipment has been sold and it will not reopen.
"We are aware that there were a number of job losses when the airport closed and a far greater number will replace these, and that the benefits will reach the whole of east Kent.
"We will assemble a first class team to produce and deliver high quality plans for the site.”
"This is in light of the fact that the airport has closed, the equipment has been sold and it will not reopen" - Chris Musgrave
The plans are likely to include production and warehousing space, which will meet a shortage of space in Thanet for companies to grow and expand.
It will also complement the Discovery Park scheme at Sandwich, where occupancy is already over 50% after two years.
Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave are the team behind successful regeneration projects at Wynyard Park in the north-east of England, built on a site vacated by Samsung, and Discovery Park, where a new 220-acre science and technology park is being built on the site of Pfizer’s former headquarters.
But the announcement has caught Thanet council on the hop - staff there only heard about the sale this morning.
A statement issued today said the authority was only part-way through reviewing whether compulsory purchase of the site was an option.
Cabinet members will review a marketing exercise to look at possible partners to cover the costs of a purchase on October 16.
The council will then undertake a wider review of the options for the site.
A report outlining all of the options for the future of the privately-owned site will then be brought to a full council meeting.
Speaking about the plans for Manston, Kent County Council leader Paul Carter said: "Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner have a fantastic track record in taking over large and difficult sites following the demise of earlier uses, and regenerating them to create jobs and bring economic benefits to the wider area.
"Their team has done this at Wynyard Park in Billingham, where they have created 2,000 jobs and attracted £200 million of private investment, and at Discovery Park here in Kent where more than 1,000 new jobs have been added to the 600 that Pfizer left behind."
He added: "I have every confidence that they can do even more at Manston."
But Thanet North MP Sir Roger Gale was less enthusiastic for the buyout.
He said he met with Mr Cartner today to discuss his plans.
Sir Roger added: "Mr Cartner has suggested the possibility of significant investment and the creation of `up to 4,000 jobs` over a 20-year period, which to me sounds remarkably like opportunist land-banking.
"My own position, which remains as before and which I have stated in terms to Mr Cartner, is that I believe that it is in both the national and the local interest for Manston to remain open as an airfield, that if he wishes to pursue that route alongside airport related industries then he will have my support and that if he wishes to tear up the airfield and smother the land in industrial premises that can and should be located elsewhere in Thanet, or to assist Ms. Gloag in the realisation of her plan to create a significant housing development , then I shall oppose his plans in the interests of those that I represent."
Commenting on the sale Ann Gloag said today: “Trevor and Chris are a credible team with a proven track record in creating high quality jobs through redevelopment opportunities.
"Their business plan looks thorough, considered, and viable and, with the support of the local community, will deliver thousands of local jobs and many community benefits in the coming years.
"This development is an exciting opportunity for Manston, Thanet and beyond and can transform the future of East Kent.”
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