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North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale backs calls for compulsory purchase of Manston airport by Thanet District Council

By Mary Louis

An MP is backing calls for the compulsory purchase of Manston airport - as it is confirmed the owner is to visit Thanet for talks about the site's future.

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale said the move should be pursued to "remove the airport from the hands of those who clearly have other objectives".

He said a Compulsory Purchase Order would allow Thanet District Council to then lease out or sell the site at a "sensible price".

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale at Manston Airport

Sir Roger said his view is shared by new council leader Cllr Iris Johnston, who today revealed she is expecting a visit from airport owner Ann Gloag in 10 days.

She told how she spoke to Stagecoach founder Gloag about the closure of the airport last Thursday - with the loss of 144 jobs - in a phone call yesterday.

And Cllr Johnston confirmed Gloag is going to visit the council offices next week.

After a weekend of discussions with local and national political leaders, Sir Roger said this morning: "Laura Sandys (South Thanet MP) and I are of the view, which I have reason to understand is shared by the new Labour leadership of Thanet District Council and by the Conservative opposition, that with the closure of the airfield the best way to secure a new future for aviation at Manston will be for a Compulsory Purchase Order to be placed upon the site which has, at present, planning consent only as an airport.

"This is detailed in the very recent draft of the local plan so there should be little difficulty in establishing existing use and thus for the local authority to acquire and then perhaps lease out or sell on the site at a sensible price."

Workers leave the terminal building for the last time. Picture: Tony Flashman

He added: "Clearly the council will wish to prepare its own study of options based upon legal advice but the opinion that we have been offered is that a bid to place a CPO on the airfield would succeed and that it could be readily funded.

"If that is so then it ought to be possible to remove the airport from the hands of those who clearly have other objectives and to restore Manston to its rightful place as part of our airport capacity in the south east.

"From the work that has already been done we have good reason to believe that those who wish to re-open the airport and have the capacity to do so have every chance of succeeding where others have seemingly chosen to fail and we hope and expect that TDC's senior officers, acting on instructions from elected members, will take a very robust line.

"We have to dispel the impression given, arising from discussions that apparently took place with TDC officers earlier in the year, that housing is a 'done deal' and that anything other than airport use is on the agenda. As Iris Johnston has made publicly clear, it is not."

Manston closed last Thursday after three offers from a US investment group to buy the site were refused by Gloag.

Stagecoach founder and Manston Airport owner Ann Gloag. Picture: SWNS

Meanwhile, Ukip leader Nigel Farage has said airlines should be offered a five-year tax break to encourage them to come to Manston.

Mr Farage said he wanted Thanet to be an enterprise zone, which would give tax incentives to airlines. He said it was a "tragedy" the airport had shut, but suggested it need not be permanent.

He said: "It is a huge waste of something that is a tremendous asset. There now needs to be some real added urgency about the situation. In the 1980s, we had enterprise zones.

"If you said to budget airlines that if they located to Thanet and would be given a tax break for five years - these are hard-nosed commercial businesses and I think you would see quite a lot of money and investment coming in."

On the prospect of the airport site becoming housing, he said: "That is just a huge waste of something I consider a tremendous asset. It now needs some real added urgency.

"I look at the way Ryanair and easyJet work; they operate huge volume on wafer thin margins on big turnovers and if you made Thanet an enterprise zone and I think they would come."

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