Published: 10:29, 20 May 2015
| Updated: 10:34, 20 May 2015
The owners of Manston airport have turned to a controversial ex-policeman and political figure in a bid to win over public opinion for their plans to redevelop the site.
Ray Mallon, the former elected mayor of Middlesbrough, said he had been convinced by proposals to transform the airport, which he said had made “more comebacks than Frank Sinatra” before it closed last year.
Known as RoboCop for his zero-tolerance approach while a detective superintendent of Cleveland Police, straight-talking Mr Mallon is a long-time associate of Manston owners Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave.
He played waterpolo with Mr Cartner as a boy and came to known Mr Musgrave from his development work in the North East, notably Wynyard Park near Hartlepool.
The pair have hired Mr Mallon as a non-executive director as they try to win public support for their proposals to build houses, business buildings and leisure facilities over 20 years.
He said his first job would be to tackle the “disrespectful language” used against the property entrepreneurs and to “myth bust” about the future of the 800-acre site, which campaigners want to reopen after taking back ownership using a compulsory purchase order.
He said: “I can understand why the public would want to save this site and retain it as an airport.
“Firstly there is the heritage. I can’t think of a location in the UK that did more for the war effort in World War Two than that location.
“Also the public would like to have an airport on their doorstep so they can go on holiday. Airports can also be good for the economy of an area. The public have an argument and it should be listened to.
“Where this is concerned, it was sold in 1999, has had a number of false starts and has had more comebacks than Frank Sinatra.
“It has never made any money and never been in profit. For successful airports to occur you need operators and this airport has never had a sufficient number of operators to make it viable and that is a fact.”
Mr Mallon, who did not stand for re-election as mayor of Middlesbrough this year, a post he held for 13 years until this month, said he was prepared for personal attacks against his character.
“Where this is concerned, it was sold in 1999, has had a number of false starts and has had more comebacks than Frank Sinatra..." - Ray Mallon
He pleaded guilty to 14 charges of misconduct while at Cleveland Police, although he maintains his innocence and said he did so to stand as mayor, which he could not do while part of the police force.
He was elected in 2002 with 64% of the vote and elected for a further two terms.
He said: “Any public meetings I will turn up to and people can talk to me face to face.
“I’ll be engaging the public in appropriate language. It is common knowledge that I’m not a shrinking violet and I expect people to conduct themselves in an appropriate fashion.
“This has become too emotive with some of the language used.”
A full public consultation on Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave’s proposals, which they say will create 4,000 jobs, is expected to be unveiled in the coming weeks.
Mr Mallon added: “I start from the premise that I think this proposition is good as a business and residential setting with the associated leisure facilities.
“Albert Einstein once said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
“This airport has had more starts than any other in the country and has still failed.”