Let down and appalled over Manston Airport handling

I’m appalled by the attitude of Manston airport owner Ann Gloag and her advisers.

They have achieved what the Luftwaffe failed to do by downing Manston.

Refusing to sell to the US-based RiverOak was wrong.

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

They probably never had any intention of keeping the airport open but even if the business case did not quite stack up, they owed it to Kent to sell for the sake of 144 staff and the tireless efforts of MP Sir Roger Gale and campaigners – not to mention its huge aviation potential, tourism, and a proud heritage.

The former Stagecoach queen has let down our county in a big way – and has not had the courage to explain to the people of Kent the reasons why.

Lydd is well placed to pick up the pieces but its location is nowhere near as favourable as Manston’s and it will be unable to deal with larger aircraft until its expansion plans are

Investment in high-speed rail from Manston to London would have transformed perceptions.

The pressure to turn Manston into a housing estate will be immense.

The story has echoes of West Malling – now Kings Hill business and housing park. But West Malling was not in the same league.

The Manston decision looks terminal – but good luck to those who fight on and refuse to bale out until the diggers arrive.

Saga has made around 100 of its employees redundant
Saga has made around 100 of its employees redundant

Saga offer seems more flop than success

Big investors shied away from Folkestone-based Saga and it was left to loyal customers using some of their pension to support it.

Chief executive Andrew Goodsell said: “I am pleased to inform you that the Saga share offer has been a great success.”

You wouldn’t have thought so from national media coverage that proclaimed it a flop.

Saga customers are unlikely to make a killing, but it seems more than likely that they will be happy to have a stake in an iconic Kentish brand they rather like – despite the jokes.

Investment in land sector is a no-brainer

Although it’s not actually a real company, Rural PLC Kent unveiled its annual report last month in an attempt to show the land sector’s huge contribution to the Kentish economy.
At about £6bn, it’s bigger than Marks & Spencer.

The figures can’t be precise of course – but it’s a good estimate by financial gurus at Chavereys, the rural accounting practice.

At the annual meeting in East Malling, the directors – all volunteers with busy day jobs – gave a creditable performance. If Rural PLC Kent issued shares, you would be happy to take a punt.

That’s hardly surprising when so many wealthy people like entrepreneur Sir James Dyson are pumping loads of cash into land – in his case East Anglia. With a rising population needing to be fed, it’s a no-brainer investment.

With 85% of Kent’s landmass still rural – surprising when you consider the pressure from houses – it’s a great food producer.

But the sector has an image problem, is misunderstood and under-valued. The land-based sector is hi-tech and offers a great career opportunity for the young.

So it’s good to hear it is launching a Kent Rural Careers app and a new website to promote an exciting, land-based career to young folk in the Garden of England.

So many careers advisers in schools are behind the curve here. They seem to think a rural career is low-grade. It’s not.

Rural PLC should hire a flag-waver to go into schools and spread the word. And councils should adopt sensible policies towards the siting of houses. Don’t concrete over too many fields.

Lord Digby Jones
Lord Digby Jones

In praise of Lord Digby

Just when you thought you’d seen the last of Jones the Troubleshooter, another comes along.

The late Sir John Harvey Jones is a hard act to follow, but Lord Digby Jones made an excellent fist of his recent TV series.

He is not as sartorially flamboyant as Sir John, but his analysis of flawed business strategies was equally on the button.

Digby is worth hearing for his defence of the maligned business world.

In a memorable quote he said: “It’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that solve unemployment. They take risks, make more money, pay more tax, build more schools and hospitals. That’s why it’s important they survive and prosper.”

Less entente more cordiale

The UKIP triumph seemed to pour cold water on the EU. But it cannot affect geography.

Despite the Channel Tunnel, we in Kent have been slow to see the county and Nord-Pas de Calais as a single region, probably due to perceived barriers of language and sea.

Yet cross-Channel commuters are becoming more common. Calais Hospital is tempting patients away from NHS delays, MRSA fears and other shortcomings.

Now we need a Chunnel metro to underline the regional message.

Then perhaps we’ll see a Kent-Calais White Cliffs region and be able to say “Bienvenue” to business and opportunities.

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