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Public and politicians storm out of Thanet District Council meeting on the fate of Manston Airport

As Save Manston Airport protesters chanted “Iris out” from outside Thanet District Council's offices, Conservative and Ukip councillors walked out of the meeting inside.

Labour prospective parliamentary candidate Will Scobie declared Tuesday night's extraordinary meeting on the fate of the Manston airport site “a sham” and was the first to leave the council chamber.

He was followed by a number of Conservative and Ukip councillors who were unhappy that any debate about Manston would be confined to how it should feature in the draft local plan - the area's planning blueprint.

Manston supporters could be heard outside the council. Picture: James Rose
Manston supporters could be heard outside the council. Picture: James Rose

Council leader Iris Johnston (Lab) said the council would stick with the decision it took at Thursday's meeting not to pursue a compulsory purchase order (CPO).

The walkout was followed by speeches on the council steps to Save Manston supporters by the leader of the opposition Cllr Bob Bayford (Con) and RiverOak managing director Tony Freudmann who promised to “get this done” amid cheers from the protesters.

Cllr Bayford said: “The focus of this meeting should have been about the potential of the CPO and there should have been a full council vote.

The now-closed Manston airport
The now-closed Manston airport

“But the agenda was contrived and our council leader ambushed everyone with a new motion involving the Discovery Park owners and their decision on the land.”

The walkout was followed by a five-minute adjournment of proceedings. When it resumed Cllr Johnston said: “We need the council's support in a public way as we need to be seen to speak to the new owners from the Discovery Park.

"Walking out of the room in a hissy fit does not help us.”

Manston airport. Picture: Simon Burchett
Manston airport. Picture: Simon Burchett

Deputy council leader Richard Nicholson (Lab) said: “I think everyone, whether you are for the airport, against the airport or ambivalent needs to have a say on the draft local plan.

“All this walking out is very good for the TV cameras and for public support but Cllr Bayford will need to be involved in this process.”

Leader of the Independent group, Cllr Tom King, also criticised the walkout: “I’m disappointed about the meeting in general.

“This issue is turning into a political football match with party politics being played before the election.

“The walkout was not constructive. If you’re not in there [the council chamber] you can’t change anything.”

The last KLM flight leaves Manston airport
The last KLM flight leaves Manston airport

Outside the council offices Cllr Chris Wells (Ukip) said: “This is not the way any of us like to do things but manipulation and secrecy leaves people with no choice.

“We came here to debate around the issue of soft market testing as discussed in Thursday’s meeting but they began talking of the possibilities for Manston instead.

“With regard to the recommendations this evening, we have just left a meeting where a lame duck administration will limp to a conclusion that everyone will ignore.”

Leader of Save Manston Airport Dan Light said: “There is still a glimmer of hope but we will fight on.

“We conducted a poll and more than 95% of people wanted the airport to be reopened. Iris and her council should listen to the public."

Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Thanet South Craig Mackinlay said: “How can an extraordinary meeting be called for the discussion of the local plan with no motion on the CPO decision?

“I wouldn’t run a chess club like that - no offence to the chess club.”

Green Party prospective parliamentary candidate Cllr Ian Driver said: “I’m not surprised there was a walkout. The meeting was a sham.

“People were misled about the agenda and they are rightly annoyed. This is really going to do Labour no favours in the lead up to the election next year.”

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