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Manston Airport owners set to make formal complaint against transport minister to Electoral Commission

Manston airport's owners are taking legal advice with a view to making a formal complaint to the Electoral Commission after the "double boost" announcement made by transport minister John Hayes.

A spokesman for Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave said they were disgusted with the minister's attempt to make the airport "a political football".

"There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that the announcement by John Hayes is a deliberate attempt to make Manston airport a political football.

Bob Bayford, John Hayes, Craig Mackinlay and Sir Roger Gale
Bob Bayford, John Hayes, Craig Mackinlay and Sir Roger Gale

"The timing of his statement is a disgrace and as the transport minister he should have exercised an element of impartiality and objectivity.

"He undoubtedly knows that his statement breaches every code in the book so far as elections are concerned.

"In addition, it is extremely disappointing that Roger Gale and Craig Mackinlay have aided and abetted the process as a whole and in our opinion they should both know better. This is a clear attempt to create favour with the voters by using our property.

"We agree wholeheartedly with the leader of Thanet District Council, who clearly sees the statement for what it is and sees the gross error made by Sir Roger Gale, Craig Mackinlay and John Hayes.

"We are now taking legal advice with a view to making a formal complaint to the Electoral Commission."

Manston airport owners Chris Musgrave, left, and Trevor Cartner
Manston airport owners Chris Musgrave, left, and Trevor Cartner

Mr Hayes revealed that the government is satisfied with RiverOak’s commitment to pay all costs of a compulsory purchase order (CPO) for Manston Airport.

He thought the commitment shown by the American company should have a positive influence on the independent report, in which consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was appointed last month to review the process on decisions about the future of Manston Airport.

He said: “The council have been hesitant about embarking on a CPO because of the substantial costs involved and they have sought assurance from RiverOak that those costs would be taken care of.

“I will today receive a letter from RiverOak saying that they will eliminate all costs from Thanet District Council by underwriting all costs of a CPO.

“I furthermore suggested and RiverOak agreed that in order to illustrate the validity of that commitment that money associated with the CPO be paid into a separate account agreed by lawyers and that money can only be used in the process of underpinning a CPO.

“Above and beyond that, RiverOak have said that if Thanet council needs to hire additional expertise, that they will fund that as well.”

Search and rescue helicopter was used in the rescue.
Search and rescue helicopter was used in the rescue.

In what the Conservatives dubbed “a double boost to the campaign to save Manston airport” he has agreed that Bristow search and rescue services would only have a one-year deal at Lydd Airport and a return to Manston would be possible.

Mr Hayes said: “As though that wasn’t enough of a considerable step, I can tell you that search and rescue has a route back to Manston.

“As minister of state for transport one of my responsibilities is the Coastguard Agency and one of their responsibilities is search and rescue.

“There was a fear among Manston campaigners that it might leave them in perpetuity or at least for a very long time if Bristow search and rescue services signed a long-term contract at Lydd.

“I can tell you that is not going to happen in this case, I have arranged that the deal with Lydd will be a one-year arrangement with no further capital expenditure to facilitate the return to Manston in the future - there is a route back.”

Transport minister John Hayes
Transport minister John Hayes

Mr Hayes made it clear of the government’s position on Manston airport.

He added: “I’m delighted to say we have overcome those hurdles and this is further illustration of the government led by the Prime Minister’s determination to do right by the people of Thanet, and right by those who understand as I do, the significance of Manston Airport to this part of Kent.”

He claimed that he did not blame Thanet District Council for questioning RiverOak’s viability.

“The council have reasonably questioned whether they can depend on RiverOak’s commitment, but what RiverOak has done now is make that commitment to the government and also made a positive impact on that independent PwC commission.”

Iris Johnston
Iris Johnston

Council leader Iris Johnston has raised concerns that messages from the meeting have been widely misconstrued.

She said: “I met with John Hayes just before this announcement and he was very clear that there had been no interim report from PwC.

“He said he thought it would be coming in the next week or so.

“I phoned Madeline Homer who contacted the Department for Communities and Local Government and she advised me that their response was that a report wouldn’t be ready until mid May. I have tried contacting PwC but received no response prior to this.

“I have worked really hard since becoming leader protecting the airport from asset stripping and fires - I have been in touch with the police and our planning department immediately to make sure of no breaches.

“I would love to see it open but you can’t make false promises and play with people’s emotions before the report comes back.”

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