Thursday, 8 March 2012

Manston Airport goes up for sale again.

No surprises here really, but I thought I would do a post about it as I guess people will want to have their say about it and the UK media doesn’t seem to have included the views of the Infratil who actually own the airport.

I suppose this has been a sort of open secret for about a month now when I asked Charles Buchanan if the airport was up for sale the other day, see he didn’t deny it.

This is what Steve Fitzgerald of Infratil, the parent investment company has to say about why they are pulling out of Manston.

“• London/South-East growth forecasts revised down – putting back by several years the point where Manston capacity is required
• UK airlines are consolidating and trimming capacity
• Freight growth insufficient to support investment case alone
• More suited to private investors or players bringing property/logistics/airline synergies”

Infratil Investor CEO Marko Bogoievski says

“Confidence enables “no-regret” decisions to be executed… Sale of underperforming assets – e.g. Prestwick/Kent”

I would guess this makes a bit of a nonsense of the night flights issue as any negotiations would depend on the buyer, which could be anything from a passenger airline to a property investor.

Anyway I suppose the important thing here is that Infratil have made it very clear that they have no commitment to Manston, so we have a where do we go from here situation.

Of course the sad part of the story may be job losses at the airport and I would guess from their tone that if Infratil can’t sell it quickly as an operating airport, they won’t continue subsidising it as loss making one for very long.

There are problems peculiar to the Manston site that give it disadvantages both in terms development and as an airport.

The drinking water issue, which means that drainage regulations are fairly strict and as it acts as one of the main parts of the rainwater catchment, development options may be limited.

There is the surrounding catchment area for any business, the majority of which is sea, on the whole sea life haven’t yet evolved into good customers, perhaps if the kraken wakes there may be a short period where demand for fishing equipment increases before Armageddon, who knows.

There are the high population densities, with associated tourist dependant economies at each end of the main runway, making low employment and high air traffic operations hard to justify.    


  1. Presumably a property investor would need planning permission first...

  2. The biggest problem for Manston, as for any development in Thanet, is our Nimby fraternity who oppose everything. Selfish people who place a peaceful retirement before the job prospects of the next generation.

    That said, Manston is for sale as an airfield and it is not just Manston but Glasgow, Prestwick as well Infratil are disposing of, thus negating 'No to Night Flights' claim that it is just Manston that is not viable.

    Now we stand by for the next protest, I will not say group for it will always be the samed people,
    against anything that might just lift the economic gloom of Thanet.

  3. If it was a good prospect then they will be queing up to buy it. Even KCC and TDC could get together and put in a bid.

  4. I would think so 8.01

    9.24 last week I went to considerable trouble to try and get to the bones of the matter I think talking to Charles Buchanan the biggest misconception I had corrected was the correlation between actual tangible jobs and night flights.

    I had assumed that the airport would have a night crew if night flights were allowed, but this just isn’t the case and as the maximum night flights could reasonably expected would be two. In employment terms this really equates to a little bit of overtime for the day crew.

    I would say that although there is strong support for the airport locally there is also an understanding, in hard nosed economic terms, that noise nuisance could adversely effect the leisure industry which also has strong local support.

    I would say that where Infratil have been weakest is in forming a good working relationship with the local community, many of whom like me are out of the door with a camera when the hear an aircraft and not on the phone to complain about the noise.

    I think that the probable way forward for Manston would be a small regional airport combined with a much larger emphasis on historic aircraft.

    One road we don’t want to go down, is just getting business rejected on political or environmental grounds by other areas, Thanet has dried this approach with several projects and I think it drives the best investors away.

    A sort of pre-war, why cant we do as much environmental damage as we want approach from business is no solution

  5. Saw a documentary last night about Lincoln. It looked pretty nice and prosperous. It had some interesting high-tech businesses which can't meet the demand for their products. They said that Lincoln had been quite well-insulated from the recession by income from tourism, foreign language students, and its bars and restaurants. Funny enough it didn't "need" an airport.

    In Ramsgate, we have a beautifual harbour area with bars and restaurants. We have foreign language schools and we have empty business parks. If, instead of chasing after the next big hoverport/ferryport/airport, TDC focused on attracting some high tech businesses and encouraging growth and development of the tourism sector and the language schools we wouldn't need to worry about having an airport. The economic development strategy has been wrong for ten years because councillors went by gut-feel instead of properly researching what would work and fit with the area. It's time for a new approach.

  6. Time to send a prospectus to CentreParcs, I think.

    A tourist attraction centred around a lake could also solve the water supply problems. Alton Water in Suffolk is a reservoir and doubles for fishing, sailing, rambling and cycling. Maybe the park could also incorporate a real flying aircraft museum.

  7. 9.24 Hit the nail spot on they will be out again what ever is on offer for manston or any other project they dont like

  8. Agree with 10:10 about Lincoln but the close proximity of two RAF bases, Scampton and Waddington, does not seem to have impeded progress there. Maybe the RAF's planes are quieter than the ones at Manston. On the other hand, maybe the locals are less prattish!

  9. At the end of the day Infratil could not attract enough customers during 16 hours out of 24, i don't think Nimby's or anyone else made much difference, it is a nice long runway in the wrong place (unless you want to attack europe) with a very small catchment area. TDC gave them a bonus of over £1 million pounds by not charging them for late night flights ( did they have to apply for a grant for that, as per local community groups like the scout groups etc.)

  10. Don't fret night-flight fans. Our Dear friend will single handedly save the airport by posting antagonistic messages on the No Night Flights blog. With a business brain like that I'm surprised he doesn't run for office.

  11. Michael

    Its (Manston's) failure is all down to a lack of due diligence by the MP's, Cllrs and Officers, its no good anyone complaining that the Nimbys did it, they (Infratil) shot themselves in the foot.

    I am wondering if due diligence will actually be the order of the day when PWC produce the glossy Manston has everything brochure?

  12. Face it. Manston is a dead duck. Only Infratil threw their hat in the ring to buy it last time around. This time I can't see anybody being prepared to risk it...unless they can do something different with it. Over to TDC. Now they've had the courage and foresight to remove it from the Corporate plan they need to make a clear statement about the site. I reckon something along the lines of: "If you've got a good idea which might create a few jobs and won't p*ss off the locals we'll be happy to listen."

  13. People of Ramsgate, remember that glossy you got through the door from manston a couple of weeks ago? Doesn't really hold much water now the owners have thrown in the towel, does it?

    Infratil are not selling it as a "going concern". Find me a business person who describes a business losing £4,000,000 a year after 13 years of operation and I'll show you.....Roger Gale.

  14. Amazing how failure can generate so much pleasure in a place. Maybe it is years of negativity and the acceptance of job disasters like our holiday trade, fishing, mines, Pfizer and so on, but seemingly it has become easier to knock than to fight for anything in Thanet.

    Hands up all those hoping the Turner will ultimately fail to prove you all right.

  15. Its not about failure. It's about a company pursuing a non-starter. It's about Infatril's raising of false hopes and pretending to care about the area when all they care about is recovering their losses whatever the cost to locals in Ramsgate. Thanet has so many things going for it. The Turner is the best thing to happen to the area in decades. It has been great for tourism and was a very smart move. Opening a commercial airport in Thanet was not a smart move as the Parsons Brinckhoff report proved. Hands up who's ever been to Heathrow for a holiday?