Monday, 1 September 2014

Monday morning ramble Manston petition rejected by TDC Clive Hart standing down and so on.

First the council seem to have rejected the Save Manston Airport paper petition, see Perhaps I have got the wrong end of the stick here, but my understanding was that the as the E-petition was open to any email address anywhere in the world i.e. if you live Australia and have three email addresses, you could validly sign it three times, whereas if you live in Thanet and pay council tax to TDC but share an email address with your partner only one of you could sign it. Oh yes what was my understanding? Well something along the lines of the council saying, “we have justified spending a substantial amount of money on investigating the viability of a cpo based on the paper petition.”

Now this isn’t an anti Manston post, anyone who reads this blog will know that I am basically supportive of Manston, but that said, if the council are working to save the airport they have to be seen to have a local mandate to do this otherwise come the time it will all fall apart.

Still on the Manston front, this has just been published on the net, which is basically Ex-Manston employee speaks out disgruntled ex employee or serious points, well the choice is yours.

At the moment I have just pressed publish before editing the rest of this post so the rest is probably full of errors and repetitions

Historically the airport hasn’t done very well on the investment front and over the last few years there has been an ongoing struggle between the Environment Agency and successive airport owners over the environmental permit.

Basically various owners have sought to avoid doing the expensive work required to obtain an environmental permit, something that could be seen as the first step to the airport gaining planning consent as an airport, something that would have helped maintain its future use as an airport.

This state of affairs has lead to a position where this large site in the middle of Thanet has very little to protect it in terms of what can be developed there, so potentially any owner could make a very large amount of money by building houses on the site.

There is a large demand for new build housing in the southeast and all the indicators are that this is likely to increase.

Manston isn’t a greenfield site so isn’t covered by any of the protections that relate to such sites.

Manston isn’t an airport site with planning permission as such.

What Manston is, is a brownfield site that failed to achieve planning consent as an airport, so it is very vulnerable to potential developers.

Really the only way to protect the site as an airport, if that is what local people want, is for there to be substantial government investment and substantial government ownership of the site.

Personally I have mixed feeling about the future of the site, when an aeroplane comes over my reaction is to get out my camera not to complain about the noise or other environmental issues.

That said, what I feel about the airport doesn’t really count, it’s what local people think that counts and so the first step has to be finding out what it is that local people want for the site.

The way things stand this is only likely to happen with a mixture of petitions and some sort of public consultation and this has to be directed at the right part of government.

Now petitioning national government to do something that they don’t want to do is a non starter in Manston’s case, it needs at least 100,000 verified signatures from UK nationals for the government even to consider debating an issue.

Petitioning TDC so far seems to me to be hopeless, mainly because TDC just don’t have the money to make a significant investment in Manston, which as I have said is the only sure way of preventing any future owner form doing what they want to with the site. 

This really leaves KCC, now granted KCC don’t want to mount a cpo and don’t want to make a significant investment in the airport, it is however possible to force council’s to do things they don’t want to do by petitioning for a public consultation.

I think the real issue here is to find out what local people want and with KCC this is people living in Kent as with TDC it is people living in Thanet. Whereas I think there likely to be a majority of local people who would like a regional airport that they could fly from, I don’t see there being much support for an airfreight hub. This is mainly because most of the road freight distribution centres are close to the M25 and this combined with Manston having no fuel pipeline means that in the case of petitioning KCC for a freight hub at Manston the main thing Kent people would be asking for is increased congestion on the Kent motorways. 

My own feelings are that the whole notion of trying to build a freight hub or any other sort of commercial hub in Thanet is that it has to be some sort of ruse aimed at a different outcome. This comes back to the wheel argument and the wheel that Thanet is the hub of being mostly sea and predominately populated with fish that don’t need freight.

Now by far and away the largest internet group supporting the airport are Save Manston Airport Facebook group, with about 8,500 members, my guess would be that almost everyone interested in the airport is a member, this would include those who are for any aviation activity at Manston, those who are supporting airport expansion there in the hope that it would prevent airport expansion in their backyards, it would include most of the local politicians, the local press and most people who are opposed to the airport or aspects of the airport.
I have covered the E-petition to TDC before see so what of the other petitions.

The only two online petitions I can find are on the UK government’s petition site; Vote to keep Manston Airport open View 2,257 signatures ends 21/03/2015 and No change of use consent for Manston Airport View 940 signatures ends 04/09/2014.

Both of these petitions have been very much plugged by the Save Manston Facebook group and I would say that the number of signatories are a good indicator of the number of members of SMA who actually want to save Manston.

Frankly it is just as easy to sign a government petition as it is to engage in a Facebook group.  

Anyway sorry about publishing what in effect were my notes for this post, put it down to multitasking, I will leave them there and try and get on with the rest of the post.

I guess the real issues are: Is there a clear mandate for saving the airport? Is TDC the appropriate council to attempt to do this? Has the notion of building a freight hub got muddled up with the desire to save the airport.

On to some thoughts about the “Ex-Air Traffic Controller and other Manston Airport ex-staff speak out.”

The gist of this seems to be saying that in recent years Manston Airport has been run on a shoestring with facilities more associated with the third world. Obviously in the first instance as a Ramsgate resident and with Ramsgate being on the runway approach flight path this is of some concern to me.   

On to Cive Hart saying he isn’t going to stand for re-election as a TDC councillor. Both Clive’s Twitter and Facebook postings today say: “Thought for the week: Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships. – Stephen R. Covey”

Not really sure if there is some message here.


  1. Interesting point to be discussed on "Inside Out", 7:30pm BBC1 tonight is the fact that house building in East Kent is not viable because currently it costs more to build a house than the price it will sell for. So will houses be built on Manston at all?

    You have often referred to Manston as being in the centre/middle of Thanet. I prefer to think of it as on the edge of Thanet.

    1. Ah SEMBOB I think the point you have missed here is that this is because of the cost of building land in the southeast having risen, the basic equation is something like this; cost of land £90k cost of build £90k selling price of house £200k and now the cost of the land has risen to around £110k.

      However if you already own, have bought for £1, or whatever it was, the land to build hundreds of houses on then the equation becomes, cost of land zilch, cost of build £90k selling price of house £200k.

    2. The cost of building a house is about, 30% land 35-40% building cost+roads ect 10% other 20-25% profit on a normal project but if you build high end houses on cheap land then the margins are different also if you build a small house in Westminster the land will be around 80-90% of the cost. I estimate that Manstons land value to be around £250-300 million. If I were to develop that land I would see how planning felt about having high end housing at the site, as thats where she will make the most money.

    3. Ah Michael. There was no point to miss. There is a TV programme tonight that discusses the cost of building houses in East Kent. Let's watch the programme first.

      And I agree that Manston is slightly to the West of the centre of Thanet.

    4. The government last week announced a grant of £1.37 millions to allow TDC to build 58 new affordable homes in Thanet, with the project set to start in April 2015. The new homes, which will include a range of bungalows, flats and two and three bedroom houses, will be completed by March 2018.

      So how much is that per property?

    5. I guess the real point of this post is not so much about the profits involved if the site were developed for housing, a visit to any of the online estate agents are all you need to see that new build housing in this area, is something where the demand is high and so are the profits, but about the council’s mandate for spending our money and the council’s mandate for engaging in any particular policy.

      At the moment the new owner of the airport, Ann Gloag, hasn’t revealed her intentions for the site, but she has said that these intentions will provide some local employment and that she will reveal them soon.

      As far as I can see the council has a relatively small mandate by petition from people who don’t necessarily reside in Thanet, for saving the airport.

      No mandate whatsoever for a cpo of the land to create an airfreight hub, as no one has petitioned for this.

      Frankly expensive and grandiose plans locally, like the huge eighteenth century harbour illustrated at the top of the post, have a history of coming to nothing, and when they do come to nothing there is often a bill for local taxpayers.

      Now if the council spends a considerable amount of our money without some sort of proper mandate for doing so, then I think we all know that there will be problems further down the line.

      The problem for me however is to get people to consider that there is a difference between ensuring the council act in a proper and reasonable way and being for or against the airport or anything else.

  2. As the western boundaries of Thanet are Richborough (the old power station site), Sarre and 100m east of Reculver, I'd say that it's almost exactly in the middle of Thanet. For some reason even people who live in Thanet dismiss the western villages as insignificant.

  3. Incidentally there is a lot of anonymous comment, which falls outside of the comment guidelines below at the moment, obviously I am deleting it, but I would recommend that if you want to comment here then you read the comment guidelines first .


  4. Michael,

    So do you think that Roger Gale, Laura Sandys, Beau Webber, Ruth Bailey, Dan Light and the others who presented the petition at Downing Street did so legitimately? Had the petition already been rejected by TDC? Was the triggering of the CPO discussion at TDC lawful when the petition-prayers are actually looked at?

    Is this a serious matter?

    1. Anon I think that you would have to consider what the point would be in presenting a petition of less than 100,000 verified uk residents signatures to parliament would be when the triggering baseline for petitions to the UK parliament is 100,000 verified uk residents signatures.

      I would view this rather in the same way as I would view a customer coming to buy a £10 book from my shop who only had £2, quite frankly I just wouldn’t know what to say to them.

      But the fundamental point here is that if the intention is to save the airport then some thought out approach needs to occur where the Manston site remains an airport, however if there are other intentions here, then they may have been legitimate actions.

      My guess is that when actions are lead by politicians I wouldn’t need to draw anyone a diagram to explain what those intentions may be.

    2. "a customer coming to buy a £10 book from my shop who only had £2, quite frankly I just wouldn’t know what to say to them"

      i'll try tomorrow and see, maybe save myself 8 quid? ;-)

  5. Hello Michael,

    Carrying on from the previous poster, one has to question why usual procedures were by-passed in cabinet the night the petition was presented to TDC. Who was in a rush exactly? At the time the 'petition' was presented, was it the paper one or the Facebook one (neither of which it would appear we're acceptable according to the legal recommendations)

    Has the council been fooled into the CPO process and if so, is there legal redress for the residents to insist that this foolish course of action is stopped immediately? This would give the council the perfect opportunity to walk away from this foolhardy venture.

    How do we get some clear answers Michael?

  6. I can't see anything changing. The government could have saved Manston at a stroke at the time of this transport review but chose not to do so. I smell a rat and money is the stench. Me thinks Gloat will build house get grants to do now and walk away with gazillions of squids and get a knighthood into the bargain. Thanet has been stiched up we will become a London sink estate overflow and get dumped on again. I sound like what's his name the conspiracy theorists. But I honestly think this is a done deal and TDC or Thanet resident's can change any thing.

    1. Don my guess is that had the SMA group looked at what was political and what could possibly work, right from the start they would have had more chance.

      I would say being directed away from their real objective, saving the airport – which there is a great deal of support for – towards supporting the building of a freight hub has weakened their case considerably.

      I would also say that being directed towards petitioning TDC instead of the KCC means that there has been no real pressure put on the political group representing the airport’s catchment area.

      Essentially the two things that worry politicians are the public with a strong mandate and the public approaching the right part of government.

  7. Michael, I love the way you facetiously dismiss the informed and plausible account by the 'Air Traffic Controller'. Presumably this because it runs counter to your own persistently voiced and purblind view on Manston. It is similar with your dismissive reply to SEMBOB about a TV programme on housing which you have not seen. Once again you have failed to get the heart of the problem and are still obsessed with peripheral detail, such as who in your opinion may sign a petition.

    But never mind after some preceding barren posts you have generated hits and even managed to mention your bookshop and its customers. In this matter you never lose the plot.

    1. It turns out that what was trailed early in the day on BBC South East News was not what was shown on Inside Out. It was all to do with Help to Buy, and not the cost of building in East Kent.

    2. Funny old world John, and there was me thinking that I drawn attention to a very clear report of what Manston’s recent problems may have been. Of course the only real solution on the table now appears to be a company with no experience in aviation.

      Anyway assuming that your main objective is saving Manston and you seem to be saying here that I have failed to get to the heart of the problem, this suggests that you have found the heart of the problem and have decided to hold out on us.

      Anyway do you really have any ideas about this one.

      SEMBOB bbc advertising is like this, and if it were called advertising then I suppose the advertising standards people would have something to say.

  8. Michael if you really support the airport, then why don't you try advising those campaingers that make "mistakes" instead of constantly sniping on your blog?

    1. Anon I think the main problem here is that there is a shoot the messenger atmosphere around the SMA group that is almost impenetrable. If you come up with a happy message “we are making more tractors” everything is fine and of course politicians will exploit this knowing that telling the masses that more tractors are being made equates to votes, which equates to more personal income for the politician.

      I have tried right from the beginning to tell the SMA group that petitions need to be well thought out have achievable objectives and directed at the right political organisation, in truth group members are only now starting to take some notice of this.

      The real problem is that TDC are the wrong political organisation for a cpo, so that all the work in this direction is likely to have been wasted and with Manston the clock is ticking.

      Another very real problem is getting diverted from the real objective and viable, saving the airport into an objective that isn’t either economically or environmentally viable, building an airfreight hub.

      With this whole petition business, you can’t petition any level of government to do a particular thing, what you can do is petition a level of government to discuss something, this is called tabling a motion. And in the case of the TDC petition the motion was already tabled so there was really no point in the petition. You can also do the much stronger thing, which is to petition a level of government to hold a public consultation on an issue. This happened with Ramsgate town council and it happened with the no night flights campaign. I guess we all know that it was successful in both cases.

      Yesterday Cllr David Green who is a TDC cabinet member with considerable experience issued the following statement of Facebook:

      “David Green My personal opinion only: to take your points in order. Airport- TDC will not agree to any "solution" to the airport that is detrimental to Ramsgate's environment. However, there is considerable emotional support for retaining aviation related activities on the site so TDC has laid down a procedure that in my opinion will show that an airport CPO is not economically viable. We are waiting for the owners alternative proposals.”

      Now you can either shoot the messenger, or you can take some notice of the message and act accordingly.

    2. If I were SMA, on past form, the messenger would already be dead.

      there are 6 members of Cabinet I do wonder how many are in favour of the CPO route as a means to an end?

      There are several FB pages were an alternate view is discussed they are plagued by the nastier element of SMA trying to prove what?

  9. Any confidence I might have had in the validity of the Manston petitions was shaken by seeing people in Faversham market place signing after listening to a man with a megaphone bellowing half-truths.

  10. I'm quite intrigued how the person can stand in Deal High Street today saying along the lines of "sign our petition to save Manston Airport and create 6,500 jobs, and that is just for starters"

    Considering around 150 was lost, where do the extra 6,350 jobs come from ??

    1. Yes, the 6500 claim was made when he was proselyting in Ramsgate. This is of course 500 more than the very busy airport and cargo hub, East Midlands Airport lay claim to with their 4 million passengers and 300,000 tonnes of cargo.

    2. I'll ask you the same thing as 12:52 then, did you question him in person? I would've done.

    3. Tried this anon as soon as you ask a difficult question the bloke starts yelling into his megaphone

    4. I would have thought that the SMA campaigners would have learned their lesson by now. To the best of my knowledge they have collected at least four petitions to date and none of them has been a valid measure of support for the airport. Now they are running around East Kent (and beyond?) coercing people into signing their latest petition by employing disgraceful scaremongering tactics, making up employment figures, lying about Ann Gloag's intentions etc. etc. This petition is already doomed because of the way they are behaving whilst collecting signatures.

    5. A letter in the Telegraph has upped the job losses to 600. Seems anything can be made up in the Manston debate, which makes discussion difficult. Faversham megaphone man was claiming a Parkway station will open next next year and Ann Gloag is building 60,000 houses. Or it could have been 600,000 or 6 million, for I imagine we have all stopped believing in any of the propaganda.

  11. 12:52, If you were so intrigued then why didn't you ask him / her?

  12. (1) The coments made b\y x traffic contoler seem to surjest that the owners for the last few years used it as a tax loss adjuster and had no interest in it becoming profitable.
    (2) Why would someone from southend airport want to see new operators at manston?


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