Thursday, 20 March 2014

Consultation on possible closure of Manston

News that the recent purchaser of Manston Airport is consulting staff on the possible closure of the airport has come as a shock at a time when the East Kent economy is showing signs of improvement.

Although never asking to be a four-runway hub, the potential of the site was largely overlooked by Howard Davies’ Airports Commission, despite having one of the largest under-utilised runways in the south east. 

Manston has also seen recent growth in the amount of freight landing there, and offers the fastest turnaround freight services of any UK airport, but it appears efforts to secure scheduled passenger services from Ryanair proved unsuccessful. 

On a positive note, Manston Business Park has recently seen a number of land deals with sales of parcels to Cummins Power Generation and Rowe Atlantic. However, with the China Gateway proposals appearing to have gone into receivership, there may be further uncertainty for the area’s commercial property market. 

If the decision is taken to close the operational airport, which comprises 700 acres of land and buildings, many are already asking – what are the options? 

Inevitably, given the area’s housing shortfall, people are already suggesting the land could be used for residential development. And with the government about to publish its outline proposals for future garden cities, it won’t be long before some may even suggest the site could follow Ebbsfleet’s lead. Others are proposing more industrial uses, but with Thanet already having a significant amount of allocated land available this might not be commercially viable. 

Given Thanet’s climate and the airport’s size, some may even consider the development of a solar farm or district heating system – or both ­ to create a more sustainable residential community. 

With the staff consultation earmarked for 45 days, nothing will be known until May.

The question is: will a government-backed task force emerge as it did when Pfizer announced its departure?

No comments:

Post a Comment