Kent

Manston Airport 'could reopen early next year'

Manston Airport
Image caption Manston Airport closed in May 2014 with the loss of 150 jobs.

A closed Kent airport could open early next year and the Civil Aviation Authority is to be "put on standby" in case it happens, an MP has said.

Campaigners want Thanet council to buy Manston Airport under a compulsory purchase order (CPO) so it can reopen.

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay said a draft PricewaterhouseCoopers report had found no impediment to a CPO.

Thanet council will consider the report after it is published. The site owners said they would fight any CPO attempt.

"We have taken a great leap forwards today," said Mr Mackinlay after discussing the findings of the report with Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill.

"The Department [for Transport] stands ready to assist with the reinstatement of a CAA licence as soon as a CPO process is completed and Manston Airport is ready to reopen and receive aircraft."

"To lose this type of strategic regional and national asset was always wrong," he added.

'Housing and jobs'

Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner, who have bought a majority stake in the site, set out a £1bn redevelopment plan on Wednesday.

Their 20-year plan for the site they have renamed Stone Hill Park includes 2,500 homes, a sports village, 200 acres of manufacturing units with 4,000 jobs, and a film production studio.

Under the proposals, a 200-acre park would be created with the former runway as a centrepiece.

Image copyright Trevor Cartner
Image caption Redevelopment could include a film production studio

In response to protesters' calls for the site to remain an airport, Ray Mallon, a spokesman for the owners, said: "My answer to them was simple. This airport has had more comebacks than Frank Sinatra."

He also accused Mr Mackinlay and North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale of making "inaccurate statements" to the public, saying a "major impediment in the way of a CPO" was a lack of funding.

"It's now time for them to move on and stop wasting time and further public money."

But Thanet council's UKIP leader Christopher Wells said there was a group of people in office who will do everything they can to reopen Manston.

Conservative MP Mr Mackinlay said the CPO was supported by the government and the prime minister had taken an interest too.

Plans to reopen the airport have been put forward by US investment firm RiverOak, who Mr Mackinlay said remained "key players".

Campaign group, Supporters of Manston Airport, believe the airport failed because it had aimed at the passenger market but they believe it could succeed as a cargo airport.

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