Thanet District Council’s draft local plan to earmark the Manston Airport site for a housing development was voted down last night by 35 votes to 20, giving hope to those who want the facility re-opened.
Campaigners were pleased at the outcome, as they aim to see the airport restored as an operational aviation facility.
The draft plan is a proposal for new housing on the Manston site by Thanet Council, as well as infrastructure and business benefits, to support the future population and economy of the area up until 2031.
The Council originally said that there was insufficient evidence to keep the aviation-only model of Manston, which is why the land was originally earmarked for redevelopment.
All of the Conservative councillors rejected the motion, along with 12 from UKIP; labelled as “disciples” by Trevor Shonk, the Mayor of Ramsgate and one of the UKIP councillors that went against the leader, Chris Wells.
This raises the question of Cllr Wells’ position being made untenable, as it is believed that those who rebelled will advise Mr Wells to resign – or quit UKIP to become independents if they do not get their wish.
“Every by-election, apart from one we’ve had here we’ve lost – because of our leader”, Shonk said, one of the 12 rebel councillors.
“He’s (Wells) made us unelectable. This is the problem with Thanet District Council – we’ve all got to start working together. We’ve got a great result tonight by all parties working together, but it doesn’t stop there”, he added.
In the run up to the May 2015 Local Elections, UKIP pledged they would keep Manston Airport open. Mr Wells’ change of stance could be a reason why those from his party decided to undermine him.
All six Labour councillors in the chamber all voted in support of the plan.
Craig Mackinlay said he was also pleased with the decision made by the council, saying that a lot of UKIP councillors “put their money where their mouth is” and followed through with the mandate they were elected on.
However, the MP for South Thanet was unable to attend the meeting, as the chamber was full.
“I’ve been saying for many months that no plan is better than a bad plan, and what the council presented was a bad plan. Thanet with Manston as an airport is a wholly different Thanet compared to the area without an airport”, he said.
“It’s very good news for Thanet tonight, delighted to be here, but annoyed not to be allowed to go into the meeting – which is a little bizarre. The decision was made by the door staff that the local MP, elected by 25,000 people and representative of the area, wasn’t allowed to be in the council meeting tonight.”
Mr Wells believed it was necessary to vote in support of the council’s plan in order to avoid intervention by the Department of Communities & Local Government (DCLG) and Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State.
The Government department have previously outlined that house-building targets are failing to be met by Thanet District Council.
17,140 homes are required to be built in the authority by 2031, and this has been set out in the local plan. Out of that figure, 2,500 have been designated for the Manston Airport site.
However, it is thought that the original estimation may rise past 20,000, with Mr Javid stating that because of the authority failing to meet deadlines and not submitting a local plan, there may be no option but to intervene.
Due to the result of last night’s vote, the decision by the DCLG will be put on hold until March 31st.
The proposals are in line what the current owners, Stone Hill Park, want to do to the site – which includes building more homes and a leisure complex.
On the contrary, a second firm by the name of RiverOak strategic partners, aims to reopen the airport, and have plans to submit a Development Consent Order on the land, with the aim of central Government allowing a CPO.
A consultation was carried out last year on the plan, which included a provision to scrap the aviation-only use of the airport, which went against the view of many councillors and Thanet residents.
Mackinlay also told Kent Echo people may have their issues about Manston becoming operational again, but doing so would bring great benefits to Thanet as a whole.
“There are people that have concerns about Manston’s aviation and I recognise that, but the majority of people across Thanet will recognise that the economic future is very much based around Manston”, he said.
“We have been blessed with a unique asset with national significance that we could lose at our peril – once you start losing aviation facilities, they never come back.”
He added that himself and Sir Roger Gale, MP for Thanet North, plan to meet Sajid Javid in the next few weeks to discuss future arrangements.
“We’ll ask for a bit of breathing space to get this plan right, and that will be our first port of call next week when we meet him. We’re hopeful that we can persuade him.”