Manston pickle

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IN YOUR report (6 May) celebrating 20 years of the Channel Tunnel, Jim Pugh pointed out that it still faced stiff competition from cross-channel ferries and the airlines.

That may be less true today, given the inexplicable, and in my view deplorable, decision to close Manston International
Airport in Kent.

Scottish businesswoman Ann Gloag bought the airport for just £1. Now she will be able to sell it, allegedly for many millions of pounds, to make way for housing to be built.

When Ms Gloag took Manston over, she said she planned to “turn it around, using her 30 years’ experience in the transport industry”.

One of the board members she brought in had turned around Southend Airport with the construction of a new terminal, train stations, control tower, hotel, road and runway extension. Against that backdrop, EasyJet, Tui and Aer Lingus soon moved in.

It was implied that Manston could anticipate similar investment and vision.

There were regular Flybe flights from Edinburgh. Then KLM moved in. For Scots tourists there was the prospect of easy accessibility to the tourist spots in Kent (Dover Castle and Canterbury Cathedral among them), and the link to France.

Manston also offered Scots businesspeople ready access to south-east England.

Manston’s case looked enhanced by the problem of over-capacity at the London airports. Manston has one of the longest runaways in the UK, is beside a huge population area, near high-speed trains, cross-channel ferries and the Channel Tunnel, and is to have a train station. 
Motorways are also conveniently placed.

The announcement of its closure, therefore, puzzles me.

Local Conservative MP, Sir Roger Gale, said there were potential buyers and has described the closure decision as an “act of corporate vandalism”.

Ann Gloag has a wonderful reputation in Scotland for her charity work. Her £1 purchase of Manston may have got her a lot of real estate which could be sold at massive profit for ­housing, retail, leisure or industrial use.

Of course, this may only be one side of the story.

Perhaps Ann Gloag would like to contribute her side of the story to The Scotsman’s Letters pages?

John Lloyd

Strathbeg Drive

Dalgety Bay West, Fife