Manston: Airport Sold

The following statement has been issued by the Porterfield PR Agency.

Successful regeneration specialists Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave have bought the former Manston Airport site in Thanet, Kent.

The partnership has extensive experience of large-scale regeneration projects and is part of the Discovery Park consortium that is transforming the former Pfizer facility in Sandwich.

The new owners envisage a £1 billion redevelopment of the 800-acre site, over a 20-year period, into a mixed-use scheme helping to create more than 4,000 jobs.

Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave recently met with the site's owner, Ann Gloag, and swiftly reached agreement to acquire a majority interest.

Any future development would be aimed at providing space for a wide range of businesses, with a focus on attracting companies interested in advanced manufacturing, as well as the provision of housing, shops, schools and community facilities.

Chris Musgrave commented: "Whilst it is too early to be specific about our plans, we will be looking to comprehensively redevelop the whole site to create a mixed-use community. This is in light of the fact that the airport has closed, the equipment has been sold and it will not reopen. We are aware that there were a number of job losses when the airport closed and a far greater number will replace these, and that the benefits will reach the whole of east Kent. We will assemble a first class team to produce and deliver high quality plans for the site."

The plans are likely to include production and warehousing space in the development, which will meet a current shortage of space in Thanet for companies to grow and expand. It will also complement the Discovery Park scheme at Sandwich, where occupancy is already over 50% after only two years and recent demand for large production/warehousing requirements has been turned away due to lack of suitable accommodation.

Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave are the team behind successful regeneration projects at Wynyard Park in the north-east of England, built on a site vacated by Samsung, and Discovery Park, where a new 220-acre science and technology park is being built on the site of Pfizer's former headquarters.

Kent County Council reaction

Speaking about the plans for Manston that have just been announced, the Leader of Kent County Council, Paul Carter, said: " Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner have a fantastic track record in taking over large and difficult sites following the demise of earlier uses, and regenerating them to create jobs and bring economic benefits to the wider area. Their team has done this at Wynyard Park in Billingham, where they have created 2,000 jobs and attracted £200 million of private investment, and at Discovery Park here in Kent where more than 1,000 new jobs have been added to the 600 that Pfizer left behind."

He added: "I have every confidence that they can do even more at Manston."

Thanet Council Reaction

The council has today (Tuesday 23 September) been informed that the Manston Airport site has been bought by regeneration specialists, Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave - part of the Discovery Park consortium responsible for developing the Pfizer site in Sandwich.

As part of the news, the council also understands that a new proposal for the site will be suggested - a mixed use scheme which the partnership envisages will create more than 4,000 jobs but would not retain the airport.

The council is already part-way through a process to review whether compulsory purchase of the site is a viable option following a petition presented to the council on 10 July.

The outcome of a soft-market testing exercise to identify suitable indemnity partners to cover all of the associated costs of a CPO will be taken to Cabinet on Thursday 16 October.

The council will then undertake a wider review of the options for the site and as part of this would seek further details from the new site owners to understand more about their proposal.

Reaction From Sir Roger Gale; North Thanet MP

"Mr Cartner has indicated to me that his company has taken a major shareholding in the company that owns Manston with the former owner, Ms. Gloag, retaining an interest in the site. I understand that Mr. Cartner has potential clients that` cannot be accommodated on the former Pfizer site (Discovery Park)`  and that he wishes to locate at Manston.

"Mr Cartner has suggested the possibility of significant investment and the creation of `up to 4,000 jobs` over a 20-year period which to me sounds remarkably like opportunist land-banking. My own position, which remains as before and which I have stated in terms to Mr. Cartner, is that I believe that it is in both the national and the local interest for Manston to remain open as an airfield, that if he wishes to pursue that route alongside airport related industries then he will have my support and that if he wishes to tear up the airfield and smother the land in industrial premises that can and should be located elsewhere in Thanet, or to assist Ms. Gloag in the realisation of her plan to  create a significant housing development , then I shall oppose his plans in the interests of those that I represent.

"I have spoken to the Leader of Thanet Council, who I believe  remains robust in her view of the future of Manston, to indicate my own continued political support for the compulsory purchase process, I have spoken with the Leader of the (Conservative) Opposition, Bob Bayford, who is equally resolute in his view and I have also spoken with the Directors of RiverOak, the company that wishes to buy and operate the airfield,  who have told me that they remain determined in their aspiration to create an international freight hub and airport-related businesses at Manston.

"Is the Discovery Park involvement a set-back?  No. Is it an added complication?  Yes, but it is a complication that has to be faced, dealt with and overcome."

Statement From Commenting on the sale Ann Gloag said:

"Trevor and Chris are a credible team with a proven track record in creating high quality jobs through redevelopment opportunities.  Their business plan looks thorough, considered, and viable and, with the support of the local community, will deliver thousands of local jobs and many community benefits in the coming years.  This development is an exciting opportunity for Manston, Thanet and beyond and can transform the future of East Kent."