Plain Jane 041215: Manston, driving and, well, Manston again

Plain Jane 041215I confess I have lost the plot when it comes to Manston.  Much as I continue to grieve for the heady days of KLM and flights to Schipol – gateway to the world – and would still chain myself to the runway for a daily flight to Spain, I can feel my eyes drooping at mention of CPOs, indemnities, Chris Wells (actually that’s true even without Manston) and consultations. That is, until I opened this paper last Friday and looked at the ghastliness that was the “vision” of how Manston could look.  Do we really want a mini Milton Keynes in our midst and how can it be good for the area  as a whole? One Ray Mallon (whose photo bears an uncanny resemblance to ex-council leader Clive Hart), spokesman for the site’s owners, talks of a planning application as soon as April, amid claims of creating 8,000 new jobs.  I don’t believe it.  Yes, 2,500 new homes will take some building and long-term, the extra families will create work for extra plumbers and electricians, hairdressers and  gutter-clearers. But where are those possible 5,000 inhabitants going to work themselves? Where are the dentists and doctors coming from? Where are the roads for the cars? I would submit that a properly-marketed airport offering travel to popular destinations for both business and leisure, that can serve the whole of the South-East, bringing more visitors and attracting more entrepreneurs would ultimately do more to swell the coffers of the local economy than the concreting over and plasticising of acres of green space to make a  glorified housing estate.

Those who pass their driving test on the third attempt make better drivers than those who sail through at the first try, a study carried out for LV Insurance has revealed. The theory  – borne out by statistics collated on collision and police involvement – is that the early passers are more likely to be over-confident and less experienced while the twice-failed have a tendency to exercise greater caution.  By this logic, I must be a near-genius behind the wheel. I eventually gained my licence thirty years ago after losing count of my trips to the test centre. There was the first, unforgettable occasion, when in my terror I jammed my instructor’s front door key into the ignition, it got stuck, and after five minutes of heavy sighing, the examiner stalked off. There was the second, when on sight of the same granite-faced official walking towards me, my leg shook so much I couldn’t hold down the clutch. There was the test cancelled because of the frost and the one where I left the handbrake on. There was the unscheduled emergency stop for the baby seagull (a bit harsh that one – what was I supposed to do? Pulverise it?)  and the slightly unfortunate misunderstanding at the roundabout. In those days you only had to get one cross on the sheet and you were out. The smiley examiner who finally passed me after the grim one had retired,  stopped smiling and looked suitably panic-struck when I flung my arms around him and demanded he marry me.  My son – with the smugness of one who passed first time aged 17 – refutes both the contents of the study and any suggestion of my superior prowess.  Who is better at reverse parking? I enquire. And rest my case.

The Government are investing £250 million in a quest to find an answer to Operation Stack, which, when ordinary motorists get caught up in the queues, is estimated to cost the Kent economy a million quid a day.  Could I suggest the dosh is used to get our own airport up and running again? With an area put aside for some of the lorries to reside on till the port or tunnel reopens?  And giving anyone with a car full of suitcases, screaming kids and a disgruntled granny, hoping for a break in France, the chance to simply fly?

See the original article at


  1. Jane I to have supported Manston but I think in all reality it is gone but not forgotten. Someone wanted it gone and thought because the Pro Manston lot were not as vocal as the anti it was a slam dunk that someone has no doubt received a brown paper bag full of fifties. But in all seriousness Houses and flats will be on the cards and we will become a dumping ground for London Authorities great unwashed. The capital keep the cream we get the cast offs is how it seems to me. Don

  2. Dear Jane

    I felt obliged to respond to some of your remarks here about the site formerly known as Manston.

    Firstly, I was astonished at your flippant (I assume) comment about chaining yourself to the runway for a cheap flight to Spain. Not only does this speak volumes of the your own personal motives for wanting an airport but it says a great deal about a lack of understanding of what this whole campaign has involved. Most people, given the offer of a small, local airport with cheap flights to holiday destinations, would go for that. But this is never what has been on offer. The airport failed consistently and if a new one were to rise from its ashes, it would need to be successful. It would need to be big. In fact, what we were offered was a dirty big cargo hub with the only show in town (for most of the last year) waving ‘passenger flights in the future’ as a lure to catch the interest and eye of locals. I cannot seriously believe that someone such as yourself, who clearly loves the area and cares about it, would want a huge cargo hub in the middle of Thanet even if it meant at some stage being able to get on a flight yourself. Do bear in mind, that a big, successful airport then develops it’s own delays etc so your fond memories of nipping in and being done and dusted and on the plane in no time would be vastly different. But even so, would you really wish a cargo hub on Thanet? Do you really disregard the lives, the health and well-being of residents so much, especially those in Ramsgate?

    But instead, we have an alternative plan. I’d love to know if you actually went to either of the consultations and discussed plans with those there. Or did you just look at the pictures in the paper. How much have you interrogated those plans? Being a journalist, and all? It’s only when you get down to the nitty gritty that you start to see what is actually on offer. For example, when I was discussing with one of the planners from PlanIt, I was expressing a preference for one plan and dismissing another as I said ‘it’s only got that tiny strip of green separating this and this’. He pointed out that the tiny stip of green was more than the size of a football pitch. Sketchy plans reveal very little. A mini-Milton Keynes, you say dismissively. I wonder if you’ve been there recently? You’d be pushed to find a city so green, so spacious, so well laid out in terms of discreet communities with such a wide variety of housing. But I’m not here to plug Milton Keynes, again, I’m just surprised at the trite comparison. What I hear from you though is complaints, or concerns at least, about the housing. This has been a long running campaign of misinformation with those campaigning to restore an airport claiming that the site would be chock full of housing. The plans make it quite clear that , along with most developments in the world these days, this is a mixed use one necessarily requiring a balance. Single use development has completely fallen out of favour and mixed use speaks to localism, integrated communities and walking and cycling and all those things that I would have thought you might sign up to. Anyway, whatever the actual number of homes built, and it will be a range of homes suiting different incomes, the percentage of the site devoted to them will not be compromised. Given that Thanet has to build 16,000 homes approx between now and 2031 (figures based on census returns and demographic trends) then those homes have to go somewhere. If some of them go into a development like this, with huge swathes of green, open space around them, is that not preferable to squeezing them onto the green spaces between our existing towns, compromising our green wedges and the individual characteristics of those towns? (Given that we lack sufficient brownfield sites to accommodate all those 16,000 homes). But we can fight the Local Plan! (Do I hear you cry?) Well, good luck with that. We have a national housing shortage and a government determined to encourage the greatest spell of home building in recent history and, of course, we need that. We need to home people, we need to curb our crazy housing market. And, of course, if you ask any community in the country, do you want 16,000 houses plonked in your midst – they all say no. Which is why national inspectors have already made it clear that a Local Plan that doesn’t address the need, as determined by the figures, will be rejected – which would leave us even more open to developers putting in applications on green land. (As vulnerable as we currently are without one).

    But where are all those people going to work? What about the impact on services, you say? Well, again these would be useful questions to have put at the consultation, as I did. Developers are required to provide money for community infrastructure and a school and a GP surgery are already built into the plans. It’s for us as a community to comment and to indicate if there are other things that we want. You know full well too, that if the population increases in an area then KCC are obliged to provide the health, education and other services that are required. Easily said and, of course, we are living in straitened times, but they are obliged and we all need to keep that pressure up. In terms of jobs, you have already pointed yourself to the construction jobs and the indirect jobs created as a result of both that and the numbers of people living in the area. The point of a mixed-use development is that local jobs are also created and the plans for high-end manufacturing look exciting and offer not only local jobs but the chance for apprenticeships and training too. Have you been to Discovery Park, Jane? Applauded at national and even international level, it feels as if only locally there isn’t a recognition of what is going on there. When I visited, I found out about a Cambridge company that had relocated and brought many of their staff with them. Staff looking for a good quality of life and with home and work close to each other. This is the modern pattern of planning. Sucks, doesn’t it?

    I’m really disappointed at this knee jerk article that considers nothing in terms of regeneration, jobs and the actual creation of public space in the middle of Thanet. Space that we can all enjoy. Space that joins up the old footpaths that were truncated by the airfield. Space that will have cycle paths. Space that will be planted with the trees that we so sadly lack in Thanet. As a local journalist, I urge you to get in touch with the owners and to do some real research into this. As for jumping on a plane to Spain, is it so hard to get to Gatwick? I don’t think so.

  3. You don’t seem to have thought carefully about this . Why do you think the inhabitants of Ramsgate ( of whom I’m one) would enjoy living under the flight path of an busy airport? Considering how damaging this would be, environmentally and specifically in health terms. I don’t understand why you are so keen on it. Leaving out your rather vague criticisms of “ghastliness” and “mini Milton Keynes”, could you give some more definite objections?

  4. Sorry I am a little late in saying so but I’d like to thank each one of you for both reading and for taking the trouble to comment. I have read and digested with interest! all best jane

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