Kent County Council’s planning boss Pete Raine got an offer he didn’t expect when he dined in a Ramsgate Thai restaurant, right, last week. Campaigners who have been trying to stop the expansion of Manston airport — a financial black hole backed by public money through KCC — got him choking on his curry with a plea to send Imperial’s science park scheme to Thanet, where the jobs are needed, saving Wye’s countryside while adding to Kent’s prosperity.
The approach came from Tim Garbutt who runs the Surin restaurant with his wife. Tim had invited Pete Raine and his fellow KCC colleagues Graham Gibbens and Stephen Dukes last Tuesday to discuss the future of Manston. Tim tells us, ‘Pete said OK – what would you do with Manston and I laid out an outline plan of developing Imperial there: Thanet jobs, safeguard Wye greenbelt, equidistant to Canterbury, near Pfizer etc. And Manston is a brownfield site where KCC have invested recently.’
In case you didn’t know, in June KCC paid £5.3 million for a 35-acre business park used by the former Planestation company, the firm that had financial backing from KCC but went spectacularly bust through Eujet and owning Manston. Graham Gibbens, KCCC Cabinet member for regeneration, said the council stepped in ‘because the park had potential to support regeneration in east Kent.’
So what did the KCC team make of Tim Garbutt’s offer?
Tim continues the story.
I proposed Manston is both an abysmal business case and blatantly gerrymandered by KCC and endangering the public and a far better plan would be to develop Imperial there as it’s near Pfizer, equidistant from Canterbury, more jobs for the area etc.
He fell silent at the point and blushed slightly before saying “I’m not sure what Imperial would make of that”.
I said “You’re the authority: tell them”
He agreed to come back to me.
Manston and Wye seem exactly the same problem: KCC leading a local council and pretending they’re not, abusing democracy and toadying upto big business rather than the public duty of care?
Given Pete Raine’s gleeful TV remarks about the prospects of redeveloping Wye of late we won’t hold our breath, but thanks for thinking of us down in Thanet.