This morning it was announced that the Government is looking into plans for an international hub airport in the South East.
So where, if the South-East has no option but to have a new airport, would be best for Kent? I still believe the existing airports could be utilised (see previous blog) and in Kent that means Manston, (Kent International Airport). The runway is already capable of landing the size of aircraft required for long haul to the China and Asia and expansion of this airport into an international hub that flies only to far-east destinations would prioritise this new market for the South-East.
It also means that infrastructure already in place can be upgraded meaning a quicker lead time for businesses wishing to access the UK and Europe. A upgrade of existing lines to a fast shuttle train to the Channel Tunnel Rail Terminal and Ashford International Station provides a gateway to Europe and to London. There are also an abundance of ports in Kent, not least of all Ramsgate and Sheerness, ideally situated to benefit a Hub Airport, Europe and the North-Eastern ports of England and Scotland.
Kent offers a large, skilled workforce in towns such as Ashford, Margate and the Medway Towns without the stranglehold of an already congested, built city and all the associated development costs involved with London. It brings regeneration to areas which have suffered neglect through the slow centralisation of post-industrial markets to the city and uniquely offers a superb opportunity for a lower-impact, greener, technologically innovative approach to a hub airport in the south east.
If the only alternative on offer is an airport in the Thames Estuary, built on Kent land, then I would prefer the jobs and economic opportunity to be wholly for Kent and would want the hub at Manston.
Kent and it's extraordinary historical, cultural and recreational landscape could provide a 'green city' for new and emerging world markets but it could also so easily lose out and be sidelined by the already proposed London-centric plans.