In May, amongst other political news, UKIP had a breakthrough in local government taking control of their first district council. Thanet went purple.
The big local issue concerns the Manston Airport site. There is popular support for blocking its redevelopment for housing and for it to be reopened as an airport. Whether this is legally viable – it would require a Compulsory Purchase Order – is another matter. It is also doubtful whether it would be financially viable – would the airport run at a profit?
A few months on and campaigners are getting a bit restless. Cllr Chris Wells, the UKIP council leader, wants to be able to make arrangements in secret without them interfering.
Cllr Wells says:
“We are doing just what you request. Sadly, the campaigners seem to believe in commercial negotiations being conducted in public and over the last seven days have been an extreme hindrance and distraction to the negotiation. A period of silent contemplation would not hurt.”
So that’s very tiresome for him. But then UKIP promised to reopen the airport. If it’s all a bit tricky perhaps he should have made that clear before the election.
Thanet Council owns the port at Ramsgate. This is the second shortest crossing to continental Europe and is one of the largest municipally owned Ports in the country. A ferry service to Boulogne used to operate but that has not been available since 2013.
The Council says:
“The port is easily accessible from the M25 with good transport links.
“The council welcomes all credible approaches from commercial operations and is open for business with companies who could demonstrate the potential to operate a viable service from the port.”
Success in this would be a triumph for UKIP, wouldn’t it?
Perhaps the way to make progress would be privatisation of the Port of Ramsgate. That would be the free enterprise approach that – at one stage – UKIP seemed to favour. Entrepreneurs might have a better prospect of sorting this out than council bureaucrats.
I wonder if UKIP will end up buying an airport but selling a port. These are the sort of tough choices they face in Thanet – no longer being just a party of protest.