Friday 12 December 2014

Wynard Park email TDC councillors about The Manston Airport Site and some sort of ramble

Well first here is the email:

Wynyard Park
The office of Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave
Wynyard Park House
Wynyard Avenue
Wynyard, Billingham
Tees Valley TS22 5TB
Tel: 01740 661000

12th December 2014

Dear Councillors,


We have noted that yesterday evening TDC's Cabinet reached the conclusion that no suitable partner has been identified who can clearly demonstrate an ability to fund the compulsory purchase and subsequent commercial operation of an airport at Manston.

This decision is commendable, particularly in light of the appalling bullying and abusive behaviour of many of the supporters of the intended operator. The Cabinet's decision also accords with legal advice received by ourselves which is that the chances of TDC achieving a successful CPO outcome were remarkably slim and that the financial losses to the council would have been huge.

We also note that an Extraordinary Meeting of the Council is taking place on Tuesday, 16 December "to consider and debate its position on Manston Airport taking into account all possible proposals". No papers have been posted on the council's website so we are unaware of the course this discussion will take. We would, however, like to briefly restate our intended approach to this site.

Overall Vision

We anticipate that the site will be redeveloped for a number of different uses. Without being prescriptive, and fully accepting that any change of use requires planning permission, we see the mix including employment space complemented by appropriate housing, education, sports, community and other facilities. We are confident of creating some 4,000 jobs over a 20 year period. Overall, we wish the site to become an engine for the transformation of Thanet's economy, lifting it to become a major player on a national and potentially international scale. We believe Thanet deserves nothing less.

We have actually run out of space at Discovery Park for large new buildings and in trying to preserve its character as a science and office park we require somewhere to create a manufacturing park to meet current and future requirements. Opportunities to acquire sites of 800 acres are few and far between and we decided that the Manston site was ideal for our needs, being close to our existing base, superbly well-connected by road and with the promise of a new Parkway station linking it to London via HS1.

We are already in talks with two new companies who, if we succeed in securing them, will bring an initial 300 jobs. This is about twice the number of jobs lost when the airport closed.

Research into "best in class" developments

Work is currently underway to identify the best mixed-used developments around the world. We hope to conclude this research by the end of January, the results of which will be discussed with TDC. From this, we will start to devise the outline of our proposals and once again these will be discussed with TDC and your views reflected.

Public Consultation

We have already published our provisional timetable for consulting the people of Thanet, the majority of whom we believe support our approach. Two main events are proposed, one in the spring when our initial plans will be revealed and another in the summer when revised proposals that reflect feedback from the spring event will be published for further consultation. Throughout this process there will be regular dialogue with TDC at Member and appropriate Officer level.Does aviation form any part of our proposals?

The former airport, like many small regional airports, suffered from a high cost base with too few passenger flights and a freight operation which was hampered by a ban on night-time flights. The fact is that without significant subsidy the airport doesn’t function as a business. The airport had already closed before we bought the site and there is no credible business case to reopen it.

Set against these facts, we recognise there is a lot of local feeling and a rich history attached to the site, which we respect. Indeed, we have already gifted the freehold of the site on which the Spitfire and Hurricane Museum stands to that body and we have offered to look at options for building a new facility for the RAF Museum.

Do we have a track record of success?

Wynyard Park started off as a derelict manufacturing site after Samsung transferred its operations to the Czech Republic. It is now home to more than 2,000 workers, is growing at a steady and sustainable pace and has around 60 tenants of all shapes and sizes. This has been achieved without a single penny of public subsidy.

Discovery Park is the site of the former Pfizer operation. Pfizer removed most (but not all) of their people before we acquired the site in July 2012 with around 650 employees remaining, but at a significant risk of being lost in the following months. We announced a target of 3,000 jobs within 5 years and, whilst we knew that was ambitious, we now have around 2,200 jobs in 28 months, all working for the 102 companies already on site and with several more poised to sign. We expect to reach 3,000 ahead of target and our long-term strategy works towards achieving 5,000. Recent research has shown that 86% of employees at Discovery Park live in East Kent, so these truly are local jobs for local people.


We have been open and honest with everyone we have met in Kent. Whilst it would have been very easy to pretend that we were looking at the site as an airport, only to announce within a couple of years that there was no business case, we prefer to be transparent with our intentions. We genuinely believe we can bring jobs and prosperity to East Kent by creating a good place to work both for employers and employees and by forging links with education providers and training organisations to close the "skills gap".

Our way is not to bang drums, issue threatening letters or send abusive emails, but to work respectfully and courteously with a range of public, private and voluntary organisations to achieve lasting benefits for Thanet. We very much look forward to working positively with the Council for many years to come.

Yours faithfully

Chris Musgrave & Trevor Cartner

Not sure how that will format in the blog post anyway here is the ramble.

I have to say that I am becoming increasingly surprised by the lack of support for the new owners of The Manston Airport site from local politicians. Anyway here is their website it comes up when you put Wynyard Park into Google.

I suppose most of my reservations about the cpo have always been based on what comes up when you put RiverOak Investments into Google particularly the two websites and the first and obvious question being why are they not linked together?

I will ramble on here and come back to Manston in a bit, my bookshop hasn’t been as busy today, maybe due to the weather although I noticed that Ramsgate doesn’t seem to have been so busy during the last few days.

Our internet orders seem to have peaked during the beginning of this week and I guess that internet orders for Christmas must be tailing off for everyone.

I had assumed that people were doing their shopping out of town but when we went to Westwood Cross this evening it was very quiet too, no problem parking and getting a table next to the balcony with an armchair.

Here is the sketch from there.

Back to Manston Airport. As I say something strange here; I could understand the fringe of local politics perhaps not supporting an enterprise like this, but the antics of the last few weeks defies understanding. So an open question to all of our local politicians; do any of you actually support the new owners? 


God help us said...

what a difference from the tone of the letters from Riveroak.

Can it be that Cartner & Musgrave know they have the law on their side and feel it is about time they let the Manston supporters know they are backing the wrong horse

Anonymous said...

What a classy letter in terms of content and timing.

Reminds me of James Bond entering a bar with mayhem all around, pulling at his shirt cuffs and telling the barman how to mix his drink.

Look and learn Manstophiles, look and learn.

Anonymous said...

So over on Support Manston they've published a letter from Iris saying that she was told by the aviation minister in July not to proceed with a CPO as airports were failing all around the country.

Now here's the big one.

Was Roger Gale told this and if so, why has he been leading the Manstophiles up the garden path?


Is he so out of the power-loop in Government circles that he wasn't told this by the aviation minister?

Is this why he pointed the CPO towards TDC not KCC?

Is this why his 'Task Force' was quietly abandoned.

Whilst the Manstophiles are firing their anger at Iris, perhaps they should be putting Sir Roger under some intense scrutiny.

Damned if he knew, damned if he didn't. So what was it Roger? Time to answer.

Or have you just remembered where you left your 'Plan B'

Anonymous said...

Am still trying to work out how an MD of Wiggins who so spectacularly failed in the recent past is still here as MD of another Company trying to takeover Manston again. And why does he still get supported for failing? Not a good role model for success

Michael Child said...

My understanding anon is there is no such position as MD in an American company, which begs some interesting questions.

Unknown said...

New site for people who want to know all about Manston

Anonymous said...

Obviously Manston CPO is finished and Iris and Gale and Bob must resign after the farce of the last few months.

It doesn't bode well for Farage and Mackinlay etc supporting this idiocy.

The Carter Musgrave letter raises a few interesting points:

* the Parkway was a rail station for Manston freight airport (and foolish) not a business park?
* the 3k target of jobs at DP is still less than the c.6k at Pfizer before
* DP claims of space running out for new large buildings may be correct - but clearly there is space at the existing ones: how much?
* of the 2k jobs how many are sciencebased and are from outside Thanet? Many seem accountants etc relocating within Thanet ie no extra jobs
* no mention made of the pollution and water reservoir

Anonymous said...

Had the letter writers been reading Thanet Online ? Ideas about a self build trail done better than the commendable Milton Keynes innovation. Off site social housing grant to council to stop Manston new housing becoming an affordable housing dump estate and make it more commercially viable and attractive to incoming workers who will be an asset to Thanet?

For the Manstophiles they will probably never recognise that they never had a case. They were always going to lose. But their disgraceful conduct has reflected badly on Thanet.

Their claim that 90% of Thanet supported them, in such conduct, is untrue.

We are moving inexorably to separation or increasing distance from EU. We have all sorts of pan-European military and aviation arrangements to sort out. It was never necessary for alternative use developer to address this issue. But where was Gale on it ? And Laura Sandys, whose father was first President of the European Movement, decided not to stand and thus have to argue with Farage.

Farage, in spite of advice, chose to ride what he thought was the populist position of supporting Manston as an airfield. That will cost him votes. He has dodged the EU/UK constitutional debate relevance and shown himself to be an opportunist with flawed judgment in my view.

But today importantly is good news for Thanet.

Anonymous said...

Michael, "some interesting questions" - such as ?

Anonymous said...

Thanet's MPs have often boasted about Discovery Park's excellence, so why do they now prefer to back an American company of which they appear to know little? For months, they even presented it as an "aviation company", which even minimal research would have shown was misleading.

Anonymous said...

I think Anon of 09.20 makes an excellent point, which demonstrates the opportunistic and unprincipled approach of far too many politicians.

Personally, I would like to have seen a flourishing airport, but I accepted it was a lost cause some years ago. Tory politicians like Gale promote the private sector yet seem to have ignored the failure of a succession of private companies to make the airport viable. Curious.

Gale continually refers to his meetings with Government Ministers and their support for his campaign. But where has any Minister spoken out publicly in support of the airport and indeed the CPO? What practical support has Government offered to try to keep Manston afloat?

On the countrary, prominent Tories, such as KCC leader Carter, have been queing up to support alternative uses for the site, which signals that Gale and his immediate team are alone even within their own Party.

Gale will inevitably, and cynically, blame the Labour TDC for the CPO outcome. He will seek to score political points rather than contribute to the wellbeing and future of the area. He will blame others for his own personal failure to deliver - again. Even his position on night flights varied according to which Party was in power locally.

Michael Child said...

Anon 9.18 being in business and supplying books to other businesses on credit I guess I have got so used to spotting incongruities which would make me think twice before extending credit to another business that I am inclined to forget that a lot of other people don’t do this.

American companies don’t have MDs rather in the same way that America doesn’t have a queen, by this I mean if you get invited to an event where the Queen of England or the President of America is going to present then you put on your best bib and tucker, however if you get invited to an event where the Queen of America or the President of England is going to be present then you would expect something comical.

But however you look at this thing what it is really all about is financial risk, so that if the council does business with a company and that company don’t pay up in the way they say they will then the council loses that money and as a Thanet taxpayer (business rates and council tax) then I am one of the people who pays, either in money or through reduced services.

Nowadays if I am going to extend credit to a company then the first thing I do is look that company up on google using the full name of that company in quotation marks like so: “RiverOak Investment Corp” if that company has been trading for a few years in any significant way I would expect thousands of pages to come up containing thousands of results. The search for “RiverOak Investment Corp” brings up 114 results while the search for "michaels bookshop" brings up 7,500, "Wynyard Park" brings up 97,500 results, the last business I extended credit to "st peters village shop" brings up 12,000 results.

God help us said...

What is difficult to understand with all the politicking going on is why all the supporters of Manston seem to be taking the word of Riveroak as gospel. They have no track record in the CPO process in the UK and it is more than likely they are being manipulated by vested interests as much as the supporters. Why oh why do they (the supporters) not get some cast iron guarantees from the money men as it will be far too late if the CPO is given the go ahead and it goes pear shaped. SFP offered guarantees that were as useful as a chocolate fireguard yet the Tory administration had a leap of faith and we still have a building site on Ramsgate Seafront

Anonymous said...

As the US doesn't then I would expect that RiverOak would need a UK registered company to open a bank account in order to hold the money required for the CPO - there is nothing unusual about this.

There have been comments in several places about the two businesses but nothing unusual for UK companies to do exactly the same thing - start looking at the company structures of everyday company names and you would see a whole multi-layered group of registered businesses reporting to a core business (or holding company).

Anonymous said...

Can anyone explain why Riveroak's top brass are all flying over for Tuesday's council meeting? These guys don't travel coach. With accommodation must be costing the company £20,000. No company could justify this kind of expenditure just to observe an inconsequential council meeting. There has to be something else going on. Have they got a meeting booked with any government minister?

Anonymous said...

Anon 20:37 - compared with the 100s of millions that they think they can probably achieve when their 'plans' fail and they can build houses there, a few flights from the USA are peanuts...

Maybe like the last visit, it is more to do with Canary Wharf and Manston is just an aside?

Michael Child said...

Anon at 18.36 I guess we keep coming back to the problems associated with fulfilling the criteria of an acceptable indemnity partner, which is very difficult to judge without having some track record, which RiverOak just don’t seem to have.

As far as I can see what RiverOak have done in the past is to invest relatively small amounts of money for other people in housing, office and medical centre developments, RiverOak basically just being about six people working from a small office.

Their commercial activity never seems to have reached a level where the media took much of an interest.

They are not registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission so anyone wishing to invest with them has to fill out an exemption form.

If you look at the part of their website directed at investors you will see what I mean

Having spent a fair amount of time looking at what other councils required from indemnity partners I just don’t see any way that a small American fund management company could fulfil the basic requirements.

The company they set up to deal with TDC is a Delaware LLC I recommend you google “Delaware LLC”

I guess if RiverOak had a UK company that had at least three years track record with a few hundred million pounds at its disposal then the council would have been able to justify using them as an indemnity partner.

Anon 20.37 I don’t think the council can vote to overturn the cabinet decision, the council haven’t set up to decide whether or not start cpo proceedings, what they did was ask the council officers to advertise for an indemnity partner that fulfilled the basic requirements and none could be found.

The only candidate didn’t have the qualifications, I can’t realistically see that the only other large group in the council, the Conservatives, would want to pursue a course of trying to force the council to go against officers advice.

I know the conservatives went against officer advice with Pleasurama, but in that case officers put it to the cabinet as an option, there is also the problem of councillors liability if things go wrong.

The council have just set a completely new president with Ian Driver of claiming £20k for his going against officers wishes, so it must be in some councillors minds that officers may do this to them, should the whim take them.

As for RiverOak’s top brass flying over, I would doubt this, perhaps the are considering some sort of legal battle with the council. I guess the most off the wall part of all this is RiverOak saying they have already spent £600k on this unlikely fiasco, if they have just imagine what it would cost them to get though the whole cpo process.

Anonymous said...

Why hasn't Iris spoken out about Driver being sued or the other councillors lining up to support him? Did they agree the court action? What if they get sued in future?

Driver should sue the council staff for harrassment in his public duties - and sue the organisation and the staff personally..

After all no councillor approved making the documents secret did they?....

Anonymous said...

Anon at 01:50

Cllr Driver has not been sued. He decided to appeal an injunction taken out against him, and he lost, so costs were awarded against him. This is quite normal, and Cllr Driver has not been singled out for any special treatment.

In fact, by choosing to go to the High Court and by losing his appeal, Cllr Driver showed that he was in the wrong when he chose to take confidential documents from the building - this is not the opinion of any TDC Councillor, or TDC Officer, this is the opinion of a High Court Judge. Only the most rabid conspiracy theorist could think that a High Court Judge is somehow involved in a plot to oust Cllr Driver from elected office. If that's what you believe, then good luck to you - nothing that I, or anyone else, can write will change your mind.

I'm sad that Cllr Driver has been put in this position - it must have been a shock to find out the amount of costs against him - but he does bear some culpability here. He knew when he was elected that he would be bound to abide by the Council's rules, and this he chose not to do. If he disagreed with the decisions made, then as a Councillor he should have used the correct avenues to challenge the decision. Some kind of Keystone Kops chase through Hawley Square followed by what has proved to be an expensive court case is not the way to do it.

God help us said...

Anon the injunction was against publishing the documents into the public arena not about their removal from TDC offices. In fact the judge wondered why officers had refused to allow a councillor to remove them seeing as councillors do not have an office in TDC's building and all, in theory, work from home

Michael Child said...

Anons, Barry I think the long term implications of the council using our money to mount expensive legal cases effectively gagging councillors which most councillors couldn’t afford to defend is worthy of a post of it’s own so I have put up a new post just about this issue.

Anonymous said...

On the recent interview with Radio Kent (the link is on the Manston Pickle Facebook page) - if you scroll to almost the end, from 2.30 onwards, there is an interview with Roger Gale.

In this interview, he offers a very high risk strategy, in which he seeks to grossly undervalue the value of the former airport site. Michael has already quite correctly warned us that the undervaluation of the site is one of our greatest dangers. In this interview, Roger Gale proposes that we go ahead with the CPO, on the basis that will cost only £2million. He says you do not have to worry about the rest of the expenditure until you get to the vesting stage. Then he goes on to value the land at £4million, on the basis that it is agricultural land, which it has not been for decades, and says it is worth no more than £10million, so nothing to worry about! Of course, if this strategy were followed, Thanet District Council would be ON the hook for compensation at market value, and we have already discussed the possibility of £700 million. I am concerned as a Thanet District Council council tax-payer, but perhaps Roger Gale is not worried as he does not live in Thanet! In this interview he continues to strongly support RiverOak, and if he continues pushing Government Ministers etc to support him in supporting this Company which makes money from property develment, people are bound to question why.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, for being thick, but I really don't understand what bold Sir Roger is doing. What on earth would be the point of undervaluing the site only for the whole deal to fall apart at a later stage when large amounts of time and money have been invested? Is this mad suggestion a reflection of how desperate he is, or has he got some Baldric-like cunning plan up his codpiece?

Anonymous said...

So the saviours from the USA won't be there, but an advert in the Thanet Extra is going to save the day.

Seems they are more interested in stirring up the misled locals into pressuring the council into a hasty decision rather than publicising nationally for the strategic importance of Manston.

"Supporters of Manston Airport 16 December 04:16

In a late change of plans Stephen DeNardo and George Yerrall will not be coming this evening as I was originally informed. However Tony Freudman and Niall Lawlor will be present.

"Hi Ruth
The decision that George and Steve would not travel was taken only a few hours ago.
It's really about the effective deployment of resources. Remember that we are also putting together a comprehensive dossier for Minister Hayes, which has been occupying a great deal of executive time at Head Office all day, and is still going on, and which in many ways is now our top priority.

Niall and I will represent RiverOak tomorrow. We shall be at the Council offices from 4 pm, available to talk to supporters and the media, and apparently able to talk informally to councillors after the meeting in the Leader's room. While we are doing that Steve and George will be hard at work at Head Office completing the dossier for Hayes, putting the finishing touches to our next ad in Thanet Extra and completing a set of FAQs which will appear on our website on Wednesday.

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

Kind Regards Tony"

Anonymous said...

Musgrave & Cartner's email Track Record,Discovery Park, doesnt mention ( Nov 6 '14) Dover Council outline permission for 500 homes (without affordable homes or school funding) a 200 bed hotel large retail and petrol station on the DP site. This doesnt quite fit with "We have actually run out of space for large new buildings" but does fit with Discovery Park being a joint venture with Palmer Capital, whose focus is to increase asset value.
( venture capital/discovery park)
Mrs Gloag played a blinder when she chose to split Manston with Discovery Park operators. Discovery Park owners would normally leading the demand for a business airport!

Anonymous said...

But of course Riveroak aren't in it to make money and just want to help the population of Thanet..... ?!

Anonymous said...

River Oak's proposal at least kept an airport! Suddenly Discovery Park hasn't enough commercial space? In Oct 2013 ( DP "owners admitted they have been struggling to find clients" & DP survival was "on a knife edge" so argued for the 500 homes, large retail (+340 car-park) etc. In getting that outline planning permission from Dover CC they changed from commercial and massively increased their asset value. (with the usual can't afford affordable homes or school funding). Same will apply to Manston. "Manufacturing"? oh yes? Then they find there's no demand, so will keep ratcheting up planning permission for more & more homes just to increase the asset value. It is different from Wynyards, DP is a Palmer Capital/Ray Palmer Joint Venture. DP owners would normally have been pressing for an airport. For example south-east businesses ("Gatwick Diamond") have been trying to expand Redhill grass airfield into a business airport/air-related commerce base. London City overcame last week's air traffic chaos quickly, whereas Gatwick & Heathrow were in chaos. There is good demand for safe efficient south east runways, it is only the planning potential that makes an airport unworkable. Even Boris dreams of using the land value of Heathrow!

Anonymous said...

What are the guarantees that Riveroak won't do just the same?

They don't think they need any more than a 5 year business plan, and despite saying they have £100 million in business lined up, there is no sign of this business backing them up.

Just doesn't make sense to me.

Anonymous said...

Anon monday 18.26 Roger Gale is just playing for time, at least until next years election.

Anonymous said...

Guarantee? no-one can guarantee anything (except by the kind of ruthless destruction wrought at Manston for £1), but at least River Oak were making the effort, presumably with some kind of forfeit covered by a cpo.

Anonymous said...

Tonight's council meeting was a complete farce. The agenda published on TDC's web-site said that all councillors would be allowed to give their opinion about the airport. But the agenda seems to have been changed at the last minute. Maybe DeNardo and Yerrall were told about this and that's why they didn't come. The other explanation may be that TDC has received advice that they've got to stop banging on about the CPO as it's undermining confidence in the area.

Anonymous said...

A strange comment anon 20:04

No-one can guarantee what Riveroak's ultimate ambitions might be, but they are making some effort, so let's back them the hilt?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Looks like the children were allowed out last night without supervision. Don't these councillors ever learn from the LGA Peers report that said that TDC and its councillors have to improve their image and endear themselves to the public.
Since Riveroak insisted on confidentiality of its finances only the council officers and the cabinet would have been in a position to determine whether their proposal for a CPO was without any risk of local tax payers money.
Riveroak are now submitting details to the government and I wonder if this submission will be identical to the one put before TDC.

God help us said...

I wonder why the submission from Riveroak was made so confidential that their own supporters of the Council were unable to see it. What have they got to hide?