Developer Stone Hill Park is finalising plans to preserve the aviation heritage of the Manston site. The move follows extensive consultation with residents, community groups and businesses.
The Heritage and Aviation offer covers a wide spectrum with suggestions currently under consideration including:
Securing a sustainable future for the Spitfire and Hurricane Museum and the RAF Manston History Museum lies at the core of the strategy and there will also be references to the site’s aviation past throughout the 800-acre development.
Stone Hill Park spokesman Ray Mallon, said:
“The owners have already gifted land to the Spitfire and Hurricane Museum and will do the same for the RAF Museum. They have the business background to provide advice to help get them on to a sound and sustainable financial footing,”
“That’s an important anchor point, but we don’t see the museums standing in isolation.
The heritage of Manston is a theme that will run throughout the development. That could be through street names, public art, creative use of the grass runway, community events or in other ways.
“There will be a heritage hub where we have the museums and the grass runway but we might also have public art reflecting the aviation history of the area alongside the community health facilities or shops.”
Stone Hill Park held extensive public consultation prior to submitting plans for the regeneration of the site which will bring jobs and new homes to Thanet and a multi-million pound boost to the local economy. That consultation has continued with Mr Mallon meeting numerous groups and individuals, including some who are against development.
“I have met with Keith Churcher, Dan Light and Ken Wraight from the Save Manston Airport group. Of course, there are issues on which we disagree but equally there are issues on which we have common ground and which we can work together on.
“Preserving and celebrating Manston’s aviation heritage is integral to our plans and I’m pleased to say that SMA have come forward with innovative ideas in this respect.”
Mr Mallon used the Spitfire Museum as an example of how heritage can play a vital role in the future of the site.
“We want to engage with both of the museums to take into account their preferences for heritage in the future at Stone Hill Park and discuss some ideas of our own.
“For example, the preserved Spitfire at the museum is wonderful to see but it’s obviously too fragile for people to clamber on. Imagine if we could also offer a full size model which allows people to actually climb into the cockpit. Particularly with the young, that would help them to better visualise what it must have been like to be a pilot.
“Most communities of this size will have a junior football or cricket club. If they were known as the Spitfires or the Hurricanes that would help establish that link with future generations.”
During his time as Mayor of Middlesbrough, Mr Mallon introduced an annual Battle of Britain commemorative event to the town and supported the campaign to build a statue in honour of a heroic airtime pilot who flew from a North-East airbase.
“Annual events and public art are a way of recognising the sacrifices of the past and passing that knowledge on to future generations, whilst also bringing communities together and encouraging local pride.
“I think Stone Hill Park would be an ideal location for a cenotaph and an annual Battle of Britain commemoration.
“Repeated studies have shown the site does not have a sustainable future as a commercial airport, but it does have a future as a mixed development site that celebrates its past and retains an aviation element.
“Certainly there is the option of use of the site by helicopters or light aircraft, as a base for air cadets and for fly-in days using the grass runway.”
Mr Mallon said he is interested in meeting with any individual or organisation to discuss how the development can best incorporate and preserve the heritage of the site and the best ideas will be included in a “Heritage and Aviation Offer” to be released later this year.