Kent County Council and Thanet District Council set up a business venture to speculate on land and create jobs.
They buy a plot of land next to one of Thanet's biggest economic embarrassments:Kent International Airport.
So KCC and TDC set up a company called East Kent Opportunities (EKO LLP) to buy land to create a business park and warehousing, financed by lots of public money. The idea is that other businesses will buy into the project and pay for the capital investment, and pay off the loans and infrastructure.
Hardly any businesses move there. It doesn't work. EKO is insolvent.
Banks won't lend to the failing "company".
TDC and KCC continue to throw money after the bad investment, building a new access road. [You may have seen it by the Ramsgate roundabouts, on the way toDover.] We need new roads to divert traffic away from Margate Seafront. Instead, we get a big road to a field and a handful of industrial sheds in open fields.
Money is being lent to this failing company - probably to avoid embarrassment. £95,000, then £500,000 ... over £6 million since 2008.
To cut its losses, EKO intends to apply to get planning permission to build 600 new houses. Although this may help recoup some money, it would be a total scandal.
The land was Grade 1 agricultural land. Permission was granted to build on the fields - on the grounds that it would create employment.
Residential planning permission would never have been given. So to change now, to Residential, would be planning by stealth - at best. TDC's own officers will be advising on their employer's application - a conflict of interest. Even at committee, the situation is very political.
I think that if the business is not viable in a competitive capitalist environment, it should be allowed to fail - as many businesses have through the "credit crunch".
If public money is available to prop up failing businesses, then it should be put for tender, in a transparent process ie other “failing businesses” should be able to bid for the public money.
The Manston Business Parkwas a bad idea and it came at the wrong time. It is big - but not too big to fail. We are all feeling the pain of financing invasions, occupations, and bailing out bankers. Do we really have to give money to un-viable local companies?
The fields should be returned to agriculture, and public money spent on better things.