Kent CC has been taken to task by an influential group of MPs for not supporting Thanet District Council enough over the compulsory purchase of Manston airport.
Local campaigners petitioned Thanet DC after the closure of the airport last May, asking the authority to make a compulsory purchase order (CPO).
In December, the council decided not to proceed with a CPO depite considering using US investment firm RiverOak as the indemnity partner leaving former owner Ann Gloag, co-founder of the Stagecoach Group, free to sell a majority stake of the 700-acre site to regeneration specialists for redevelopment.
In a recent report by the transport select committee, MPs said the county council had ‘failed to fulfil its strategic oversight function as the local transport authority’.
‘We expect higher-tier local government bodies to fulfil their strategic oversight functions by supporting local planning authorities in resolving one-off, complex cases involving nationally significant transport assets,’ the report states.
‘Kent CC has the legal and financial resources to assess complex CPO cases. Despite having agreed a motion to support Thanet DC, it failed to deploy those assets.’
The MPs also called on Ms Gloag to publish details of he deal with the new owners to counter claims of asset stripping.
Regeneration specialists Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner told the BBC their stake ‘gives us a controlling interest, and future redevelopment rests with us’.
Ms Gloag's stake ‘in no way gives her control over the site or the joint venture company, though she will benefit from the successful redevelopment’ they added.
The committee welcomed the Department for Transport's decision to appoint a consultant to examine the Manston case but criticised the department for taking three months to act.
‘To ensure that similar cases are handled promptly and effectively in future, the Government should clarify precisely how (a) central Government and (b) higher-tier local authorities are responsible for supporting lower-tier planning authorities in cases where a strategic transport asset is subject to a proposed compulsory purchase order,’ the report adds.
It also states ministers should review what powers they have to intervene when a strategic transport asset is at risk and whether those powers are fit for purpose.
In response to the report, Kent CC leader Paul Carter said: ‘We've done everything we could possibly have done in helping and supporting Thanet DC.’