KCC chiefs face grilling as USA flights col­lapse

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - SOUNDS GOOD - by Paul Francis

COUNTY coun­cil chiefs face pub­lic ques­tion­ing over the col­lapse of am­bi­tious plans for di­rect flights from Kent In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Manston to Amer­ica.

Op­po­si­tion par­ties say they in­tend to sum­mon key fig­ures in the failed ven­ture to an­swer ques­tions to a cross-party watch­dog com­mit­tee about what went wrong with the ill-fated scheme.

The move comes as county coun­cil leader Paul Carter de­clined to rule out fur­ther in­vest­ments in other com­mer­cial en­ter­prises.

Coun­cil in­sid­ers say KCC ear­marked as much as £150,000 to sup­port and pro­mote the transat­lantic flights from east Kent to Vir­ginia, some £60,000 more than the £90,000 that the coun­cil has pub­licly es­ti­mated will prob­a­bly be writ­ten off.

Air­line op­er­a­tor Cos­mos pulled the plug on the planned weekly ser­vice last week af­ter only 800 of the 10,000 tick­ets were sold ahead of the May launch.

Re­crim­i­na­tions

Mean­while, the po­lit­i­cal re­crim­i­na­tions have con­tin­ued, with Labour and Lib­eral Democrats coun­cil­lors crit­i­cis­ing KCC for back­ing a private air­line op­er­a­tor with pub­lic money for a sec­ond time. The coun­cil lost £100,000 af­ter EUjet ended pack­age hol­i­day flights out of Manston two years ago.

Op­po­si­tion Labour leader Cllr Mike Eddy said KCC needed to come clean and an­swer ques­tions about its pro­jec­tions for ticket sales and the scale of its in­vest­ment.

“It might have been bet­ter to spend this (in­vest­ment) on im­prov­ing the in­fra­struc­ture in the area to make it more at­trac­tive,” he said.

Lib­eral Demo­crat leader Cllr Trudy Dean echoed: “It is a shame be­cause Manston is a tremen­dous re­source for Kent. But the les­son is the same as be­fore. If we as a county coun­cil are re­quired to in­vest in some­thing that the com­mer­cial sec­tor it­self is not pre­pared to in­vest in, then we ought to be very, very care­ful.”

De­spite the set­back, county coun­cil leader Paul Carter said he would not rule out mak­ing other in­vest­ments in private com­pa­nies if it boosted the Kent econ­omy.

“We would have to look very, very closely as we al­ways do with th­ese en­ter­prises. Some of the in­vest­ments we make won’t al­ways come off,” he said.

SIX pas­sen­gers were led to safety af­ter a train was de­railed by a tree which had fallen across a track on Tues­day. The in­ci­dent hap­pened at 5.40am as the Gilling­ham to Red­hill ser­vice was trav­el­ling through a cut­ting be­tween Eden­bridge, near Ton­bridge, and God­stone. No one was hurt. South­east­ern Trains spokesman Nigel Jar­rett said the in­ci­dent hap­pened when the front wheels of the three-car­riage train left the track. The train rode along on the rail sleep­ers for 200 yards be­fore stop­ping. He added: “It stayed up­right. There was the driver, a con­duc­tor and six pas­sen­gers on board.” The line re­mained closed while en­gi­neers and con­trac­tors from Net­work Rail, which owns the track, cleared the tree from the rails and as­sessed the dam­aged. PO­LICE have closed down the 20th cannabis fac­tory to be dis­cov­ered in the Med­way area since last Oc­to­ber. Of­fi­cers were pa­trolling Chatham Hill, Chatham, at about 2am on Satur­day when they smelt cannabis. The pa­trol searched a nearby house, where 178 plants were found. The peo­ple at the prop­erty fled, aban­don­ing the crop that has a street value of around £44,000. It is thought that the “farm­ers” were in the process of har­vest­ing the plants. DE­TEC­TIVES are search­ing for two men af­ter an in­ci­dent in which a 40-year-old man was shot and wounded. Po­lice of­fi­cers were called to Carl­ton Av­enue, Green­hithe, near Dart­ford, fol­low­ing re­ports of gun shots at about 9.20am last Thurs­day. The vic­tim was taken to Dar­ent Val­ley Hospi­tal with in­juries to his arm. He has since been re­leased from hospi­tal. A STAG fal­low deer caught up in net­ting has been res­cued by the RSPCA. The res­cue was car­ried out af­ter the an­i­mal was spot­ted snared in rub­bish near Ranscombe Farm Cot­tages at Cux­ton, near Rochester, just off the A228. RSPCA an­i­mal col­lec­tion of­fi­cer Zenon Brown, trainee an­i­mal col­lec­tion of­fi­cer Brian Milligan, chief in­spec­tor Steve Dock­ery and in­spec­tor Dave Grant ar­rived and man­aged to get hold the deer and pull him to the ground with a blan­ket. They then spent 15 min­utes cut­ting the hes­sian from his antlers be­fore set­ting the un­in­jured deer free. A 36-year-old van driver has been charged by po­lice with caus­ing death by dan­ger­ous driv­ing fol­low­ing a four-ve­hi­cle crash in which one wo­man died and sev­eral other peo­ple were in­jured. Ge­orge Forbes, of Douglas Road, Herne Bay, will ap­pear be­fore mag­is­trates at Can­ter­bury on Thurs­day, March 15. The col­li­sion hap­pened on the old Thanet Way near the Green­hill round­about in Oc­to­ber last year. Busi­ness­woman Jan­ice McKen­zie, 50, a mother of three, of Herne Bay, was killed.

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