The owner of Manston airport in Kent, which was closed earlier this month, is considering turning the site into a garden city.
Ann Gloag, who made her fortune running transport company Stagecoach, is in talks with local landowners and “other interested parties” about the future of the airport site – bought last November for £1 – and could create a mixed-use scheme with thousands of homes, the Timesreported.
A garden city proposal could incorporate other schemes in the Thanet area, including Discovery Park Kent, the former Pfizer campus in Sandwich.
Residents of Thanet are among the lowest earners in the country, and Gloag was criticised for closing the airport with the loss of 140 jobs, especially as she had said last October that the airport had “real potential for growth”.
Manston, which has one of the longest runways in Europe, dates back to the First World War and was used as a base for RAF squadrons during the Second World War.
Gloag said in March that the airport was losing £10,000 a day and was no longer viable. She rejected a £7 million offer from US investment group RiverOak.
The Manston airport management team is said to have held initial discussions with Thanet council about building homes on the site.
If the airport site were to be deemed a garden city it could make it easier to secure planning permission. George Osborne said in March that urban development corporations, which speed up planning and cut red tape, would be set up to drive forward selected garden cities.
Supporters of the airport, including Conservative MP for Thanet North, Sir Roger Gale, are trying to convince the council to carry out a compulsory purchase order of the site, which could be funded by RiverOak.
Sir Roger said: “Manston airport has always been an airport and should remain an airport. There is no point creating more homes here when there are no jobs, which Ann Gloag would know if she was not living 600 miles away.”
A spokesman for Manston airport told the newspaper: “A number of people have approached the owners with ideas for the future of the site and they will be considered over the coming months. No decisions have been made by the owners.”