Supporters of bringing aviation back to Manston airport have questioned why the company applying for a Development Consent Order on the site have not been invited to make a presentation to the full council in Thanet.
RiverOak Strategic Partners’ is proposing to reopen Manston Airport as an air freight hub with associated business aviation and passenger services if the DCO process is successful.
The company is due to give presentations to full council at Dover district and Kent county councils but in Thanet it will be to Cabinet members only.
Save Manston Airport association (SMAa) members have called for the presentation to be made to every member of Thanet council rather than just Cabinet members.
The group says the importance of Manston airport’s future should mean an open presentation to all councillors.
But Thanet council says the reason for the Cabinet presentation is because it is the ‘host authority’ whereas Dover and Kent are not.
In a governance agenda the authority says: “DCO matters (under parts 4 to 8 of the Planning Act 2008) are what is known as ‘executive functions’ which means that the legal authority to deal with these matters rests with the executive and not with Full Council.
“That is why RSP are being asked to undertake their consultation with the Leader and his Cabinet together with senior council officers and not at a Full Council meeting. Indeed, it would be unlawful for Full Council to deal with this matter, since under the Local Government Act 2000, any function which is the responsibility of an executive of a local authority, may not be discharged by the Full Council,
“In dealing with this DCO, Thanet District Council is acting in accordance with the Planning Inspectorate guidance.
“The Planning Inspectorate expect us to ensure delegations are in place and explains that it won’t be possible for the DCO process to be structured around the council’s committee cycles.
“At Dover District Council for example they delegated all their functions in relation to DCOs to a senior officer in order to enable the council’s functions in relation to Development Consent for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects to be discharged quickly, effectively and efficiently. Similar arrangements are in place for those local authorities dealing with DCOs in relation to nuclear power generation.
“Other authorities may be dealing with the matter slightly differently because they are not the ‘host authority’. As ‘host authority’ Thanet District Council are (if the DCO is successful) likely to become responsible for discharging many of the requirements (akin to planning conditions) associated with the project. The council are also likely to have a role in monitoring and enforcing many of the DCO provisions and requirements.”
The presentation to Thanet Cabinet members will be made on July 18.
Dover District Council will have the full council presentation on July 19.
In a statement by Bircham Dyson Bell on behalf of RiverOak it says : “On or around 7 July 2017, Thanet District Council (TDC) issued this statement about the statutory consultation on RiverOak Strategic Partners’ (RSP’s) proposals to reopen Manston Airport. The statement contains a number of inaccuracies and misunderstandings that we are happy to set straight.
“First, the title suggests that TDC is consulting with RSP, when it is the other way round – RSP is undertaking a wide consultation on its proposals to reopen Manston Airport primarily for cargo aircraft, and TDC is one of several hundred consultees.
“Secondly, the statement suggests that TDC has been calling for engagement with RSP when it has not; it is in fact RSP that has been calling for engagement with TDC, which it first offered in January 2016 in a letter to the Chief Executive that has been acknowledged but never replied to.
“Thirdly, the implication is that TDC is the only ‘host’ authority and thus has a special status at this stage. Although it does have a special role later on, (a) Kent County Council is also a ‘host’ authority and (b) the Planning Act 2008 makes no distinction between ‘host’ and ‘neighbouring’ authorities at this stage, all of whom must be consulted on an equal footing.
“Fourthly, the statement suggests that TDC’s approach has the support of the Planning Inspectorate. The statement quotes part of a Planning Inspectorate advice note (paragraph 12.3 of advice note 2) but omits the qualification that that part of the note only applies during the examination of the application and not the statutory consultation stage. In any event, the advice note does not say that the full council cannot be involved, at any stage of the process.
“Fifthly, and most importantly, the statement implies that because responding to the consultation is an executive function, the full council cannot have any involvement in the consultation. While it is correct that the finalised consultation response should be submitted by the executive rather than the full council, there is no prohibition on involving all members of the council in its preparation.
“Indeed, the response will carry more weight if it has had wide involvement in its preparation, and meetings of the executive should normally be held in public. TDC has invited RSP to address a closed meeting of the executive and senior officers tomorrow, 18 July, but it appears that the public and other members of the council are being excluded by TDC not declaring it an official meeting. While RSP would prefer it to be an open meeting, we would rather engage with the council than not at all. Other members are welcome to consider the consultation material at www.rsp.co.uk independently and submit their own consultation responses to RSP by the 23 July deadline.”