The decision of a Public Inquiry over Lothian Shelf ‘s (718) appeal to allow the re-designation of buildings on Manston Airport for non-aviation use has been released.
Government Inspector Matthew Nunn, who headed the inquiry in March, has dismissed all four appeals.
The inquiry followed the refusal of one application and the non-determination by Thanet council of three others.
Lothian Shelf (718) Ltd appealed:
- Non-determination of an application for temporary change of use – of 3 years – of Building 1 (referred to by the LPA as Building South of Terminal 1 (Hangar 1))
- Refusal of an application for the proposed change of use of Building 2 (referred to by the LPA as Building 870)
- Non-determination of an application for change of use of Building 3 (referred to by the LPA as Manston Airport Cargo Centre & Responding Vehicle Point)
- Non-determination of an application for change of use Building 4
In his decision notice Mr Nunn said: “Even allowing for any DCO, it seems clear to me that granting permission for these schemes, contrary to Policy EC4 [retaining the site for aviation use], would be likely to compromise any future aviation use of the airport.
“ It might set a precedent which would be difficult to resist. Consistent application of Policy EC4 is required to prevent the site becoming anything other than an airport, and speculative non-conforming commercial uses would undermine its designated aviation use.
“Indeed, the cumulative effect of such developments would mean that the airport, although currently closed, would begin to exhibit the characteristics more redolent of a business park, undermining the concept of an airport.”
The Inspector said he was not making a judgement on the merits of either the RSP proposals to revive the airport if its DCO application to the government is successful or SHP plans for homes and commercial use at the site.
He concluded: “I conclude that the appeal schemes would conflict with Policy EC4 of the Local Plan, as well as its wider economic development and regeneration objectives.
“The proposals would conflict with the council’s current approach to the location of new development within the airport, which is consistent with national policy. The benefits of the scheme put forward by the appellants do not justify departure from Policy EC4 of the Local Plan.
“Hence I find there are no material considerations of sufficient weight that would warrant a decision other than in accordance with the development plan. Accordingly, I conclude that the appeals should be dismissed.”
Site owners Stone Hill Park, who were behind the appeal, said they were surprised at the decision.
Spokesman Ray Mallon said: “Stone Hill Park has been informed by the Planning Inspectorate that our appeal for the change of use of four buildings on the site has been refused.
“We believed the case put forward at the planning inquiry was compelling and I am somewhat surprised at the decision, as approval would have brought an immediate jobs boost to the area.
“Thanet District Council withdrew its original objections and a decision in our favour would not have compromised the possibility of a Development Consent Order being brought forward by RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP).
“It is therefore a mystery to me as to why the Planning Inspectorate has reached this decision, which in my opinion is flawed and an error of judgement on the part of the Inspector concerned.
“The quicker RSP submit their DCO application the better, so that their plans can be exposed to full public scrutiny and be shown for what they are.
“I am convinced that we will blow any DCO application out of the water, due to the aviation plans by RSP having little basis in fact or foundation and look forward to putting this whole subject to bed once and for all.
“We own the site, we are experienced in physical regeneration and more importantly we have the money in the bank now to deliver our plans.”
George Yerrall, director of RiverOak Strategic Partners, said: “RiverOak is delighted with the outcome of the inquiry. We have always known that Manston should be an airport and the Inspector’s decision is a huge step forward for us.
“The decision recognises the importance of Manston as a unique piece of infrastructure and the need to protect it from opportunistic development.
“RiverOak is committed to pursuing the reopening of the airport and overcoming the artificial hurdles created by the landowners and Thanet Council.
“We look forward to bringing to fruition this important project which will create thousands of jobs.”