The Local Plan and the issue of the Manston airport site

By James Stewart from England (commons.wikimedia)

Thanet’s Draft Local Plan – a blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure up until 2031 – will be voted on by Full Council on Thursday (January 18)

The plan sets out how much development is needed to support the future population and economy. Allocating land through the plan is designed to give the council greater control over where and what type of developments can take place.

Transport, employment and infrastructure -such as roads, schools and GP surgeries – are also examined in the plan.

Consultation was carried out last year on revisions to the plan, including axing the aviation-use only designation at Manston airport – which was shut down in 2014 – and putting forward two new isle sites at Manston Court Road and Haine Road.

Housing need

Photo Frank Leppard

The plan’s housing target is 17,140 new isle homes by 2031.

Some 1,555 homes have already been constructed; another 3,017 have been given planning permission; 2,700 are accounted for through windfall housing –sites that have historically had planning approval and may be put forward again – and 540  are already empty homes.

This leaves 9,300 properties to be accommodated.

Revised sites would provide 3,450 of these.

Higher housing target?

The local plan is a blueprint for new housing, business and infrastructure on the isle

The overall figure for the isle could rise to more than 20,200 homes following a threat of government intervention issued in November by Secretary of State Sajid Javid, from the Department for Communities and Local Government. He said the failure of Thanet and 14 other authorities to meet deadlines to put a local plan in place meant the government may serve notice of its intention to intervene.

This would result in the higher housing target due to government proposals to standardise the way local authorities work out housing need.

The sticking point

Photo Adam Dark

But the change of status for Manston has become a sticking point, with the possibility that it may cause the plan to be voted down.

The aviation-use only clause was part of the isle’s last valid local plan which was adopted in 2006.

But Thanet council say the authority commissioned AviaSolutions report, published in 2016, concluded that “airport operations at Manston are very unlikely to be financially viable in the longer term and almost certainly not possible in the period to 2031.”

They say a credible CPO partner for the site has not been found with proposals from RiverOak, now RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP), not providing necessary financial evidence.

Their conclusion is that there is no evidence to support retaining the aviation-only designation. The Local Plan document says: “At the Proposed Revisions consultation, the site was proposed for mixed-use development, including 2,500 dwellings and 85,000sqm of business space. There are also other implications to be considered if the airport site were not allocated for mixed-use development.

“Firstly, it creates uncertainty over the soundness of the draft plan, as the council would not be following the evidence regarding the viability of the airport.

“Second, the 2,500 dwellings allocated in the Proposed Revisions would have to be re-allocated elsewhere. The council cannot simply remove the allocation without meeting the overall housing requirement for the district.”

Stone Hill Park proposal

Plans before the latest amendments

A mixed use plan has been submitted to Thanet council by Stone Hill Park, which owns the Manston site. The plan is for up to 4,000 new homes over 20 years; a new hi-tech manufacturing business park; a new country park and a state-of-the-art sports and leisure village.

It will also include  moving Manston’s two museums – subject to their agreement – to a new ‘Spitfire Quarter’ next to the runway, which would have an area for heritage aviation. An updated application is due to be submitted to Thanet council.

RSP rebuttal and proposal

RSP and airport campaigners criticised the Avia report for  having “basic factual errors and questionable methodology.”

They require the aviation only designation to stand. RSP is currently carrying out consultation and plans to lodge a Development Consent Order with the government which would allow a CPO of the land.

RSP aims  to reopen the airport site in a £300m project to create an air freight hub with passenger services and business aviation.

Theirs is a four phase plan across 15 years to create 19 new air cargo stands, update the runway, four new passenger aircraft stands and updated passenger terminal, refurbished fire station and new fire training area, aircraft recycling facility, flight training school, hangars for aircraft related business, highway improvements and the creation of a museum quarter.

Controversially, the newest consultation documents also state the possibility of night flights with up to 8 freight movements a night between 11pm and 7am.

An RSP spokesman said: “Our plans for Manston are built around daytime aircraft movements, as this is what the UK air cargo market is deprived of at present. However, for Manston to be truly effective as an air freight hub, and therefore able to deliver the jobs we are determined to create in East Kent, some level of night flights may prove necessary.

“We have therefore decided to set out our proposals for mitigating and minimising the impact of any future night flights at an early stage, so that the community can give us their feedback while we are still finalising our DCO application.

“Ultimately a decision about night flights will be a matter for the Secretary of State at the conclusion of the examination phase of the DCO.”

SHP – ‘forced housing allocation’

SHP say opposing the Local Plan and excluding the Manston site from their potential housing supply, will expose the wider community to the ‘forced allocation’ of 5,923 homes on what would be otherwise undeveloped sites.

Maps produced for Stone Hill Park, with the input of their planning consultants GVA, illustrate the potential impact of such a ‘forced allocation’ of housing on the community.

The additional sites are not currently envisaged in the local plan.

The report for SHP predicts additional housing on top of the sites already included in the local plan of:

St Nicholas at wade – 108 homes

Monkton 472 homes

Minster 798 homes

Birchington 162 homes

Westgate 115 homes

Margate 1,182 homes

Westwood 22 homes

Cliffsend 413 homes

Ramsgate 993 homes

Broadstairs 1,449 homes

St Peter’s 209 homes

RSP – an alternative to airport land homes

However a report commissioned by RSP from planning consultancy RPS Group says there is sufficient deliverable housing land capacity in Thanet District to deliver the council’s housing need between the period 2011-2031 without having to redevelop Manston airport for housing, including sufficient flexibility should the housing need numbers increase as part of the Local Plan Examination process.

The report looks at sites that have been offered by developers but are not currently part of the Local Plan.

The RSP suggestion is for additional homes at:

Land to the south of Monkton Street  60

Land at Manston Court Road/Haine Road 225

Land at Summer Road 6

Land at Tothill Street, Minster and The Length at St Nicholas at Wade 275

North of Millenium Way, Bradstairs 223

Shottendane Farm, Margate (comparably to two allocations of 250 homes)

South west of Sarre Business Park 15

Manor Road/Canterbury Riad St Nicholas-at-Wade (two sites) 61

Manston Park bungalows 20

Lanthorne Court, Broadstairs 56

Between Manston Road, Preston Road and the solar farm 180

Land off Pudding Lane, Birchington 573

West of Minnis Road 109

Extra land at Manston Court Road/Haine Road 225

Suggested sites with no housing figure

Mount Pleasant, Minster

Sarre windmill

Walters Hill Farm, Monkton

Chantry Park, Sarre

Sarre Court, Sarre

Ridings, Cliftonville

Dane Valley Enterprise Centre

The vote

Changes to the local plan were approved by Cabinet members at a meeting in October but overwhelmingly rejected by a consequent scrutiny panel meeting, raising speculation that it could be voted down at the full council meeting on January 18.

Thanet currently has 56 councillors. This is made up of 25 UKIP; 21 Conservative; 6 Labour; 2 Independent Group and 2 Independent councillors.

For a motion to be carried either way it will need at least 29 votes, meaning members of more than one political party will have to vote the same way, unless a sufficient number of councillors abstain from the vote altogether.

However, the draft plan documents also state that if the DCO were granted it would override any Local Plan land allocations – meaning the homes for Manston airport would become defunct at that point.

Approval timetable

If it is approved there will then be a 6-week publication period between January 25 and March 8, 2018, when public comments can be made followed by submission to Planning Inspectorate in March 2018 and examination in June 2018.

Draft Local Plan – Sites already included in the local plan pre-revision

Westwood 1,450

Birchington 1,101

Westgate 1,036

Manston Green 700

Margate/Cliftonville 816

Ramsgate 793

Broadstairs and St Peter’s 304

Rural 375


  1. Thanet has always suffered from a chronic lack of quality amongst its councillors, and this silly row epitomises the blinkered and parochial attitudes which still persist in this backward backwater of the South East. The airport closed well over three years ago. In all of that time nobody has come forward either with the money or with a credible plan to reopen it. The airport was never successful and there is no good reason to suppose that a reopened airport would stay open for very long. Like most of the UK Thanet needs more good quality housing. Young people have been denied the opportunities afforded to their elders because the chronic shortage of housing has driven prices up to unaffordable levels. We need more houses and we need them to be built on the site of the former airport to save farmland and green spaces in our towns and villages. You can’t regenerate an area if you aren’t providing incoming businesses with good accomodation, schools and medical services for its employees. Stone Hill Park’s plans will generate thousands of jobs because they will attract companies to locate or relocate to Thanet.

  2. I believe the total opposite to Cheggers. RSP (RiverOak) intend to expand the airport to make it successful. Manston has never had sufficient investment in the past, which is why it failed. The country and especially the South East, desperately needs more aviation space. Manston’s large runway is ready and waiting. An extra runway at Heathrow or Gatwick will take 20 years to materialise. RiverOak’s investors are lined up, despite what Cllr Wells and other anti-Airport people would have us believe.

    Thanet desperately needs skilled jobs, which a massive housing estate won’t provide. Not one manufacturing company has come forward to SHP yet either, they told me at their consultation.

    The new draft Local Plan is unsound in so many areas, it should not be published at all. If it is, the Inspectorate will throw it out completely and we, the tax payers, will pick up the bill for yet another draft Local Plan to start from scratch. It should not be published until the council has gone through it again with a fine tooth comb and correct all the glaring errors in it!

    TDC have had the chance to explain to the government why we can’t cope with thousands of extra people in thousands of unwanted houses, either on our fields or our airport. Why haven’t they done so? Dover has far more available land than Thanet, yet have managed to get their act together and have much lower housing numbers than us. Get your act together, TDC. We NEED the Airport, not houses!!!!!! And Policy EC4 and the original SP05 are still valid, which are both for Aviation Only. Keep our Airport as an Airport.

  3. it would be foolish of councillors to reject the Local Plan. Manston is simply not the right location for a freight hub, and even if it were, life in Ramsgate – and , of course, under the rest of the flight path- would be intolerable because of noise and air pollution.

    We do need housing. Ideally all empty properties would be compulsorily purchased by local councils, renovated and let to local applicants. But that’s certainly not going to happen under our present government. Meanwhile, there is a local housing crisis.

    TDC members should be working together to improve this situation, not behaving (in some cases) like a bunch of spiteful adolescents.

    • Marva Rees, you have repeated, parrot-fashion, the suggestion of a local anti-aviation pressure group that Life under the flight path would be “intolerable because of noise and air pollution.” The facts are otherwise. Please read Chapters 12 and 15 of the PEIR (Preliminary Environmental Impact Report) compiled by AMEC Foster Wheeler plc, world class experts on environmental impacts caused by noise and pollution. The number of properties likely to be affected to the point that they would qualify for noise abatement grants (to the tune of £4000 per dwelling) is several hundred dwellings and those grants are expected to reduce noise levels to a point that would be below any significant levels of annoyance. The particulate and gaseous impacts anticipated by the same experts are deemed to be totally insignificant when compared to existing sources of airborne pollution affecting our communities. The methodologies and scope of these investigations fully comply with all relevant national and international standards and what are thought to be emergent standards. That is all evidence-based, compiled by professionals who jealously guard their reputations.

      • Parrot-fashion? I don’t think so! Not everyone under the proposed flight path is indoors all day and night. People living near major airports suffer from from noise and pollution. Do you suppose anyone actually enjoys it? Do you think people would miss the sound of the planes, if their local large airport were to shut?

  4. Until or unless it is shown that within the lifetime of the draft local plan there will throughout be an adequate supply of water and sewerage to support the very large number of houses anticipated in the draft local plan, the draft local plan is not evidence-based. RiverOak’s plans are evidence-based, and anyone who chooses to do so can find the evidence upon which their current statutory public consultation is predicated. See At present the original SP05 is evidence-based (and consistent with the Thanet Vision 2030 document which is still current but has been ignored by TDC and Stone Hill Park). ALL local surveys and polls show that 80 – 95% of local residents and businesses wish the airport to be returned to use, and the outcome of the May 2015 district council elections reflected that. For that to happen it must be done at a scale that is prima facie commercially viable, practicable and sustainable. The RiverOak plans are evidence-based, involve inward investment expected to amount to £300 million from credible sources, and when closely examined all suggestions to the contrary are risible. No other plans have been tabled that can demonstrate that they pass such tests.

    • RSP’s case is not evidence based. Much of the “evidence” they used was based on work by York Aviation. Their “evidence” was shredded by Louise Congdon of York Aviation when, at a joint RSP/SHP presentation to KCC, she dismantled the figures RSP had used.
      There are no polls to suggest that anything like 80% of Thanet residents want an airport. It doesn’t matter, anyway.
      The Local Plan most definately is evidence based. The Avia report, for example. It has to be, otherwise the Govt Planning Inspector won’t allow it.

      • Andrew, Louise Congdon’s presentation was less than impressive. It contradicts much that York Aviation has previously published on behalf of other clients, and it betrays a lack of understanding of how academic research like that of Dr. Sally Dixon is conducted. Dr. Dixon’s research is far more sophisticated and draws upon a number of sources, embracing both micro-economic and macro-economic methodologies that are utterly transparent. Competent researchers do not expect other researchers to parrot all that they say or conclude. The critiques of Dr. Dixon’s work have been shallow and petulent. Read her work for yourself: it is very carefully done, is thoroughly buttressed by evidence from a multiplicity of sources, and it is methodologically sound and robust. It is notable that the Lothian Shelf/Stone Hill Park representatives supplied no evidence to Mr. Nunn, the Planning Inspector who conducted the Public Inquiry into the change of use appeals last March, and that the Avia Report was at that time comprehensively disregarded in the light of its defects. You may not acknowledge that but it is highly unlikely that the Planning Inspectorate or the Secretary of State for Aviation will give York Aviation or Avia’s critiques any weight when balanced against the well-buttressed, evidence-based documentation that RiverOak and their consultants have produced in support of the current Public Consultation and the impending DCO Application.

        • Dr Sally Dixon’s work was largely based on previous work carried out by York Aviation for Transport for London and the Freight Transport Associstion.
          Subsequently, Louise Congdon, author of much of York Aviation’s reports’ dismantled Dr Dixon’s argument. Ms Congdon showrd hoe Dr Dixon had misquoted or quoted out of context or inappropriately extrapolated York’s dats.
          Dr Dixon had so far failed to publicly challenge Ms Congdon’s rebuttal.

    • Very good comment from Probe.I do think some of the anxiety from Ramsgate are to do with theuir vision of a queit seaside life and their house investments without a care to the balanced economy an airport will bring, although |I too think the RSP planns are far too big. Business needs to fly and both Gatwick and Heathrow are a nightmare to get to and it would be impossible if one had to fly twice a week.Thanet is OK for second home owners from London, but have people though tabout the impact of thousands of homes on the water supply which is already struggling. I do not believe the scare stories put about by Chris Wells.i simply believe he has been pushed by SHP and not the Government.

  5. RSP have paid good money to get their professional reports put together and they have gone out their way to deliver further consultations. SHP got their crayons out and made a few sketchy plans with the wave park and now a heritage airstrip which loud dirty planes would fly from the middle of a housing estate, I am still waiting for the Unicorn farm from SHP plans. we need jobs and security for the kids of our Isle here in Thanet, RSP are offering this and more. Its an airport it should be in the Local Pan designated as an airport.

    • RSP’s proposal was completely rubbished by York Aviation (on whose work RSP based its case). They might have spent good money, but they wasted it.
      Manston can’t be designated in the Local Plan as an airport because ALL the evidence points to it continuing to fail as a commercial propositio.

      • The trouble is that Manston has had no investment which is why I think it has been land banked for years.There is a close connection between Infratil and Stagecoach. Mrs Gloag having had the Scottish Governmnet pull back on transport subsidy has gone into property at a time when the Government are in a flap about massive house numbers. homes when the real answer and cheeper, is to build more council houses in places where there is a need. Places where people work, and thre is little of that in Thanet.

  6. Thanet needs housing, but it has NO visible economy. Manston, as an Airport would bring many jobs IF it were opened again.
    The trouble is, both ways, Schools, Hospital, Doctor’s, Dentist’s, Police, Water, sewerage, infrastructure. These are already under severe strain.
    Sort these first, have your houses, have your Airport.
    Trouble is, a depraved Government demanding that this Local Plan all happens ASP!

  7. It’s not all about Manston, the Local Plan is for the whole of Thanet. But no matter what is decided at Manston there will be a necessity for much more housing in Thanet, which will happen whether an airport or mixed use including leisure is decided.
    With tourism on the increase once again it would all be set back by a noisy, polluting freight airport opening at Manston. And with failure once again inevitably as all the different viability reports warn Thanet will be doomed to many more years of gloom and despair among it’s residents. Do we really want this to continue? I don’t think anyone in their right minds would.
    BTW, there were no valid polls taken that showed 80-95% of local residents and businesses wanting a reopened airport at Manston, that was just a fallacy meted out by SMA supporters and their representative MP.

  8. The people who are saying that the Local Plan is about much more than Manston are absolutely right. There are 140,000 people living in Thanet and less than 3000 are registered as unemployed. The vast majority of people who want to work have jobs. Kent is one of the most affluent counties in the UK and many, many people who live in Thanet commute to work as far as London. Thanet does need more jobs but the airport has been tried and failed (several times). ALl over the UK mixed developments have proved successful in generating jobs and this is exactly what SHP have planned – industrial units and good quality homes for people who work in the area. The only thing needed now is councillors who have the courage to take a bold step forward to a future with real potential, rather than harking back to a golden bygone age which never existed.

  9. The airport has never been a commercial success. Ever. That is why it remains closed. It is not accurate to suggest such high levels of local residents support the airport reopening because they don’t. The airport appears to be supporting by a vocal significant minority and I desperately hope the local plan goes through and Stone Hill gets underway. To suggest freight capacity is needed is wrong. Capacity exists at Stansted and E Midlands. To suggest copious jobs will be created is also wrong. This all whiffs of Pleasurama. Are we to look forward to over a decade of abject commercial and regeneration failures? It seems the case. Why is a freight service of such interest in Thanet? Is it to stop all housing at any cost? That plan will also fail. For both local MPs to campaign against the local authority also feels wrong, whatever your politics.

  10. These arguments fail to explain why RSP have not engaged with the owners of the land with a view to buy the land at market prices , why have they tried and failed to CPO the site with TDC and why are they taking ( trying and failing so far ) to obtain the land via a DCO. A DCO is not for the purpose of a private recently formed UK £1 Limited company owned by several Americans to take land from its legal owners for private profit and gain so most of the arguments for an airport are not even valid as no DCO has been made nor likely to succeed if by any chance one is submitted.

    • East Kent Resident, at this point in time the land is designated as an airport for aviation-related uses ONLY, as determined by the Planning Inspectorate after the Stone Hill Park Appeals. It is untrue to say that RSP have not sought to engage with the owners of the land with a view to buy the land at market prices. Every attempt by RiverOak and by others to purchase the land from the present owners has been rebuffed. The DCO process is what it is, and it is open to all who satisfy the Planning Inspectorate that their DCO Application, following submission, is worthy of acceptance for examination. Foreign inward investment in infrastructure contributes to our balance of payments and plays a significant part in the health of our economy just as British investments overseas play a part in the health of the global economy and offer returns to British investors. Heathrow and Gatwick, amongst other British airports, depend upon foreign British-investing shareholders. RiverOak Strategic Partners are a British-registered company, are committed to developing the airport without recourse to public funds, will be authorised and regulated by the Government of the United Kingdom and will pay taxes in this country. Thanet and East Kent will be its primary beneficiaries, but so will the wider region and the national economy. The subtext is to be found in the meaning of the acronym NSIP: the Planning Act 2008 requires all successful DCO projects to meet at least minimum qualifications laid out for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. The Stone Hill Park proposals will never reach that threshold. RiverOak’s plans do.

  11. I live literally next door to one of the proposed new-build sites of agricultural farmland. If the go-ahead to build housing there is given, I am concerned about the amount of noise, dirt and dust and general inconvenience that we will have to suffer during the time of the build as well as how it will affect my elderly parents who live with us. We don’t want to move but I think it could be inevitable. Such a shame to be forced to give up our home in a village we love and the countryside aspect we have been lucky to enjoy for such a long time.

  12. I think some people (quite a few) misunderstand the Planning Inspectorate’s decision in relation to SHP’s planning appeals. The Planning Inspector involved decided that he couldn’t agree to alter the planning status of several specific buildings on the site of the failed airport. He quite clearly did not rule out any future change of use for the site, particularly if the plans being brought forward were consistent with government policy. SHP’s plans to redevelop the site are most certainly consistent with government policy to allow redevelopment of brownfield sites for housing. It’s pretty obvious that SHP didn’t even bother challenging the Planning Inspectorate’s ruling because it is utterly irrelevant to their planning application. The council will have to decide on the plans which have been presented and, if they turn them down I would expect SHP to win on appeal. Given recent legal precedents it is hard to see SHP losing an appeal, particularly if the new Local Plan has been rejected and TDC has been stripped of its planning powers.

  13. Noise and air pollution caused by day and night flights over our property will make life intolerable – it will cause major disruption to lives and when are you supposed to sleep! Being cargo flights the cargo will then have to be distributed making our roads congested with heavy vehicles the road network is insufficient to accommodate these. We sincerely hope that our lives will not be blighted by planes flying over our area 24 7

  14. If RSP were so sure 80% of residents wanted the proposed massive, dirt, noisy cargo hub, why have they not notified people of the consultations? Do residents really want an airport with noisier planes and more night flights than Heathrow allows? Their facts are misleading. The plane quotas do not add up to a ‘minimum of 8 flights a night’, personnel at the consultations gave conflicting answers and the 30,000 jobs in East Kent actually mean national jobs, not local ones. The plan needs fighting for everyone under the flight paths health.

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