A consultation over plans to reopen Manston airport as an air freight hub with associated business aviation and passenger services comes to an end tomorrow (February 16).
RiverOak Strategic Partners, which is behind the proposal, had planned to submit an application for a Development Consent Order to the Planning Inspectorate last year to allow a compulsory purchase of the site. It bought out the DCO rights from the original proposing company RiverOak corporation in 2016.
But that date was delayed, allowing for more public consultation, with particular concerns being raised by some residents who would be under the flight path in Ramsgate and Herne Bay.
The night flights issue
The latest consultation documents state the possibility of night flights with up to 8 freight movements a night between 11pm and 7am.
Last weekend campaigners against the proposed cargo hub were distributing leaflets to homes under the flight path and had some 50 volunteers engaging with the community in Ramsgate town centre. A 20ft message objecting to night flights was written in the sand.
Matthew Griffiths, legal advisor to the No Night Flights campaign group, said:” RSP has produced almost 4,000 pages of highly technical documentation which many of us have had difficulty accessing. Repeated throughout is scenario planning for 8 night flights, every night.
“The section on reducing noise sets out an ability for them to have even more than that, with no set limits. Crucially, the documents also confirm in section 1.5 that RSP will permit night flights by a category of plane not permitted at Heathrow as it is too noisy. The reality is that Ramsgate could very soon be living with much worse than that 8 nightly flights ‘worst case scenario’.
“We are calling for the consultation to be conducted again, properly, with a clear NO to night flights by RSP and a full Health Impact Assessment for all of those in the flight path”
RSP director Tony Freudmann said the firm is not looking for scheduled night flights but wants “flexibility.”
He said: “We have to model the worst case scenario (in the documentation), which is what we did. We are looking for some flexibility but we are not looking at scheduled night flights.
“The problem with cargo flights is they do sometimes run late and if you have a plane with flowers or fresh produce you can’t tell them to go away, they need to land or they will ,lose their cargo.
“That is not a regular thing and we just need flexibility for that scenario. The old 106 restrictions meant there was no need for night flights apart from exceptional cases and we are not likely to need anything different.”
The RSP project – and talks with Ryanair
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.
This week Mr Freudmann said negotiations could see Ryanair basing aircraft at Manston if the Secretary of State grants the DCO.
He said: “We have been having discussions for the last two years or so. Their position has always been get the airport open and put the right infrastructure in and we will be interested in putting 2,3 or 4 planes there.
“It is a long way off though with the DCO expected in 2019 and the airport not open until 2021. Ryanair would commit themselves maybe 18 months before the airport was operational. Ryanair are mainly operational from Stanstead and Luton with nothing really south of the Thames. They have always said they would not be turning Manston in Luton but would have two to four planes to pick up flights where we know there is a demand.”
Mr Freudmann says that basing craft at the site would mean there could be flights to Europe and Edinburgh on a rotation of morning, afternoon and evening.
He said he was also hopeful of the return of KLM. The inaugural KLM flight from Manston airport to Amsterdam Schiphol took place on Tuesday, April 2, 2013.
KLM offered UK passengers 190 destinations worldwide through its hub at Schiphol – the destination from Manston. The service operated twice a day, every day of the week on a Fokker 70.
Ryanair declined to issue a statement. A spokesman said: “While we are always interested in new routes, we don’t comment on speculation.”
Ryanair is the largest low cost operator in Europe, operating from over 30 bases across Europe and carrying some 100 million passengers in 2016.
Despite declining to comment on the Manston negotiations, the firm does have expansion plans. This Summer it will extend its network to Jordan and there will be service expansion at Manchester, Milan Bergamo, Palma Mallorca, Pescara, Rimini and Valencia.
Some 30 new routes were announced by the firm this month and last year Ryanair secured the green light to take over part of failed Air Berlin’s operations at Berlin Tegel airport.
Stone Hill Park – homes, leisure and business
However, the site belongs to Stone Hill Park which is due to submit an updated planning application to Thanet council for 3,700 homes, schools, nurseries, GP surgery, community hall, children’s playgrounds and sports facilities;46,000 sq metres of employment floorspace; a heritage airport reusing the western part of the runway, a sports village and a country park.
The development plans, with a lower housing figure of 2,500, had been earmarked in Thanet’s Draft Local Plan as a contribution towards a housing target of 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.
But the publication stage of the plan was voted down on January 18 meaning there may now be central government intervention following a threat issued last 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.
The vote has caused a split in the ruling UKIP group with 12 members crossing the floor to become Independents.
RSP consultation deadline
The deadline for responses to the RSP consultation is 11.59pm on Friday 16 February. Responses can be made online, by email or by post and copies of all consultation documents, together with full details of how to respond, are available at rsp.co.uk
The DCO is due to be submitted next month and expected to be accepted for examination by April. Examination is a 12 month process.
Mr Freudmann said: “We would expect the final granting to be by April 2019 and then there would be a two year programme to get the airport ready with opening expected in the Summer of 2021.”