Four years on: Some key dates in the Manston airport saga

Manston airport site

Today (May 15) marks four years since the closure of the Manston airport site. It resulted in the loss of 144 jobs and has led to a saga of competing visions for the site.

This month landowners Stone Hill Park submitted enhanced plans for the site which includes homes, business space, leisure, schools, shops and a hotel.

RiverOak Strategic Partners submitted their Development Consent Order last month but it was withdrawn this month. The Planning Inspectorate published a response to Cllr Susan Kennedy outlining the areas that it wants amended. RSP say they plan to resubmit the application in the coming weeks.


October 2013: Infratil announce the sale of Manston airport to Stagecoach tycoon Ann Gloag for a nominal £1, plus accrued debts.

November 2013:  Ann Gloag’s Manston Skyport takes over the airport

March 2014: Ann Gloag announces plans to close the airport

April 9, 2014: The last Dutch airline KLM flight leaves Manston

April 2014: Newmarket Holidays said its Verona and Naples seasonal charter flights would move to the expanding Lydd Airport

May 15, 2014:  The airport closes with the loss of 144 jobs. An offer of the full £7million asking price for the site by US firm RiverOak Corporation is refused. The payment was offered in a deal where Ann Gloag was asked to leave Skyport’s £2million in the bank account making a net £5million offer.

June 2014: A petition with about 7,700 signatures, to support a compulsory purchase order to preserve Manston airport for aviation purposes, was presented to Thanet District Council

July 2014: Flying school TG Aviation lose a High Court battle to use the runway despite still having 50 years to run on their lease. The company is forced to move to Lydd

July 2014: Thanet District Council (TDC) agrees to investigate raising a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) on Manston airport.

July 2014: A petition with  26,524  signatures protesting against the closure of Manston is handed to 10 Downing Street by MPs Sir Roger Gale and Laura Sandys and campaigners

July 2014: US company RiverOak  writes to Thanet council offering to buy and run the airport and fully cover all costs, including the CPO.

By James Stewart from England (commons.wikimedia)

July 2014: There is a fire sale of Manston assets

August 2014: TDC issue a formal notice and the process of finding an indemnity partner for the Manston CPO begins

September 2014: The site has new owners – Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner of Discovery Park. A second fire sale is held.

December 2014: The Labour controlled council decide not to proceed with a CPO stating there was not a suitable indemnity partner

February and March 2015: Transport Select Committee looks at the Manston airport issue as part of its examination of smaller UK airports. Pauline Bradley, Director, Manston Skyport Limited and Alastair Welch, Interim Director, Kent Airport Limited, are grilled about the actual ownership of the Manston airport site but the question is never fully answered.

June 2015: An Independent review by PwC, on behalf of the Department for Transport, into the process on decisions about the future of Manston Airport is completed. The report is critical of Thanet council’s approach to the CPO indemnity process and towards the only remaining candidate of four partners – RiverOak.

June 2015: Planning application received by TDC for change of use of Building 870 followed by applications for change of use of four hangars on the site to non-aviation use.

The same month a presentation is given and the name Stone Hill Park is revealed for the site by Mr Cartner and Mr Musgrave. Images used in the presentation come under the spotlight and Pinewood Studios demands they are removed.

Manston airport

July 2015: It was announced that the site may be used to house overflow lorries from Operation Stack. This did not take place

October 2015: The planning application for change of use of airport buildings is refused.

The same month TDC Cabinet agree to take no further CPO action on Manston saying RiverOak do not meet the indemnity requirements.

November 2015: Thanet council announces a further soft marketing exercise for Manston airport

December 2015: It was announced that RiverOak would undertake a Development Consent Order (DCO) process to acquire permission from central government to reopen the airport

 January 2016: Lothian Shelf (718) appeal the decision of the Planning Committee over Building 870 and the non-determination of the other three applications.

February 2016: Thanet District Council announced a total of five expressions of interest had been received, with three being carried forward to the next stage of the CPO process

June 2016: SHP submitted a masterplan planning application to Thanet District Council, seeking permission for 2,500 homes, commercial sectors and public parkland, under the name Stone Hill Park.

October 2016: It is reported SHP received payments totalling £3.539 million from the Department for Transport to keep Manston airport on standby as a lorry park

October 2016: AviaSolutions publishes its report, commissioned by Thanet council at a cost of £50,000, into the viability of Manston’s future. The conclusion of the report was ‘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’.

Thanet council say the report means  the authority does not have sufficient evidence to continue to designate the site ‘for aviation use only’ within its Local Plan.

MP Sir Roger Gale says he will quit politics if Manston does not reopen as an airport.

The same month Lib Dem Russ Timpson suggests Manston could be used for aircraft salvage or the development of a space port.

June 2016: A report to Thanet council Cabinet members on the latest round of soft market testing concludes: “Cabinet note the results of the soft market testing assessment and take no further action in respect of the interested parties.”

Discovery Park

November 2016: Mr Cartner and Mr Musgrave sell Discovery Park to an investment company to concentrate on their plans as majority shareholders, with partner Ann Gloag, for Stone Hill Park.

December 2016: UK registered RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd buys the financial, strategic and operational responsibility for the redevelopment of Manston and seeing through the DCO from the US RiverOak corporation. The US firm is no longer involved with the Manston project.

January 2017: Plans to axe the aviation-use only designation at Manston airport go out to public consultation as part of the draft Local Plan.

February 2017: Disruptive Capital, with financier Edi Truell as chairman, say they will commission a report on their plans for aviation use at Manston airport

An appeal to change the use of 4 Manston buildings

March 2017A public inquiry hearing into the refusal of change of use applications for four buildings on the airport site is held.

The hearing also leads to some questions about RSP’s funding vehicle M.I.O Investments, which is registered in Belize.

The same month SHP unveils heritage plans for the Manston site

April 2017: RSP threatens legal action over an email which RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd (RSP) say Cllr Wells sent to 35 members of the authority and which, they say, contained defamatory allegations against RSP and  M.I.O Investments.

The same month RSP publishes three parts of a four part report outlining its future proposals and criticising a previous airport viability study commissioned by Thanet council.

The study on behalf of Riveroak Strategic Partners forms part of the Development Consent Order process that the firm is following through Central Government to allow for a cargo and aviation business to be installed at Manston.

May 2017: An unnamed US logistics firm announces its interest in taking ownership of Manston and plans to put £100m into the site. Represented by Dale Crawford of DTD Consult the firm says the aim is to relocate 12 aircraft currently in Europe to the Manston site and plan to gain a compulsory purchase order for the 750-acre plot.

SHP say they have no interest in selling the site.

May 2017: Following meetings with Thanet council Dale Crawford says the American firm is looking at options for a direct purchase. A deal is yet to come to fruition.

July 2017: 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 is released.

Government Inspector Matthew Nunn dismisses all four appeals. He said to grant the appeals “would be likely to compromise any future aviation use of the airport.” The outcome meant TDC Policy EC4 remained, reserving aviation only use for the Manston airport site.

November 2017: The government announces the deal to extend the arrangement to use the Manston site for Operation Stack if needed.

Councillors voted the plan down

January 2018: Thanet’s Draft Local Plan is voted down by councillors who object to the aviation only clause for the site being removed. The vote leads to a split in the Thanet UKIP group and the eventual demise of the party being in control of TDC. It also results in government intervention aimed at getting a plan in place.

DCO documents

April 2018: RSP lodges the DCO with the Planning Inspectorate

Enhanced plans from SHP

May 2018: SHP submits enhanced plans to Thanet council for development at the site

May 2018: The same day it is announced that RSP has ‘temporarily’ withdrawn the DCO

May 2018: The Planning Inspectorate publishes a response to questions from Ramsgate Town Councillor Susan Kennedy over the withdrawn submission. PINS outline their ‘concerns’ with the current application. RSP says it hopes to resubmit the DCO application in the coming weeks.


  1. Lets hope the legitimate owners are permitted to develop the site for houses jobs sports hotels , things that everyone wants not just a few.

  2. 21 Nov 2017: Louise Congdon of York Aviation rips to shreds Riveroak’s plans at a joint presentation to KCC.

  3. Totally agree with East Kent Resident. Let’s put this polluting, noisy airport option in the bin and get on with the job developing the area as mixed use site and create the jobs suitable for local skilled and non-skilled working people. We do not have, locally, the specialist skills for the few jobs that are likely to be needed for an airport site so this will not satisfy the locall need. Sir Roger Gale should start backing the obviously better solution of a MIXED DEVELOPMENT to meet the need for jobs and houses in Thanet or stand aside.

    • “Few jobs” being the operative words if the present owners get their way!

  4. MP’s are usually pretty good at dealing with reality. In this case it is unrealistic to keep pressing for the airport to be reopened because the site is in in private ownership and has already been, largely, decommissioned. It’s a shame but those who wanted to see it remain as an airfield should have bought it themselves when it was up for sale. They didn’t and so they can’t justifiably continue to complain. The costs of bringing it back are prohibitive so it needs to be redeveloped. MP’s are usually pretty good at switching horses mid-race to make sure they back the winner. As the race enters the final furlong, it’s a mystery why Sir Roger continues to throw money at the old nag which refused at the first fence.

  5. Let’s hope someone will come up with proper money backed
    Airlines soon, that will buy the place up lock stock and barrel,
    and turn it back into a fully fledged Airport!
    THANET has a very limited economy, and most jobs are filled.
    Just needs the right professionals here to get on with the job!
    Houses houses everywhere, no water for the new houses planned. Ask Southern Water.

  6. The facilities will be built in to cater for the housing as is normal.
    Roger Gale is only continuing with this nonentity as he is now the President of the unofficial All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for general aviation. He has his own agenda with Manston and has roped Craig Mackinlay along with him on this instead of getting done what is right for Thanet, like saving the Stroke services at the QEQM hospital. Roger Gale should now step down as MP like he promised to do but along with all his other false preaching I can’t see him taking his own advice, unfortunately for Thanet. This saga has gone on far too many years and it’s holding back the area.

  7. One way of getting more water into the aquifer is by removing the hard-standing with which many people have covered the soil in their front, and even back, gardens. This would open up a vast amount of permeable ground.

  8. I don’t think the aquifer is under people’s gardens. It’s under Manston, but I agree with the general idea. All of the concrete which has been laid up there for runways, taxiways and aprons should be removed.

  9. Manston Airport is just that – an airport. Government Planning Inspector Nunn said so last year and until the Secretary of State says otherwise, it will remain an airport, with the promise of jobs for our children and grandchildren, instead of a few building and construction jobs that the present owners seem to think are enough. There are already empty manufacturing units in the area that nobody wants to occupy. Why build more? False promises and hopes is all I see from the present owners. Reopen the airport and let Thanet prosper for once, with a promise of £479Million invested in it, future generations will have jobs for life. Something Thanet desperately needs.

    • There hasn’t been an airport there for 4 years. How can anyone say it’s still an airport? At present it’s a large brownfield site and its legal owners have applied for planning permission for their mixed-use plans.

  10. I disagree with the building pproject there’s anuff houses in thanet and taking an old herritige away for more is disgraceful

  11. I see several people referring to the “legitimate owners”. The ownership seems to me really murky. “February and March 2015: Transport Select Committee looks at the Manston airport issue as part of its examination of smaller UK airports. Pauline Bradley, Director, Manston Skyport Limited and Alastair Welch, Interim Director, Kent Airport Limited, are grilled about the actual ownership of the Manston airport site but the question is never fully answered.”

  12. Who cares so long as RSP with their as-yet anonymous backers don’t? But it’s Musgrave and Cartner, mostly, if not entirely.

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