Stone Hill Park announce ‘in principle’ deal with housing association

The SHP plans

The company planning to create homes, business and leisure at the Manston airport site has agreed an ‘in principle’ deal with a housing association for the sale of the first 400 homes.

Optivo, which manages homes in  London, the South East and the Midlands, will work with Stone Hill Park on a detailed plan for the first phase which will also include a new school and infrastructure.

An enhanced outline planning application for the site was lodged with Thanet council this month and is now out for consultation.

A decision is expected later this year and, if it is approved, a detailed planning application would follow.

Stone Hill Park co-owner Trevor Cartner said: “We’re delighted to have Optivo on board as a partner to deliver the first phase of housing. We’ve been very impressed with their plans and aspirations for the site which match our own.”

“We will be developing a range of homes from affordable to executive and will also build the first school together with much of the infrastructure to serve the site as a whole. We are excited to see our plans becoming a reality.”

The first phase is part of a proposed £500million scheme to build up to 3,700 homes over a 20-year period.  The site will also include a hi-tech manufacturing park, aviation heritage attractions, a new country park and leisure facilities, including Kent’s first Olympic sized pool.

Neill Tickle, Development Director of Optivo said: “Although this is early days, we’re really excited to partner with Stone Hill Park and bring 400 much needed homes as the first part of this exciting new project.”

“We appreciate the redevelopment of the Manston Airport site has been a sensitive issue, with strong local feelings and we understand this.

“However, as a local housing association, we’re also aware of the shortage of affordable housing in Thanet, with the local Council identifying the need for 17,140 homes in the area by 2031.

“By partnering with Stone Hill Park we’ll ensure that people in local communities have access to high-quality, affordable homes now and for generations to come. We believe this first phase of development will launch a successful new chapter for Manston and a prosperous one for Thanet.”

Optivo will lead on the design for the first phase project and will be holding consultation events with residents to gather feedback.

Riveroak Strategic Partners (RSP), the firm aiming to bring aviation back to the site, withdrew its Development Consent Order submitted to the Planning Inspectorate this month but says it hopes in resubmit in the coming weeks.

A DCO is the means of obtaining permission for developments categorised as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP). This includes energy, transport, water and waste projects.


  1. In principal this sounds ok. But how many local people will be give the housing association houses and how many will be be given to London as in Canterbury? It’s all wrong that we have to house people from out of our area before locals.

  2. It’s quite misleading to suggest that the Housing Association houses built might go to people “from out of our area”, where ever that is. Where’s it say that any Social Housing will go to non-Thanet (East Kent/Kent/Kent and East Sussex/Whatever your definition of “from out of our area” is)?
    Canterbury was a different situation: An estate of ex-MoD houses was up for auction. A London Borough bid more than any local Boroughs or Councils.

  3. The Conservative administration at TDC established that it was possible to provide enough housing without using Manston as it seems Mr Wells and Officers removed sites to make Manston look as if it was required when it wasn’t. There is no Change of Use, no need and no appetite for housing or anything else other than an airport at Manston. The existing and new local plan will not include Manston for changed use. SHP’s speculative plans have gained no traction and they rely on apathy with multiple applications being submitted when each one fails. SHP is a dead duck only an airport will ever happen. DCO’s are complex but RSP are up to the job and a near 1/2 Billion investment cannot be easily disregarded for such a major infrastructure project. The Government will welcome RSP plans with open arms because major Foreign Direct Investment of this type is hard to find especially in economically inactive areas like Thanet!

    • There certainly is a need for more housing in Kent, and there are many people who would prefer to see at least part of the former airport site being used for housing rather than for aviation.

      The new local plan will have to based on facts and the fact is that Manston has always proved to be a poor situation for a commercial airport. I am surprised that RSP have not already bought one of the several airfields which are currently on the market in other parts of England.

    • Yes, you could build enough housing in Thanet without using Manston. You could build on greenfield sites instead.
      But what else could you do with the failed ex airport site at Manston? RSP, after several years and £4M have failed to deliver.

  4. We already have London borough councils promoting the renting of properties for their own residents to live down here (as already reported on this website), we certainly do not need a London housing association taking (not that they will be built) 400 new homes away from local people of Thanet. Its all pie in the sky these announcements and there always proven to be false.
    Unless TDC changes the Future plan of the Isle of Thanet that still incorporates Manston as an airport, it will still be an airport wether it is used or unused.

  5. It’s sad that the pro-airport campaigners can’t see that the writing is on the wall. The DCO application was roundly rejected, and now, the plans for redevelopment are moving apace.

    • SHP’s plans have been at a standstill since they bought the airport! You can put sprinkles on it but a turd is always a turd and let’s face it SHP is one big turd! Lol ????

      • Your insightful and considered contribution is quite staggering.
        One might observe that, however, SHP has actually submitted a plan.
        On the other hand, after several years and £4M (we are told) RSP has withdrawn its application, just before it was booted out.

        • I pride myself on my capacity to reduce an argument done to its salient parts. Obviously a great deal more work goes into the exacting requirements of a Government backed DCO in comparison to a developers planning application. The only thing I seei being “booted out” is SHP’s application (and maybe Mad Homer) given that Manston does not have Change of Use and never will under the new administration! FYI – RSP have spent in excess of £10m thus far on the DCO. Rome wasn’t built in a day but Manston will be re-built as a successful regional Cargo and passenger airport and that is the bottom line.

          • Ian Connor. I would like to see where RSP have spent “in excess of 10 m ” on trying to steal someone else’s land.There has not been enough land available to build as many houses as the government said should be built. If we allow building on greenfield sites, where would we be able to grow food rather than buy from abroad?There is a plot in King Street, Ramsgate, which had funds available to build on what was once a garage, planning consent given, then UKIP won the election and took over TDC . So why is this property still without housing on it 8 years down the line?

    • There is. Policy EC4 preserves Manston as an airport as confirmed recently by the Planning Inspectors at the inquiry. Nothing has changed. The Tory administration can reject any application out of hand for it not having the correct designation. The new local plan will not feature Manston as anything other than “Aviation Related” so all applications can be regarded as speculative at best!

    • Incorrect – there is no good reason why Change of Use should be approved. The airport has no history of anything else. It also has no future as anything else.

      • Before 1916 the ex-airport site was farmland.

        You can’t say for a fact that it has no future as anything else. You could say that you don’t want it to be anything else.

        • …Yeah and before that it was uncultivated! Lol ???? Irrelevent from the point it became a developed airport! Legislation protecting Airports and Airfields is coming. The post Brexit world and demand for cargo is changing the political and environmental landscape forever!

          • Not irrelevant, but true.

            If legislation to protect airports and airfields is coming then it will not protect the ex-airport site at Manston because it is not now an airport.

            Only about 15% of the electorate voted to leave the EU and it was only an advisory referendum. The majority of the electorate didn’t vote in it.

            it ‘s becoming clearer and clearer that leaving the EU would be not only foolish but risky.

  6. The Saved Policies are not set in stone. It is ludicrous to imagine that Manston can be devoted to aviation only activities in perpetuity. The SoS permitted some policies from the lapsed Local Plan: but it was made clear that changing circumstances could result in a change to the nature of the Saved Policies.
    That there is not one shred of evidence to support the notion of commercial aviation at Manston suggests that that particular Saved Policy’s time is up.
    RSP have spent more than £10M … And still can’t get it right!
    Two weeks ago RSP tweeted that they would, within 2 weeks, submit the clarifications and missing information the PI required.
    I see that today, two weeks on, the PI web site still shows the Manston application as ‘Withdrawn’.

    • You carry on clutching at straws Andrew. All the matters that require clarifying are being dealt with. The DCO WILL be resubmitted and it WILL be to the PI’s satisfaction. They haven’t come this far or spent all that money to walk away empty handed. Even if the DCO was unsatisfactory for some unlikely reason TDC could CPO the airport itself without an indemnity partner, compensate Gloag and still retain it as an airport to be leased out. SHP is at the very bottom of a long list of options!

      • How do you know these things will happen? Have you penetrated the opaque veil of the future? Because if not, then you are simply indulging in wishful thinking.

        TDC isn’t going to CPO the former airport site or compensate its owners. Where on earth would they get the money from, even if they wanted to do such an idiotic thing?

        No, SHP isn’t “at the very bottom of a long list of options”. It is probably the only option given the nature of RSP’s application and history.

      • This is what the PI said about RSP’s plans in February:
        “There was discussion with regards to how the Proposed Development satisfied the
        thresholds of s23 of the PA2008 to deem it a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project”
        This is what the PI said about RSP’s plans in May:
        “The Planning Inspectorate called the Applicant’s legal representatives (BDB Law) on 1 May 2018, setting out its principal concerns in respect of the application documents. Those concerns included:
        • An absence of sufficient information within the application documents upon which to the Planning Inspectorate could base a decision about whether the Proposed Development constitutes a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) within the meaning in s23 of the Planning Act 2008. ”
        So things went from bad in February to worse in May.
        Well, there’s a *likely* reason for the DCO being unsatisfactory. It’s not actually an NSIP!
        How on Earth could TDC support a CPO? Where’s it going to find the £100M’s needed? Even if, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, TDC tried to make a commercial success of running an airport?

        • You clearly know little about Manston:

          1. It has a critical HRDF system that cannot be easily placed anywhere else in the SE/Channel area.
          2. It has a long and wide runway which in a time of decreased capacity (temporary or permanent) makes it a valuable asset for the SE area of the UK for freight, passengers, flight training, MRO etc.
          3. It has the capacity under the plan for it to be able to handle large amounts of freight of a perishable nature. A much higher capacity than before which in turn makes it profitable.
          4. Regional airports are now recognised as an essential part of national transport infrastructure.
          5. The size, scale and reach of the project makes it a NSIP.
          6. It still houses highly toxic waste (including nuclear) from the USAF days as an operating base that cannot be disturbed and requires protection and maintenance.

          For those reasons alone it IS a NSIP.

          This is therefore a falsehood: “Well, there’s a *likely* reason for the DCO being unsatisfactory. It’s not actually an NSIP!”

          “How on Earth could TDC support a CPO?”

          Local Authorities carry out CPO’s on a regular basis. We are talking £5-£7m as compensation. There is no increase in the value of the land as it has no permission for anything else. There is still no developers gain to be had. So “£100m’s” is nonsense. A CPO costs virtually nothing to instigate. The biggest cost is the reimbursement for the land – which is still an airport!

          Falsehood: “Where’s it going to find the £100M’s needed?”

          “Even if, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary” – not evidence – conjecture at best.

          Nonsense: “TDC tried to make a commercial success of running an airport?”

          TDC has not invested in Manston. KCC put small sums in to support marketing and that was it.

          If TDC took over Manston, like RSP it would NOT be operating it – it would merely be the owner. Any lease would easily cover the CPO costs.

          • I suppose the Planning Inspectorate can’t have noticed your points 1 to 6, otherwise they’d have recognized RSP’s proposal as an NSIP.

            The site now owned by SHP is no longer an airport.

          • In the case of Civil Aviation, there are but two criteria under the Planning Act 2008: for passenger traffic, an increase of 10,000,000 or more; for cargo, an increase of 10,000 or more air traffic movements.
            The Act says nothing about runway lengths, HRDF systems, toxic waste and so on.
            A number of independent expert reports has been published with respect to the commercial viability of Manston as an airport. Not one gives credence to the idea. Not Davies, Falcon, Avia, York. Not two periods of Soft Market Testing.
            On the other hand, there is not one independent expert report that says anything favorable about Manston and commercial aviation.

      • Unless you hold a senior position with RiverOak, how do you know with such certainty that the DCO will be resubmitted and that they won’t cut their losses and walk away?
        Unless you are a member of the Planning Inspectorate, how do you know the revised application will meet its requirements?
        Where would the council get the resources to CPO the former airport without an indemnity partner and why would they want to take such a risk?
        Who would wish to lease a former airport with such a disastrous history?
        Do you really know the answers to any of these questions, Ian?
        Isn’t the reality that you are swallowing any old guff you have been fed by the campaign groups?

        • Me thinks you are desperately clutching at straws. All the PI want is answers which RSP will provide. Nothing to date has gone SHP’s way and I don’t expect that to change now or in the future.

          • I think you’ve got that the wrong way round. It should read:
            ” Nothing to date has gone RSP’s way and I don’t expect that to change now or in the future.”
            1) Attempt to CPO when Labour was in control of TDC. FAILED
            2) Attempt to CPO when UKIP was in control of TDC. FAILED
            3) Attempt to DCO when 1) and 2) failed. Postponed, postponed again, and again, and again, then WITHDRAWN.

          • So please tell me how well it has gone for SHP to date?
            Top of my head:
            Launch: Roundly rejected.
            Planning Application # 1: Awaiting Decision/failed
            Planning Appication # 2: Awaiting Decision.” (amended)/failed
            Planning Application # 3: Awaiting Decision.(doomed to fail)
            Change of Use inquiry: Failed.
            Council: Labour – lost control (Manston)
            Council: UKIP – lost control (Manston)
            Feedback from statutory consultees: Negative/Hostile.
            Progress to date: Zilch!

  7. You cannot use the Development Consent Process unless the development is deemed to be a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. The Planning Inspectorate has clearly stated that the plans which were submitted failed to demonstrate that the plans to reopen Manston were of national significance. It’s taken RSP four years to come up with the plans which they had submitted. You’d have to be barmy to think they will be able to sort this out without making wholesale changes to the application and that won’t happen quickly.

    • SHP’s latest application is not “doomed to fail” unless TDC members behave like a bunch of spiteful teenagers again, rejecting the advice of the officers and doing their best to once more bring the council into disrepute.

    • Feedback from “consultees”, especially of the kind thst say “Airport, because airport”, scarcely count.

  8. After 4 years, the same ole problem that has dogged the US property developers RSP, they have no credibility, no plan, no cash and no idea how to run an airport, as proven by their MD’s track record.

    Thanet needs housing and jobs, both of which SHP will supply for the long term.

    Manston as an airport is nothing more than an irrelevance, ot has never been viable at any time, and never will be.

    Time for Manston to finally make a contribution to Thanet for the 1st time since the RAF left.

  9. I’m not really bothered either way, airport or housing, but I’m really looking forward to the reaction from the anti-airport brigade, when they see who has already been earmarked to occupy the ‘social housing’. The pro-airport lot will be disappointed, but they will have the last laugh. Wait and see.

  10. I lived in housing co-ops for over 30 years and there was a pretty wide variety of people in them. I don’t understand why so many people on this forum are so rude about social housing. There isn’t nearly enough of it, thanks to the right-to-buy legislation.

    • Marva I have nothing against social housing, I think it’s a good idea, I just commented on the groups of people I understand will be given these houses, if they went to Thanet people in need of decent housing, that would be fantastic.

  11. Housing because “I don’t want planes flying over my house” fortunately carries no weight with the Planning Inspectorate especially when it has been an airport for 100 years and is still designated thus!

  12. There is now no airport at Manston. I had rather see houses built on the brownfield site which used to be an airport than on greenfield sites.

    “I don’t want planes flying over my house…”, followed by some of the many excellent reasons why you don’t, would in fact carry some weight with planning officers.

    And nobody knows yet who will live in any of these new houses. We don’t know where they’ll be from or what sorts of people they’ll be.

    • Three well-made points, Marva. As regards the national interest, we should ask how the airport’s closure four years ago has proved in any way detrimental to the UK, other than in the emergence of a few belligerent Cos Airport campaigners. And for even them, the closure could be seen as a good thing. It has enabled them to make new friends and have their fifteen minutes in the spotlight. We need worry only if they ever take themselves seriously.

      • It’s a good thing us noise loving, plane spotters are a bit more broad minded and actually care what happens to Thanet and it’s economy rather than willing on a monstrosity of a housing estate that would sink Thanet forever and turn it into an urban nightmare that even Green Party supporters would soon regret. How anybody with a modicum of sense could support a speculative ghetto in the heart of Thanet clearly cares little beyond their front door. Self interest of this sort is selfish, retrogressive and thankfully only represents a very small minority of the population of Thanet. Just get used to the fact the airport is coming back – let’s face it – it can’t go anywhere else like housing!

        • Manston has never been a good place to run a commercial airport.

          Environmentally, a cargo airport would be extremely unhealthy for its neighbouring towns and villages. I can’t see any Green Party supporters ever wishing for such a thing. There is nothing selfish or retrogressive about not wanting an airport nearby.

          I do not see how I or anyone else can “get used to the fact that the airport is coming back”.

          A) It is very far from being a fact.

          B) If for some hitherto unthought-of reason the Planning Inspectorate does consider RSP’s plans to be in the national interest (as Mike says above, the UK hasn’t particularly missed the old airport), there will certainly be a good many well-founded, reasonable objections and appeals from local residents and the legal owners of the land. These will delay or even cancel the fulfilment of RSP’s ambitions.

  13. What staggers me is that those whose opposition to housing is manifest in support for aviation at Manston consistently fail to acknowledge that Thanet gets the houses either way.
    We have houses, or we have houses and airport.

    • I’ve never been opposed to housing but it does have to be located in the right places and Manston was never earmarked as one of those places. Speculatively buying large sites because someone ill advisedly said “we’ll get it through planning” when there was never ANY mandate for such a scheme is the one thing I find really staggering!

      • Ann Gloag bought the airport site because someone said “We”ll get it through planning”?! When the site was already down on the local plan as being promised to aviation for ever? Really?

      • The obvious “right place” for housing is what’s left of our green fields, our open spaces, maybe, at a push, our few parks, too.
        That way the vast, empty site at Manston can be kept just in case someone comes up with a huge amount of cash to buy the land and build the buildings, AND build a high speed railway from London to the Manston site AND build a three lane motorway from the M25 to the Manston site AND persuade FedEx and Amazon and Wincanton and DHL and TNT and so on to abandon their well tried and tested operations at East Midlands Airport and Stansted Airport.
        Fat chance.

        • Fat chance, you say? But surely all the things you mention in your long second sentence are included in the much, much longer plans submitted by RSP to the Planning Inspectorate? Their improved version is due out at any moment, by the way.

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