Just over 2,000 representations have been made by Thanet residents and by organisations and businesses in response to a Development Consent Order application submitted by the firm hoping to bring aviation back to the Manston airport site.
RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) resubmitted its application for the DCO on July 16 after withdrawing a previous submission.
The DCO seeks development consent and compulsory acquisition powers over the land. It is the means of obtaining permission for developments categorised as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP). This includes energy, transport, water and waste projects.
The DCO application was originally submitted to the government Planning Inspectorate (PINS) at the beginning of April. It was withdrawn in early May after PINS’ requested further information about parts of the application. These related to funding, to the categorisation of the project as being of national significance, and to aspects of the supporting environmental statements.
The resubmitted application was accepted for the pre-examination stage by the Planning Inspectorate in August.
Among the representations made to the Planning Inspectorate are submissions from the Ministry of Defence, Historic England, Highways England, Dover and Thanet district councils, Kent County Council and a document from law firm Pinsent Masons on behalf of landowner Stone Hill Park.
In the document SHP say the report, by Azimuth Associates, putting forward RSP’s case was ‘deeply flawed.’
Pinsent Masons also question the validity of any backing from Thanet council. Saying: “ TDC has a troubled history of dispute between Members and officers, with Members seeking to overrule evidence led professional advice from its officer team.”
The submission adds: “SHP objects to the inclusion of the SHP Land and its interests within the scope of compulsory acquisition powers in the proposed DCO.
“SHP has a realistic and viable development proposal for much needed housing and mixed use development, whereas RSP’s proposal is, at best , speculative but with no realistic prospect of a long term viable operation.”
Backing from Dover
The submission from Dover District Council supports the DCO application, saying: “DDC welcomes and offers its full support to RiverOak Strategic Partners’ (RSP) proposal to re-open Manston Airport as an operational freight-focused airport and recognises the positive contribution it would make to the regeneration of the East Kent economy, as well as the UK’s aviation economy.”
Mixed messages from Thanet councillors
Thanet council says: “Thanet District Council does not object to this development of the airport for aviation and has made significant efforts to support a functioning aviation use on the site,” adding issues, such as the Draft Local Plan, need to be taken into consideration.
However, a submission from Thanet’s UKIP and Independent Group alliance objects to the proposal, stating: “It is the contention of the UKIP and Independent group on Thanet District Council that the RSP application to PINS for a Development Consent Order for the Manston Airport site lacks the necessary coherence, evidence, and credibility to gain approval and create a genuinely functioning aviation operation which could be tolerated by the local community.”
Wildlife, heritage and public health
Kent Wildlife Trust raises concerns in its submission about the impact on species and habitats, at the site and immediately surrounding area while Historic England submits worries over the “risk of potential harm to heritage assets.”
Public Health England said it welcomed the work already carried out but would like more evidence in areas such as sleep disturbance and noise mitigation.
Parish council support
The revived airport plan has received backing in submissions from Cliffsend Parish Council and Minster Parish Council although the latter adds: “We seek assurance that night flights will be kept to a minimum.”
Representations by the public have also been made and appear to be fairly evenly split between objections and support.
South Thanet Labour parliamentary hopeful Rebecca Gordon Nesbitt submitted a representation raising concerns over night flights and noise mitigation.
In regards to the submissions she said: “I’m impressed that over 2,000 submissions were made to PINs as part of the DCO application process. This shows a high level of engagement on the part of our community. I understand that just under 50% of responses were in favour and just over 50% were against the proposal to operate a cargo hub at Manston.
“In the course of my work, I meet many people on both sides of the argument, and I look forward to reading some of the responses. My main objective is to make sure that the people of Thanet are best served by any eventual plan for the Manston site.”
North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale’s submission supports the DCO application. In it he says: “At all elections at every level of Government since the announced closure of Manston Airport there has been a clear and overwhelming local mandate for the re-opening of Manston for aviation and related businesses.
“I myself have campaigned on and supported this platform in the strong belief that Manston represents a unique piece of national infrastructure that is needed in the national interest now, will be needed in the future and that, if lost, cannot be recreated. ”
Panel and next steps
An Examining Authority panel has now been selected, consisting of Martin Broderick, Jonathan Hockley, Kelvin MacDonald and Jonathan Manning as panel members with Kelvin MacDonald as the Lead Member of the panel.
A Preliminary Meeting, run and chaired by the Examining Authority, will now be arranged.
Once the application moves on to Phase 4 (Examination) there is a maximum of 12 months for the Secretary of State to make a decision on whether to approve the DCO to reopen Manston airport.
RSP’s plan for Manston includes an international cargo hub, as well as offering passenger flights.
RSP has 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.
Stone Hill Park plans
The site is owned by Stone Hill Park (SHP) which has submitted an enhanced application to Thanet council for homes, business and leisure to be developed at the airport site.
The documents, published on the Thanet council website, outline plans for up to 4,000 homes, 46,000 sq m of advanced/hi-tech employment space which SHP say will provide up to 2,000 direct jobs with 9,000 further jobs created over the course of the project, including construction and jobs in the supply chain for the wider area.
Plans include a heritage airport with an operational runway; public parks an East Kent Sports Village with facilities including Kent’s first 50m Olympic sized swimming pool and a WaveGarden surf lake; schools, a food store, cafes/restaurants, a 120-bed hotel and a health centre.
A decision on the application is yet to be made.