Hopes and fears over proposed cargo hub at Manston aired during examination hearing

The DCO hearing

The prospect of employment, training and regeneration and fears of crashing house prices, health issues and continuous night flights were just some of the subjects raised at an open hearing yesterday (January 10) into the Manston airport land buy-out bid.

The hearing into the Development Consent Order application by firm RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP)  was one of several sessions held at Margate Winter Gardens this week.

RSP has made the application in a bid to gain compulsory buy-out powers over the Manston airport site. The firm says it wants to revive aviation at the site with a cargo hub and associated business.

The DCO seeks development consent and compulsory buy-out powers over the land. It is the means of obtaining permission for developments categorised as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP).

The Manston airport site is owned by Stone Hill Park which has lodged an application to develop housing, leisure and business on the land.

The DCO application was accepted for the pre-examination stage by the Planning Inspectorate in August. More than 2,000 representations were then made by residents, businesses and organisations.

The examination process, which includes hearings and site visits, will run between now and the completion date in July.

Education and employment

Among the speakers last night were members of campaign group Save Manston Airport association, North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale, councillors Sam Bambridge and Ash Ashbee, Project MotorHouse boss Janet Davies, members of No Night Flights and individual residents.

Teacher of 34 years David Stevens told the hearing that he backed the DCO because of benefits it could bring to education and employment.

He said: “With the job number projected a lot of people will need to acquire skills and qualifications and will need appropriate training and educational opportunities. Schools, colleges and universities will need to provide appropriate courses;

“In schools it is sometimes hard to motivate pupils, they need to see a career path, that’s something we want to get across.”

He said a working Manston airport could help motivate and raise aspirations and increase the uptake in science, technology, engineering and maths.

Sue Girdler, of TG Aviation which was forced to moved to Lydd following the airport closure, spoke of the needs of the aviation sector and the hope of Manston providing extra capacity and the return of emergency facilities.

Post-Brexit trade

Sir Roger Gale 

Sir Roger said Manston would be essential for post Brexit trade with countries such as China, India, New Zealand and Africa.

He said isle MPs and councillors were voted for by many on the promise of a revived Manston, adding: “I speak for the overwhelming majority of people I represent.”

He added that he understood people’s environmental concerns but felt they had been adequately addressed and that it is in the ‘national and local interest’ to reopen the airport.

The sentiment was echoed by councillors Sam Bambridge and Ash Ashbee, who also both highlighted the wartime history of the site and the possible benefits to tourism.

Flight numbers

There were also impassioned speeches by those opposed to the DCO with many demanding more information about the number of flights which have been projected at both 17,000 movements and 83,000.

Ramsgate resident Christabel Bradley said: “83,000 atms is a flight every ten minutes day and night and that’s where my concern lies.”

Mrs Bradley said it would have a ‘devastating’ effect on her business as a writer and journalist and also told the hearing that insurance companies would not insure any houses under the flight path in Ramsgate if a cargo airport was in operation and that would make the properties unsalable.


Janet Davies, of MotorHouse, questioned a lack of major accident planning and the limited capacity of QEQM to deal with a large-scale incident.

Town councillor Susan Kennedy, also of No Night Flights, was among those who raised concerns over the impact on health caused by noise and pollution from cargo craft.

She told the hearing that the DCO was not for the return of a small regional airport at Manston, adding: “We are talking about a 24/7 cargo hub which is qualitatively and quantitatively different (to past operations),”

She also added: “The impact on children’s education cannot be underestimated.”

Retired mariner Ron Blay was also concerned about the health impacts of particle pollutants and sleep deprivation due to the noise of night flights.

He said: “The two MPs were selected by the people for the people but there is a complete disregard for the 40-50,000 residents whose quality of life will be badly affected. It is a dereliction of duty.”

He added that pollutants caused conditions such as stroke, hypertension and dementia.

This was echoed by resident Kim Edgington who said the noise would affect both physical and mental health causing stress and respiratory diseases.

On the question of flight numbers  RSP Lead Counsel, Isabella Tafur said 83,000 was the ‘theoretical maximum capability.’ She said 17,170 air traffic movements of cargo per annum was the “worst case scenario.” She also denied RiverOak Strategic Partners had a ‘plan b’ for house building saying they were “committed to establishing and running a successful airport.”

The hearing was chaired by lead Examiner Kelvin MacDonald with panel members Martin Broderick, Jonathan Hockley and Jonathan Manning.

Next steps

A full examination timetable will be issued after the first deadline of January 18.

The timetable consists of a series of deadlines for the submission of material requested by the examination panel.

A site inspection is pencilled in for March 19 and further hearings, if necessary, are earmarked for June. The examination process will be completed by July 9.

It is thought the examination report and recommendation will be submitted to the Secretary of State by November with a decision likely to be announced in January 2020.


  1. House prices crash? Give it a rest, prices will do just the opposite with more money around.
    Pollution?? The bigger joke is that many thousands more cars on the gridlocked Thanet roads will cause far more and continuous pollution than any aircraft movements will generate.
    Night Flights??? Just a damned lie and scare tactics. Even Heathrow and Gatwick do not have flights all night except in the very rare case of an emergency.
    Lies, lies, scaremongering and more lies!

    • If you don’t want more cars on the roads then lobby the local MPs for much better public transport.

      Do you really think house prices in Ramsgate would go up if there were cargo planes passing over day and night? Do you really not know about the noise and damage caused by aviation?

      Most cars are immobile for most of the day and night.

      Not lies. Not scaremongering. Facts.

      • I take it you have not seen the traffic jams most of the day already, before anyhousing ghetto gets under way? House prices? I stand by what I say. Go to any other airport and ask if the prices dropped with airport growth.
        As for lobbying anybody about better public transport, you cannot drag people out of their polluting motors with a crowbar as it is. You are in cloud cuckoo land if you think that would change significantly.

        • Better public transport would help. No, I’m not in cloud cuckoo land. It would take a lot of effort to change people’s addiction to cars.

  2. I am a bit confused here, I thought if this is the pre-examination stage then surely the Planning Inspectorate could decide the application doesn’t hold water, in which case it gets thrown out before going on to the Secretary of State. So has it passed the pre-examination stage now? Nothing seems to be straightforward.

    • The Planning Inspectorate have already said that they will expect to see compliance with Cumulative Impact and Precautionary Principle requirement of impact assessment.

      It seems a no brainer that RSP have not complied but there seems no provision to summarily dismiss their application.

      I still think if RSP get the nod it would be extraordinarily generous of National Planning. But if they get the nod then Thanet will in the end get housing on a failed airport site. Just like watching a car crash in slow motion.

      • “It seems a no brainer that RSP have not complied but there seems no provision to summarily dismiss their application.” You need to take this up with the Planning Inspectorate as it has deemed the application meets the criteria to go forward for examination.

    • The DCO was accepted as an NSIP fit for Examination last August. These last 2 days have been the first part of 6 months of rigorous examination. The Examination team will Examine all the evidence put before them from all sources and angles, then will write a report and the Secretary of State for Transport will make the final decision.

  3. Apropos night flights: it is a fact that RSP has applied for a licence from the CAA to operate at night.
    It is a fact that RSP has planned for a Quota Count larger than that at Heathrow.
    It is a fact that RSP will allow noisier aircraft than Heathrow does.
    These facts come from Taps own consultation and submission material.
    It is also a fact that dedicated cargo comes in at night: there are slots available, and retailers want their produce freshly available first thing in the morning.
    Pollution? We get the houses (And cars) anyway (thanks to the incompetence of the current administration). If we have a cargo hub, then *additionally* we get the exhaust fumes from trucks moving cargo, and tankers delivering fuel. No airport is the least polluting option, obviously.

    • “It is a fact that RSP will allow noisier aircraft than Heathrow does.” That is not a fact as RSP has no powers to allow noisier planes than at [say] Heathrow. Any powers are vested in the DfT, CAA and local authorities against permitted noise levels.

      • Ok.
        RSP has applied for a night QC bigger than that at Heathrow, using aircraft noisier than those permitted at Heathrow.
        From their document “Noise Mitigation Plan 2018” – part of their DCO application :
        “Any aircraft which has a quota count of 8 or 16 cannot take-off or land at the airport during the
        Night Time Period.
        1.6 The airport will be subject to an annual quota during the Night Quota Period of 4000. Each take-
        off or landing at the airport during the Night Quota Period is to count towards this annual quota.”
        That’s noisier aircraft and a bigger count than Heathrow.

  4. Applause to Kathy Bailes for this well-balanced article about an intense few days of DCO examination and open floor comments from both supporters and non-supporters and those in between in their views on a new cargo hub at Manston Airport.

  5. We need a airport in Kent .house prices won’t drop,look around the country,house prices are high near airports ,plus if they decide,to build thousands of new homes where are they going to get jobs,get into schools and doctors are all full,and dentist ,so it’s not a very good idea to bring more people into the area

  6. Demonstrably, we don’t need an airport. If one were needed, why did it fail to the tune of £100,000,000 over its lifetime? Because too few people flew from it. The catchment area is too small. If you live anywhere other than East Kent, it’s quicker to head west to Gatwick or Heathrow.
    People may not want houses, but that’s a different issue. The houses we get, whatever. With an airport the houses get built on green fields round the villages.

    • It probably lost money because there was no real investment in it during its lifetime as a commercial airport. RSP’s proposal is based on cargo operations as it is patently obvious to all that Manston would not be viable as a passenger airport.

  7. There is simply no need for a cargo airport in Kent, there is more than enough cargo capacity at existing English airports with far better road connections than Manston ( I.e. Stansted and East Midlands both of which are adjacent to Motorways). They are also closer to the main distribution centres for the fresh produce industry. We will get the extra housing in Thanet regardless of whether the airport gets the go ahead or not so the road congestion problem will be only be made worse by the airport. Night flights are reality, read all the relevant submissions from RSP, don’t listen to those who are in denial.
    Finally in the unlikely event that this DCO application be approved by PINS and then given the go ahead by the Secretary of State next year, there is still every possibility that the project will never actually start ,(based on the track record of the people behind RSP) and if it does, financial failure is almost certain.
    This application was always highly speculative and anyone hoping for any local benefit from the airport reopening is likely to be very disappointed.

  8. When it was accepted for examination the planning inspectorate said that they would expect RSP to clarify the position in respect of funding “early” in the process. Nearly six months has elapsed since they accepted it for examination. Is there any more clarity over the funding than there was prior to its acceptance?

  9. Firstly. Yes I’d love a passenger airport in my doorstep. What I do not want is a night flight cargo hub. That is what I am afraid we will get. Where else does anyone think all this “new”business will come from?
    All the existing freight carriers are well established at the likes of Heathrow with its infrastructure back up, associated businesses nearby. Only one reason night flights- it’s in the business plan and once that genie is out of the bottle it ain’t going back in. So let’s hear who these companies are that will allow “thousands of jobs” to be created. Any new airport will use tech and robots to manage the storage and movement of freight. Human jobs will be minimal- that’s how they make their money. Majority of any jobs will be manual basic wage and include night work. The skilled jobs, pilots. Air traffic ,control will likely be people based nearer existing set ups. Passenger pilots have to by contract be based near to main airports such as Stanstead and Gatwuck so unlikely to move here and staff ( such as Ryan Air low wage staff) will be no better off than working in Tesco. Most of the freight – let’s say it goes ahead- will come straight off planes and go toexisting depots around the country. So let’s say the predictions are correct. The skies will be full of cargo planes and the rise full of Lotties to move these “17 to 83,000 movements” a year. Great for the local holiday trade!! It’s been mentioned that house prices near airports are higher. Yes because they’re in prosperous areas near big cities with high number of commuters. Southend airport would be a great model for Nanstonand would getmydull support- butby it’s success as a decent passenger airport with some freight, it reduces the likelyhood of Manston succeeding as it has a similar customer base and a huge head start. Having been there numerous times I can’t say I’ve noticed a large workforce either! Let’s get real people. Tesco at Westwood employs 500 people. How many “local” people would work at Manston??

    • You clearly haven’t looked at RSP’s proposal and yet you’re prepared to give an opinion. The plan for Manston is for more than just a cargo hub

  10. Just a reality check. Is the runway up to taking all these aircraft. It has not been used for sometime or maintained. Manston will never be a draw for airlines because there is not connections, or slots for new routes.There is no radar system installed.

    • Why would Manston be a draw for airlines when it is not planned to be a passenger hub? As regards the radar, don’t you think installation of the latest technology would be a given?

  11. Just like to say I and my family have lived directly under the flightpath for 40 plus years. Any type of insurance whether, personal, house or car has never had a problem concerning the airport!

  12. Just like to say I and my family have lived directly under the flightpath for 40 plus years. Any type of insurance whether, personal, house or car has never had a problem concerning the airport!

  13. We need jobs here in Thanet and airports bring jobs , If we build houses on Manston , where are these people going to get jobs , or will there be more on benefits , jobs jobs jobs , think of the future !

    • There is no evidence whatsoever that people who live under one of the four flightpaths at Heathrow cannot get house insurance. The incidence of planes crashing is much, much smaller than [say] a normal house fire. Check your facts!

  14. ..and so what is the future of Thanet from all these people that find no future in the application to re-open Manston Airport. Just drive around the area and tell me what has the future got install for our youngsters and the many in the area hungry for a job and a regular revenue stream flowing into their household ? Many local authorities would saw there arms off to have the potential of a international airport on their doorsteps. Tourism I hear you say ! Yes Tourism is on the up, but how do the tourists get to Thanet ? Maybe, just maybe by airplane one day, look at cities like Zaragoza in Spain and Carcassonne in France who have developed their local airports with the help of Ryanair and allowed me to visit two wonderful cities that may have passed me by. KLM started well in hub people in this area through Amsterdam. Maybe Air France would consider the same to Paris. Gone are the Russian Soloviev engines that were present in Manston during its past, outlawed in Europe as part of the industries drive to reduce noise pollution. Modern Cargo planes are significantly more quiet than when Manston was last active.
    Manston is a wonderful piece of infrastructure which could help the area flourish and grow again………investors would be told we have a airport that can reach any part of the globe….rather than the nearest airport is 125 miles away…….
    From acorns grow trees ! Don’t just think of all your personal reasons to say no……think maybe just maybe…….because when is gone you may just regret it ! (Remember Dr Beeching ?)

    • Sadly the clear and simple reason that Manston airport previously failed financially more than once was that the people of East Kent did not support it in anything like sufficient numbers.
      Apart from anything else the current DCO application being considered is only for a cargo airport that may in future consider limited passenger operations assuming they can attract an airline that can make money from it (that’s all Ryanair are interested in) which based on previous experience is highly unlikely. Cargo only airports are highly automated and do not deliver high numbers of jobs.
      The same kind of investment in the port and harbour would yield far more quantity and better quality jobs without severely affecting the vast majority of Thanet residents with air and noise pollution.

      • Another who hasn’t looked at RSP’s proposal. Do so and you’ll see the plans for job creation alongside the proposed cargo operations.

        • There are no plans for job creation. RSPs figures are all made up. Pure fiction. The analysis by Sally Dixon of Azimuth has been shown to be fundamentally flawed.
          At a consultation event last year, attention was drawn to a banner proclaiming “30,000 local jobs”. That’s more than the working age population of Ramsgate. On querying this figure, it was acknowledged that it was in error, and that it actually referred to the world-wide knock-on effects of a reopened Manston. It would include, for example, the fork lift truck driver at Schiphol loading pallets of daffs; the lorry driver who delivered the pallet to the airport; the man who made the pallet etc.
          The proposed cargo hub (There is no firm commitment to run a passenger service) would use state of the art cargo handling equipment. There would be very few people employed. Certainly nothing like the numbers RSP claim.
          I’m sure that we all want the best for our community. A huge, noisy, dirty cargo hub is not the right answer, even if it worked. Which it won’t.

          • Well put Andrew and it is about time that the RSP proposal is exposed for what it is, a speculative and opportunistic land grab that is doomed to failure once it is fully scrutinised over the coming months by enquiry.

          • But the PI’s Examination is about RSP’s plans for Manston Airport. The efficacy or otherwise of SHP’s plans have nothing to do with this.

  15. Manston air port is stuck out on a limb with no infrastructure its doesn’t have its plane fuel pumped to it so all refuelling will have to be done by tanker. Imaged how many tankers will be need to keep the airport going, if we have flights every 15 minutes, hundreds of hundreds of highly flammable fuel being moved every 15 minutes by road. It has no rail link, yes the roads are better but at the end of the day Manston is where it is, miles from anywhere. so if you add on the costs of having the fuel brought in by tanker and than having to transport goods from the bottom right hand corner of England, why would any freight come through Manston. The costs just don’t add up, lorry’s do what 5 miles to the gallon.
    I think Manston will become housing but it needs doing right with houses that locals on minimum wage can afford to buy, with new schools and doctors built first.

  16. https://www.kent.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/8182/District-unemployment-bulletin.pdf Simple Thanet needs long term jobs that a housing estate cannot provide, Manston Airport has to work and will work and provide much needed Jobs directly and indirectly, those of you DFL’s who are now retired and moved to Thanet as the properties were cheaper than London, if you bought your home in the full knowledge that we have an airport here whether in use or not and now moaning need to take a look at yourselves, you had your working life and moved here to live, you need to face it Manston Airport will re-open get over it.

    • The stark reality is that Manston is unlikely to reopen even as a cargo airport , and even if it does it will provide relatively few jobs for local people, and financial failure is the inevitable consequence.
      The future for Thanet lies in developing tourism which is already thriving and with the right investment can do far better and provide significantly more long term jobs. What DFLs have got to do with this proposal is not relevant.

    • Thanet does need long term jobs.
      I don’t see what your rant about DFLs has got to do with that.
      It is most likely that, even if aviation returns to Manston, many jobs will be created. The opening of the Wetherspoons in Ramsgate created, at a stroke, more jobs than Manston Airport ever offered.

      • All relatively low paid, and at the expense of other local businesses. I’m not knocking Wetherspoons – I go there often – but look at the whole picture. Manston should attract NEW skilled jobs and attract local spin off jobs as well.

        • A cargo hub will create very few skilled highly paid jobs. Much of the cargo handling is automated, air traffic control will be run remotely from Southampton (as is about to be the case at London City) Pilots are unlikely to be local either. Cargo hubs have minimal benefit to hotels either so where are all these jobs going to come from? At least Wetherspoons rescued a derelict building that was an eyesore previously, employed some 150 local people and have helped revitalize the harbour area which has benefited other businesses as well.

    • Surely a disused airfield is no longer an airport.

      “Under the Flight path etc” is making a lot of assumptions in this comment. Nobody is moaning; there are many serious objections to RSP’s plans, objections based on factual evidence.

      Quite a lot of people who have moved to Thanet have not moved here from London. Quite a lot of them are not retired at all and not likely to be so for decades.

      And RSP is nowhere near getting their DCO.

  17. To many people in Thanet so it’s pointless building more houses in manston as there is no spaces in schools doctors or dentists so where will all these people go ? No we need a airport to create jobs in east Kent to give people a future.so pointless building more houses .

    • The Local Plan submitted by TDC to Government last August requires them to build over 12,000 additional homes in Thanet between now and 2031. These houses are coming whatever people might think anout it and it’s almost inevitable that Manston will have to provide a percentage of the total regardless of what happens with the airport. Quite clearly jobs, schools, healthcare provision will all be needed as well but these additional houses will be coming to Thanet , the only thing to be decided is exactly where. Full details of the plan and potential development locations are on the council website.

  18. What deeply, deeply distresses me is the idea put forward by Lee Carpenter and others is that there is a choice between airport or housing.
    There isn’t.
    As “Thanet businessman” explained above. As have many others over the past few years. Don’t people read anything other than fake news?
    These are the choices:
    Housing (12,000), including some on the Manston site, with all the problems with infrastructure;
    OR housing (still 12,000) and an airport; with all the infrastructure problems associated with housing PLUS all the pollution and noise associated with an airport PLUS the houses which would have been built at Manston will now have to be built somewhere else – green field sites round the villages.
    So there you have it. Either extra houses, OR extra houses and an airport.
    Simple, eh?

  19. Andrew…..?
    And where are the jobs coming from to support all the lives of the tenants and owners of all these houses.
    You will indeed “ remain distressed” if you think smothering the centre of Thanet with housing is so preferable., ab
    nd as for pollution………..you will not be able to get out of the traffic jams as there will not be a way out. Nearly there as it is.
    Out of curiosity Andrew……?, and as you appear to be so vehemently opposed to providing jobs for Thanet by way of a working airport, where are you from? How long have you lived in Thanet?

    • I don’t see the relevance of Tony Laming’s last two questions, since the damage caused by an airport will affect everyone living under the flight path, no matter how long they have lived in Thanet or where, if anywhere, they lived before.

  20. You are (distressingly) being obtuse. With or without the airport, Thanet gets 12,000 houses, and all the people that live in them, along with their need for parking spaces, schools, jobs, hospitals etc etc.
    Note well: with or without the airport.
    If we have an airport (in addition), then (in addition) we get all the noise and pollution associated with an airport too.
    Is there any part of that you don’t understand?

  21. Obtuse? Pot. kettle black. The proposed conurbation in the centre of Thanet will destroy this island and any thoughts of a decent life with jobs for thousands of residents. The Isle will become unrecognisable.
    How about answering my questions as well. Mr Anonymous?

    • Once more, for those a bit slower on the uptake: the number of houses we get, and the associated need for jobs, schools, surgeries, pubs, betting offices, pizza take-a-ways, public toilets, bus routes, parks, fishing tackle shops has absolutely no connection with the existence or not of an airport at Manston.
      Except that, with an airport, we get all those problems PLUS the noise and pollution of the airport.
      When the airport was open, it employed fewer than the Royal Victoria Pavilion. If a freight hub does open, it will employ fewer still. Better to open another Wetherspoons – more jobs, without the nuisance of the airport.

  22. SHP’s plans include workplaces as well as housing. Houses which will never fly above any homes or schools.

    Your question “Where are the jobs coming from?” applies to every new house or flat’s residents, of course, whatever part of Thanet the new houses or flats are built in. Why don’t you ask Thanet’s MPs this question? It is after all the Tory government which has prescribed this housing quota for Thanet. I don’t believe “Andrew” is Mackinlay or Gale’s pseudonym! I wouldn’t bother asking him, if I were you. How on earth would he know?

  23. Obviously hasn’t seen SHP’s plans for their site because if he had he would see where the jobs would be, where the doctors would be, where the schools would be. It is all planned along with the housing. And it will be a lot less housing than you make out. New roads, parks, activities, wildlife, clean air. I would rather this than a noisy, stinky, lorry filled blocked roads, freight airport with hardly any jobs. There is no comparison.

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