Manston DCO: Planning Inspectorate does not commit to redact airport funder details

Manston airport site Photo Swift Aerial Photography

The issue of funding – and funders- as part of the Planning Inspectorate examination of a Development Consent Order application for the Manston airport site will be heard on June 4 .

The DCO bid is being made by firm RiverOak Strategic Partners with the aim of acquiring the site and creating a cargo hub and associated aviation business.

However, the land is owned by Stone Hill Park which has submitted a planning application to create up to 3,700 homes, business and leisure and associated infrastructure.

The Planning Inspectorate hearings opened in January and are due to conclude in July.

One of the major questions posed has been how the project, which RSP say will cost in the region of £300 million, will be funded and by whom.

Redacting evidence

A letter published on the Planning Inspectorate website on Friday (May 3) now reveals that RSP has requested evidence submitted about backers for the scheme be redacted on publication.

The request was sent on behalf of RSP on April 5 by BDB Pitmans LLP.

The request asked the examining body whether it would agree to receive information on the companies that are interested in investing in the airport, including their names and also correspondence that had been exchanged with them, in unredacted and redacted form on the understanding that only the redacted form would be published.

However, a letter from lead examining panel member Kelvin MacDonald, says redacting that evidence cannot be guaranteed.

The letter says: “The Planning Inspectorate does redact submissions in certain circumstances. This is done, for example, to protect the identity of a minor, to seek to avoid identity fraud and to avoid placing personal contact or other details in the public domain.

“The Planning Inspectorate will apply its practice on redaction to any submission made to it. It will consider the need for and merits of redaction of submissions made on a case by case basis. The redaction of submissions must be seen in the context of the fundamental values of the Planning Inspectorate which are its commitment to openness, transparency and impartiality in the conduct of its business.

“Given this, the Planning Inspectorate cannot commit in advance to redacting specific information as requested by any party. For this reason, the ExA in this case cannot agree to examine evidence sent to it on the basis that the unredacted version of that evidence will not be published.”

The response says procedure means: “Relevant representations, written representations or documents must be made available by the Commission to all interested parties and to anyone who requests an opportunity to inspect and take copies of them.”

RSP has said caution is due because information about funders was previously leaked into the public domain despite being commercially sensitive.


Previous concerns centred on the use of funding vehicle M.I.O Investments Limited, which held 90% of shares in the company but is registered in Belize.

RSP has restructured to ditch the Belize connection with RiverOak Investments (UK) Ltd showing 400 shares in UK ownership. However, 600 shares are registered under HLX Nominees Ltd in the British Virgin Islands.

The funding source questions were due to be answered by deadline one, January 18

The funding statement submitted on behalf of RSP laid out predicted costs of the project as £100 million for the first phase -updated to £186 million -, with the cost of developing the remaining phases of the project over a 15-year period estimated to be an additional £200 million, i.e. a total of circa £300 million.

It says compensation for the compulsory take over of the Manston airport site would be “no more than £7.5 million.”

RSP’s latest submission says the firm has spent £13million on the project to date.

Hearings for the Development Consent Order resume on June 3 at Laurence Suite, Building 500, Discovery Park, Sandwich.

Hearing 4

Landscape, design, archaeology and heritage

3 June, 2.00pm (seating available from 1.30pm)

Hearing 5

Socio-economic issues

5 June, 10.00am (seating available from 9.30am)

Hearing 6

Habitats Regulations Assessment, biodiversity and other environmental issues

5 June 2.00pm (seating available from 1.30pm)

Hearing 7

Traffic and transport

6 June, 10.00am (seating available from 9.30am)

Hearing 8

Draft Development Consent Order

7 June,10.00am (seating available from 9.30am)

Compulsory Acquisition Hearing 2

To include funding

4 June, 10.00am (seating available from 9.30am)