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.

Restructure

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)

13 Comments

  1. RSP (whoever they currently are – this is the 3rd incarnation) have made it clear that they do not have access to the funds necessary to carry out the development. They have explained that their plan is to be granted the DCO and Compulsory Aquisition, then look to banks and investors for the money.
    The tricky task for the PI is deciding whether it is safe to grant a CA, given that there’s no certainty that RSP will ever get the money.

  2. Proof of any confirmed, guaranteed funding and those backers must be submitted by the applicant for all interested parties to inspect BEFORE a chance of providing a Development Consent Order (DCO) and Compulsory Aquisition (CA) of the site. This, along with all other evidence, including whether there is even a need for a freight hub in the far south-eastern corner of the UK. It would have to be proven to be a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) above all else. The Planning Inspectorate’s inquiry must include all the information it requires beforehand (and there is much to collate) to alleviate any risk involved with the application, before deciding whether it’s sufficient and worthy enough to pass over to the Secretary of State (Chris Grayling) who can either pass or deny it after his inspection.
    In the present climate though there is just not a need for another multi-million pound freight airport, not just at Manston but anywhere in the UK. If there were such a need then air freight companies would have been clamoring over themselves to purchase it also. But all the respected reports and surveys point towards it not being viable as an airport for business purposes.
    Riveroak Strategic Partners (RSP) has also highly undervalued the site at just £7.5 million when the present owners of Stone Hill Park (SHP) have submitted muti-million pound plans of their own to develop it. The compensation costs alone to aquire the prime site would be far above that, then with all the soundproofing for residents homes and businesses along the flight-paths low over Ramsgate town would also be in the £ millions. So the RSP application just doesn’t add up to anything that can be interpreted as logical.

  3. The land was contaminated after WW2. It would need throrough checks before development. If at all possible.

    • How does the (alleged – non of the Environmental Reports has thrown up any concerns) contamination of the land affect RSP’s Application?

  4. Why tear up infrastructure when developers are currently sitting on 800,000 potential homes with planning that havent been built yet? Greed.

    • No one is saying any infrastructure is to be torn up. The runway certainly won’t be.
      This piece is about RSP and its application for a DCO and CA. One of the salient points the Examining Authority is pondering is lack of clarity as to RSP’s structure, and where the funding (if any) is coming from.
      What the lawful owners (SHP) intend to do with their land has very little to do with RSP’s Application.

  5. Not only that, but there are no reasonable grounds for anyone to deny that climate change is happening and that there is a very urgent need to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Air pollution is killing people in Britain, global warming is not a fantasy.

    Aviation needs to be reduced not increased, as does car use. The government should be working on plans to radically improve public transport throughout Britain, not subsidizing the use of private cars.

  6. You have to laugh at the antics of the pro-airport mob. No doubt they’ve been fed this line by one of the shadowy figures who have manipulated them from the outset: “RSP don’t need to provide the Planning Inspectorate with details of the funding because that’s got nothing to do with planning.” Unfortunately for the poor confused little souls, Riveroak hasn’t applied for planning permission to reopen the airport; they’ve applied for a Development Consent Order (DCO) which is a whole different kettle of fish. Details of the financing were supposed to have been provided before the application was accepted for examination. Then it was supposed to have been provided “early in the examination process.” Most recently, RSP was given a deadline of 3rd May to provide specific information about the funding; no sign, yet, that they have done so. Anyone who thinks that treating the Planning Inspectorate with contempt, by failing to provide the information they have requested, is going to encourage them to make a positive recommendation to the Secretary of State must be out of their tiny little mind.

  7. Eggnog is certainly being rather rude, but I don’t see how Eggnog is being spiteful.
    It is all rather farcical. But if RSP get their way (possible though improbable), life under or even near the proposed flight-path would not be very amusing.

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