Stone Hill Park withdraws application for development of Manston airport site following sale

The SHP plans

Enhanced planning proposals for homes, business and leisure on the Manston airport site have been withdrawn.

The enhanced plans were submitted to Thanet District Council by former  land owners Stone Hill Park in 2018.

The proposals set out the vision for up to 3,700 homes built over a 15-20-year period, 46,000 sq m of advanced/hi-tech employment space which SHP said would 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 included a heritage airport with an operational runway suitable for classic, vintage and potentially light aviation.

The relocation of the Spitfire and Hurricane Museum and RAF Museum, public parks, the retention of the non-operational part of the former main runway as a recreational and community event space were also included along with proposals for an East Kent Sports Village.

The plan also featured schools,a  food store, cafes/restaurants, a 120-bed hotel and a health centre. Space for a small-scale campus for higher/further education was also planned.

At the time of the submission SHP said the development would mean Thanet council receiving New Homes Bonus of £41.9m and annual tax receipts of £7m.

But the plans have now been scrapped following a lengthy wrangle with RiverOak Strategic Partners which applied for a Development Consent Order to implement its plans for a cargo airport at the site.

Initially the DCO was to have included permission for compulsory purchase of SHP’s land. However, yesterday (July 10) the sale of the land to RSP for £16.5million was completed.

On July 3 SHP chairman Trevor Cartner said: “The site has been the subject of considerable debate over the past five years of our ownership and we have invested a substantial seven figure sum in pursuing a planning application for our vision for the site but that has been met with little support from Thanet District Council.

“Having now been made what we consider to be a very good offer for the site we have decided to sell. We wish RSP good luck in their own aspirations for the future of the airport. At some point in the near future we will restructure our company and invest the capital released into other major regeneration projects throughout the UK.”

SHP is also due to withdraw its objection to the DCO and will no longer participate in the Local Plan Enquiry. The firm retains its contract, and payments, with the Department for Transport for use of the Manston site as a ‘Brexit’ lorry park and would be responsible for providing equipment if the site is used for the parking up of HGVs.

Draft Local Plan

Thanet’s Draft Local Plan is a blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure up until 2031. The plan sets out how much development is needed to support the future population and economy. Transport, employment and infrastructure -such as roads, schools and GP surgeries – are also examined in the plan.

The SHP development plans, with a lower housing figure of 2,500, had been earmarked in Thanet’s Draft Local Plan as a contribution towards a housing target of 17,140 isle homes by 2031.

In January last year the plan was voted down by Thanet councillors with 35 members against putting the plan forward to the next stage and 20 in favour.

The vote, which led to the end of the UKIP administration, was mainly based on the change of status for Manston which proposed to ditch aviation-only use designation and replace it with a mixed use for development.

An “11th hour” amendment to defer for two years the mixed-use designation for Manston airport pending the resolution of the DCO process was not enough to get the plan voted through to publication stage.

In July last year Thanet councillors voted to move forward with a new Draft Local Plan which will mean the re-allocation of 2,500 homes to greenfield sites in the villages, Margate and Westwood as part of a pledge to retain aviation use at Manston airport.

The public examination of the draft Local Plan has taken place, between January and May, with rescheduled hearings this month.

A hearing set for July 16 was due to discuss Manston airport with focus on the wording of suggested changes to the Local Plan.