Manston airport site DCO delay due to “impact of Covid 19 on planning staff,” says MP

The Manston airport site Photo Swift Aerial Photography

The decision on a development consent order for the Manston airport site – due yesterday (May 18) – has been delayed due to the impact of coronavirus, says North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale.

Transport Ministers were due to have made the decision with it then being published on the Planning Inspectorate website.

But after a frustrating day for both supporters of the plan to create an air freight hub at the site – which they say will create employment, increase infrastructure investment and boost the economy – and for those who opposed the DCO on grounds including noise, night flights and the impact on tourism, no decision – or delay announcement – was made.

Sir Roger Gale

Today (May 19) the veteran MP said: “For all of those awaiting a positive decision on the future of Manston Airport it has been a frustrating 24 hours.  The bald fact is that there is, due to delays caused by the impact of Covid 19 on planning staff, still work to be done on the Inspector`s report upon which the Minister will base his decision.

“We all have to stay positive and keep our minds focused on getting Manston opened as an airport again. We’ve waited years for this. Keep the faith and believe in the Manston project. We do not just want a decision, we want the right decision and if that takes a little longer then so be it.”

County councillor Karen Constantine yesterday slammed the lack of information, saying: “After a four month delay, the DCO decision has again been kicked into the long grass.

“What the people of Thanet, and Ramsgate need right now is the secure knowledge that a cargo airport, with its noise and pollution will be turned down. The majority of people in Ramsgate and business owners are against RSPs plans. There is simply no evidence and no need for a new airport, there is no need for extra cargo capacity.

“It’s time to move forward on Manston. The site needs plans that are fit for the future, that will provide high quality secure jobs in areas like renewables and technology. We need plans that do not compromise health and tourism.

An RSP graphic of Manston airport

RiverOak Strategic Partners submitted a DCO application in July 2018 in a bid to gain compulsory buy-out powers over the Manston airport site. The firm 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 application was opposed by then- Manston airport site owners Stone Hill Park which had 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 2018.

The Planning Inspectorate examining panel, led by Kelvin McDonald, examined the bid last year, with hearings and site visits running between January and July. These covered a number of contentious issues surrounding the application, including night flights, noise and noise compensation, land values, funding and funders and the question of whether the project is nationally significant, as well as examining job creation, infrastructure investment, economic benefits and community pledges.

Those giving views included Thanet council and Historic England, campaign groups including Save Manston Airport association, Supporters of Manston Airport, No Night Flights and Nethercourt Action Group, numerous individuals and both Manston museums.

However, shortly before the hearings concluded SHP sold the site to RSP subsidiary RiverOak MSE Ltd for £16.5 million.

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A decision by the Secretary of State over the DCO had been due on January 18 but a written statement to Parliament made by Nusrat Ghani (pictured), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, just two days prior to that date, said the decision was being pushed back by four months.

The decision was then due to have been published yesterday but that deadline came and went with no statement made.

A spokesperson for the DfT said today the department “can’t comment on a live application.” A new deadline date has not been announced.

A spokesperson for the Planning Inspectorate said: “The decision is currently with Transport Ministers. Once we receive the decision, we will publish on our website.”

In email correspondence to a resident query PINs added: “The Examining Authority’s Recommendation Report was sent to the Transport Ministers on 18 October 2019. The Recommendation Report will be published alongside the Minster’s decision in the same form as it was submitted on 18 October 2019.”