Ramsgate freeport proposal to be backed by government and private finance claims company boss

Freeport proposal

Central and local government funding and private finance would be used to back a freeport idea connecting Ramsgate Port and the Manston airport site, claims the marketing company putting forward the proposal despite the sites being in council, crown and private ownership.

Founder of company i4c, Stan Vines, says the project plan was put together after he was approached by an officer from a commercial bank he has previously dealt with. The scheme, he says, has received interest from the bank and other institutions.

The freeport idea suggests creating a new Ramsgate Freeport and using Manston airfield, connected to the port via an extension to the existing road tunnel, resulting in a technology based Free Zone for the future.

I4c, Information for Contracts Ltd, of London, has created the proposal with city architects ORMS, the Crawford Partnership, consulting engineers Tony Gee and Partners LLP and the law firm Temple Bright LLP.

They say it is a response to the government announcement to create up to 10 freeports in locations across the UK.

The government wants to establish freeports, which have different customs rules than the rest of the country, with tariff flexibility, customs facilitations and tax measures.

It is understood that there have been early-stage discussions about freeport opportunities including Ramsgate at regional level but the i4c proposal wasn’t part of them.

The Port is run by Thanet council which leases part of the estate from the Crown.

I4c says their plan would mean the refurbishment and upgrade of the existing port in the first phase of a dual purpose development to create additional channel port capacity in readiness for the UK exit from the European Union on December 31.

A document outlining a 10 year, phased development, has been passed to Thanet councillors Peter Campbell and David Green and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership.

Mr Vines (pictured) said: “There have been other schemes submitted for the regeneration of Ramsgate and the region but none as comprehensive as this from i4c with the unique inclusion of Manston in application for Freeport status.”

The plans include a traffic segregation scheme to keep commercial vehicles away from the town but enabling access to local facilities for leisure and tourist traffic from incoming ferries.

It claims that in the first year the port would undergo an upgrade of the ro-ro ramps,  berth assessment for larger vessels, renovation and additional stevedore and parking areas. At Manston the plan says there would be construction of custom facilities, a logistics and storage hub and  renovation of hanger and cargo sites plus the potential for light industry.

Manston airport site Photo Frank Leppard

However, RiverOak Strategic Partners, which owns the majority of the Manston airport site following a £16.5million purchase from Stone Hill Park last year, has not been included in discussions.

RSP is awaiting a government decision on a Development Consent Order to create an air freight hub at the site.

RSP 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).

An RSP graphic of Manston airport

However, Stone Hill Park – which had planned housing, business and infrastructure development at the site – withdrew after selling the land to RSP at the same time as the DCO hearings ended last year.

The DCO decision had been due in May but a delay means the announcement is now expected on July 10.

A spokesperson for RSP said: “We haven’t spoken to them and our focus at this time remains on the DCO, the decision for which is due on July 10.”

Mr Vines said: “RSP made a speculative agreement on a site that was sold not long ago for £1. I have been involved in projects where land, for various reasons, had negative values of millions less than £1. I know this is difficult to grasp but right now, speculation is that bank interest rates could go to several negative points. You pay the bank to keep your money. Unheard of under normal circumstances until late.

“The current situation is that it still has a value of pocket change until planning for a suitable scheme is granted. Irrespective of their ‘ownership’ and/or whatever they ‘paid’ for it, its designation still reflects that old value.”

He added: “We are happy, if our scheme is preferred, to consult with them if they wish to take part. However, our scheme will see the overall Freeport as being one ‘Trust Port’, as per our legal advice.”

Ramsgate Port

Mr Vines claims “thousands of jobs will be created at the ‘free zone technology park’ and through the port expansion and many more with the development of substantial retail, residential and leisure facilities.”

The businessman says his experience for such a project includes working with the shipping industry when in lived in Greece from 1996 then dealing with business in the Middle East and East and North Africa, contracting to a Swiss investment company for marketing and commercial information.

He said: “The contacts made in the last 20 years and from before my time in Greece came together to produce the proposal.

“We see a combination of central, possibly some local government and private finance to fund the development, the latter through the bank and other institutions that have shown interest.”

Cllr Green replied to i4c to say he expects the RSP application to be rejected but highlighted the current consultation on the port and Crown ownership of the reclaimed area, adding: “Any further expansion of the site is constrained by the protection afforded to the adjacent SSSI at Pegwell. (The) proposed link to the Manston site is of interest in this regard. For myself, I find the employment prospects in (the) plans of greatest interest.”

Ramsgate Port has racked up total losses of £22 million since 2010. However, last year – for the period between April and December – initial accounts show a port surplus of £385,074. There may be alterations to this amount as in-year figures have not yet been finalised.

This has been accrued through the use of Ramsgate Port for car imports – bringing in just under £32,000 in that period, rent and concessions income of just under £700,000 and income from vessels, goods and freight.

Ramsgate port and harbour Photo Adam Cowell

The Port is currently the subject of a consultation, running until October, following a high level feasibility study by consultants WSP.

The report has suggested uses including reviving the hotel and conference centre plan for the Smack Boys Home building and creating industrial zones, waterfront homes, retail and themed leisure facilities.

Council leader Rick Everitt said he would like to see a major attraction, created in partnership with businesses and other organisations, to draw in visitors.

Commenting on the freeport proposal Cllr Everitt said: “Pending the outcome of the DCO on the airport any such discussion on this is premature.”

There has not been a cross-Channel operation at Ramsgate since the collapse of TransEuropa in 2013 which left Thanet council owed an unpaid debt of £3.4 million accrued by the ferry firm in port fees.

Negotiations with ferry service providers since that date have been fruitless.

In December 2018 the saga of Seaborne Freight proposals for a Ramsgate/Ostend ferry service saw the firm awarded a £13.8 million government contract for extra ‘Brexit-resilience’ crossings despite having no ferries and no company track record.

The government ditched the deal in February 2019.


  1. RSP are not involved no doubt due to the plan not involving cargo aviation. The plans involve some of the land at Manston. That’s it.

    Tony will want to get back to his lekky barges and join the party I’m sure.

  2. Hmm. Tony Freudmann could build a canal tunnel from the port to the Manston site, then use his electric barges to convey goods to and fro.

  3. “Freeports” are mostly associated with underdeveloped countries trying to get anybody whatsoever to invest in their country. So all kinds of “freebies” are offered like low taxation etc.
    Perhaps Thanet counts as the Third World now. Maybe we have been written off by central government as a hopeless case, not worthy of central funding and planning. Cast adrift to fend for ourselves?

    Anyway, “Freeports” don’t bring jobs of any significance. They bring a few low-paid jobs which hardly lift local workers out of poverty. Many Ramsgate “Freeport ” jobs will have to be subsidised by the British taxpayers via the Benefits system to top up poor wages. Ironically, of course, the firms that benefit from the low wages will not be paying any tax to help with topping up the benefits system. Because “Freeports” always offer tax free or low tax incentives.
    At the same time, many of the jobs will not really be “new ” jobs. They will be jobs in firms that have transferred from elsewhere in Thanet, Canterbury, Dover etc, attracted to move by the lovely tax-free, community-charge free incentives. They will mostly bring their own workers with them though these employees will be commuting by car etc so adding to their own stress and the levels of carbon in the atmosphere.

    “Freeports” are NOT free to most of us. They are a very expensive way of moving jobs around and lowering wage levels.

    All doom and gloom?
    No! We could actually have real government directions to locate industry and services to the parts of the country that need the jobs. Ever wondered why your car tax matters are handled in Swansea but your personal tax issues are dealt with up in Newcastle?
    Because previous governments had a strategic view of where work should be allocated. They did not bother with cheap gimmicks like “Freeports” that rely on private companies that flit from country to country, ever seeking out the latest desperate tax give-away by servile governments.

    “Vote Brexit to take back control!”. You must be joking! We are being reduced to begging for lousy jobs that only arrive if we are prepared to take low wages and if the British taxpayer is prepared to pay good money for the privilege.

  4. More chancers entering the ring with their kiddie drawings! I guess it was something for them to do during lockdown. Problem remains the covenant and the ONLY reason that SHP sold to RSP! The land was sold to RSP on the basis it would always be an airport so this whole thing is speculative nonsense at best.

    • The ‘covenant’ isn’t worth the paper it is written on when SHP and RSP are all in it together…..

      • Covenants would indeed be worthless if they had no value at law. SHP would be first to shout you can’t do that. Why would SHP sell
        Manston to RSP if there had been ANY prospect of it being housing? This is what SHP wanted to do! The reality is RSP own the airport and surrounding land. Even without the DCO the airport could re-open as an airport. Once the CAA licence is back its an operational airport. RSP aren’t not walking away from Manston after the many years and investment they have already put in. This whole story is tripe from a marketing company!

        • Smoke and mirrors !

          As soon as RSP acquired the site, those fighting for the airport dropped the ball and aren’t seeing what is really happening…..

        • Shp wanted to build a mixed-use development which would have had workplaces and housing. The then council was obviously fixated on the idea of having an airport there again. SHP got fed up with this biased obstructiveness.

    • Sounds dodgy. A sticking-plaster on the bleeding wound of Brexit.

      What covenant would that be?

      • The so called promise from RSP to SHP that the would buy the ex-airport from them and would never build houses or anything else on the site – covenants are easily overturned and nothing to stop SHP from withdrawing it if they get a nice pay-off….

      • The covenant is nothing about building houses, or not. The covenant says that if RSP want to sell Manston, or any part of it, they must first offer the land to SHP.
        For £3 or so you can look up the details on the Land Registry website.

  5. More pie in the sky to be mulled over for the next 22 years? I wish I could believe in fairy tales but a lot of fairy dust would need to be sprinkled before I would believe this one. Certain councillors are very good at planning how to spend other people’s money but would you trust them with yours?

  6. it has been said, it has been proved and there is an endless flow of evidence from independent diligence companies as well as the fact of reality which proves beyond any discussion and leaves no doubt that yhe former airfield is a dead duck. Not a viable business and never will be, I could go on considerably further but won’t for now other than to say that some of the people associated with RSP are questionable as is RSPs own abilities to meet criteria, which then brings our own councillors and MPs and Government actions into scrutiny. A no airport free port of Ramsgate association with that baron land is one of the best ideas to come out for a long time.

  7. The concept of a freeport is sound but needs to include air and rail traffic. Thanet is ideally placed for the infrastructure but fails in the respect that it can never take the large container ships as the water is not deep enough and could never be dredged enough to make it viable.

  8. Seems to me we have another DFL who has no real local knowledge of Thanet, maybe someone should point out to this chancer, that the Manston Airport site has been designated for aviation use in the Thanet Local Plan. Plan for the future of Thanet will and does include an airport at Manston Airport at least until 2031.

    • It matters not what the Local Plan says. You can build as many runways as you like. If nobody wants to fly, or there’s no cargo to shift, no planes take off or land.
      Better use the land for warehousing in conjunction with a Freeport.

    • What’s this got to do with where you’re from? Evidence is evidence, wherever one was born.

      Designating the ex-airport site as aviation-only was a foolish thing to do and one result has been the allocation of thousands of new homes to greenfield sites in Thanet instead of to a large brownfield site. What “real local knowledge” is needed ?

    • Idiot those who “know”Thanet have done really well over the last 20 years haven’t they?the Tory fake sheik,Ezekiel buying TDC property, DFDS leaving Ramsgate in the TDC solicitors lunch hour when he switched his phone off,selling off everything heritage and giving planning permission to land bankers with one particular local architect who consistently never produces anything
      But drawings

  9. It also needs a goods railroad linked to a fast line to the rest of the country. As to an airport? I don’t think there is one.

  10. This is top class trolling from Mr Vines of i4C. He says…

    “The current situation is that it still has a value of pocket change until planning for a suitable scheme is granted. Irrespective of their ‘ownership’ and/or whatever they ‘paid’ for it, its designation still reflects that old value.”

    First off, you’ve gotta love the inverted commas around the words “ownership” and “paid”. Classic.

    Then, there’s the inherit threat in this statement. Sounds very much like he’s talking down the value of the land to rehearse his argument for a forthcoming CPO bid to snatch it away from Riveroak for a song. That’s right out of Freudmann’s playbook. How ironic.

    Grab the popcorn. This is going to be a fun watch.

  11. Hi Kathy: could you post a link to the source of this story? I can’t even find a website for “Information For Contracts” or “i4c”

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