Permission granted for Manston airport development

Manston airport site Photo Swift Aerial Photography

The decision on a development consent order for the Manston airport site has been announced today (July 9) – a day earlier than expected.

The Department of Transport has approved the application to create an air freight hub at the site despite the Examining Authority panel of Martin Broderick, Jonathan Hockley, Kelvin MacDonald and Jonathan Manning recommending to the Secretary of State that development consent should not be granted.

Supporters of the plan say it will create employment, increase infrastructure investment and boost the economy but those opposed to the DCO say there are issues including noise, night flights and the impact on tourism.

The approval makes Manston the first ever site to gain a DCO for an airport.

The application was accepted for examination in August 2018 and it was completed on 9 July 2019. The examination was conducted on the basis of written and oral submissions submitted to the ExA and by eight issue-specific hearings, two compulsory acquisition hearings and four open floor hearings held in Margate and Sandwich. The ExA also conducted one unaccompanied site inspection in January 2019 and one accompanied site inspection in March 2019.

The DCO aim was to revive aviation at the site with a cargo hub and associated business. The process was the means of obtaining permission for developments categorised as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP).

RSP plans for Manston airport

RSP says it will reopen the airport in a £300m project to create an air freight hub with passenger services and business aviation. Plans for construction will be phased over 15 years and will include 19 freight stands and four passenger stands for aircraft as well as warehousing and fuel storage to meet the forecast demand.

There are also plans for education and training, flight training school,business aviation and passenger services. RSP previously announced a partnership with Securitas to implement and operate a full suite of fire and security services at the site.

RSP aims to handle some 10,000 air cargo movements a year by its sixth year of operation equating to 14 arrivals and 14 departures a day, around two flights an hour “during normal operating hours.”

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 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, negating the need for compulsory buy out powers as part of the DCO.

Examining Panel and Secretary of State comments

The Examining panel, in their recommendation for refusal of the DCO application said: “the Development appears to offer no obvious advantages to outweigh the strong competition that such airports offer. The ExA has therefore concluded that the Applicant has failed to demonstrate sufficient need for the development, additional to (or different from) the need which is met by the provision of existing airports.”

The panel conclusion was that the socio-economic benefits of the Development were overstated, and that the Development would have an adverse effect on tourism in Ramsgate. The panel said that the Applicant’s education, training and skills commitments would benefit Thanet and East Kent. When taken together the ExA considered the Development would still generate a socio-economic benefit to Thanet and East Kent, but such benefits were substantially lower than that forecast by the Applicant.

However, the letter on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport disagreed with that conclusion, saying: “The Secretary of State disagrees and concludes that there is a clear case of need for the Development which existing airports
(Heathrow, Stansted, EMA and others able to handle freight) would not bring about to the same extent or at all.

“The Secretary of State concludes that significant economic and socioeconomic benefits would flow from the Development to Thanet and East Kent as well as more widely including employment creation, education and training, leisure and tourism, benefits to general aviation and regeneration benefits.

“In conclusion, the Secretary of State considers that the public benefits significantly outweigh the harm caused by the Development due to noise and vibration impacts, taking into account the restrictions to be imposed by him, and also acknowledging that the airport has operated lawfully without restrictions in the past.”

The Secretary of State noted the panel’s view that the jobs created would not be to the same extent as forecast by the Applicant but said that significant economic and socio-economic benefits would flow from the development to Thanet and East Kent as well as more widely including employment creation, benefits to general aviation and regeneration benefits.

The letter adds: “In reaching that view, the Secretary of State notes the ExA’s view that the Development may adversely affect the tourism industry in Ramsgate. Whilst he is sympathetic to any residents and business holders that may be affected, he also notes the ExA’s overall view that it would increase the attraction of tourists to other parts of Thanet and the wider East Kent area.”

Restrictions to be imposed by the Secretary of State  include:

  • A ban on night flights – restricting scheduled flights between 23:00 and 06:00 and a restriction on noisier aircraft between 06:00 to 07:00
  • Noise Quota Counts (“QCs”) to control noise impacts  – setting a QC for aircraft in the 06:00 to 07:00 period and restricting noisier aircraft with QC 4, 8 or 16 to mitigate noise in the late part of the night-time quota period
  • Contour to limit annual noise emissions – the contour area and relevant noise contours are secured in the DCO  and the contour area cap is considered a reasonable approach to mitigate and minimise the population exposed to aircraft noise above the day and night-time Lowest Observed Adverse Effect Level (“LOAEL” – the level above which adverse effects on health and quality of life can be detected)
  • Residential properties –with habitable rooms within the 60dB LAeq (16 hour) day time contour will be eligible for noise insulation and ventilation detailed in the noise mitigation plan
  • Schools – the restrictions on passenger air transport departures is, with the funding commitments for insulation and ventilation in the UU in favour of Kent County Council, considered adequate to avoid significant adverse noise effects
  • Caps on the annual air traffic movements for cargo, passenger and general aviation to the worst-case assessment in the Environmental Statement
  • The establishment of a robust monitoring, auditing and reporting scheme not just for noise, but covering monitoring in all aspects of potential effects


RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP), who applied for the DCO, they are delighted permission has been granted for an international air freight hub and passenger airfield.

They say the government’s decision to grant RSP’s application for a Development Consent Order will create over 23,000 jobs across East Kent and the wider national economy by the airport’s 20th year of operation.  Construction will begin in 2021 with the airport operating its first cargo services in the first quarter of 2023.

RSP say  COVID-19 virus has demonstrated the fragility and inflexibility of the UK’s air cargo network, which relies almost exclusively on passenger aircraft to carry freight, as well as the urgent need to keep air freight going. It is widely accepted that demand for passenger air travel will take a number of years to return to pre-pandemic levels, if it ever does, and so building the UK’s specialist freight capacity has become even more vital.

RSP has committed to an investment of £300 million to rebuild Manston as a global freight hub, which will enable the airport to fulfil its role in helping the UK trade across the globe and to import vital and time-sensitive goods, including fresh fruit and medical supplies.

Tony Freudmann of RSP

Tony Freudmann, director of RSP said: “Once built, Manston will be one of the most modern, efficient and environmentally friendly freight hubs in the world, able to cater for traditional freight as well as the rapidly expanding international e-commerce sector that the UK has so heavily relied upon during the period of lock down.

“It is not lost on RSP how much support we have received from the Thanet and East Kent community and, in particular, from our two dedicated local MPs, Sir Roger Gale and Craig Mackinlay, since the start of the DCO process.

“We are also grateful for the long term view taken by our investment partners. Even before the DCO was granted, they demonstrated their commitment to the local area. The recent £100,000 donation to Age UK Thanet to support its work with isolated older people has been crucial during this difficult time. We have also been involved with a project to bring thousands of trees to six sites in Thanet, part of a longer term commitment to investing in the communities  and the environment around the airport.

“Alongside the work needed to return Manston to operational status, we will now be accelerating both our local procurement programme and the work of the Manston Skills and Employment Board, in partnership with a wide range of business, education, training and local authority organisations, to ensure local people have the skills and experienced needed to benefit from a wide variety of airport jobs.

“After two years of detailed scrutiny of our plans by the Planning Inspectorate and Department for Transport, it is wonderful to have Government support. We can now focus on investing in Thanet and East Kent, creating jobs, and inspiring new generations through our active support for training, education and careers advice for all age groups.”

Law firm BDB Pitmans acted for RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd. Angus Walker, Partner at BDB Pitmans, said: BDB Pitmans have maintained their 100% record of obtaining DCOs for their clients with the first ever airport DCO for Manston in East Kent. This is a significant achievement, not least given recent events such as the Court of Appeal decision to strike down the Airports National Policy Statement.”

No Night Flights

A spokesperson for the No Nights Flights campaign group said: “We are incredulous that the SoS would override a recommendation from the planning inspectorate NOT to grant the DCO and will be reviewing our options to challenge this and protect our town from this horrible blight, a blight which will threaten thousands of jobs and the tourism economy as a whole”

Sir Roger Gale

Sir Roger Gale MP

North Thanet MP, Sir Roger Gale said: “I am delighted that the Government has given the go-ahead to the redevelopment and reopening of Manston Airport.  This national asset has been closed for far too long but it can now play a critical role in delivering jobs and investment to Thanet, and the wider Kent and UK economy.  Manston has been an airport for more than a hundred years and this decision unlocks many millions of pounds of investment.

“I would like to thank RSP, their investors and my constituents who have campaigned tirelessly since the Airport was closed in 2014 to get it re-opened and who have demonstrated courage and tenacity in their determination to realise Manston`s `front line potential` once again.

“Post-Brexit Britain is going to need additional air freight capacity and Manston can offer this swiftly.”

Save Manston Airport association

SMAa said: “The SMAa committee is proud to announce that after almost 3 years of hard work and dedication from all its members, and especially RSP, the Development Consent Order (DCO) has been GRANTED by the Secretary of State for Transport.
“This go-ahead from the government now enables RSP to invest over £300m into rebuilding a state-of-the-art 21st century airport at Manston, which includes an air freight hub and proposals to develop aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities and end-of-life recycling facilities; a flight training school; a fixed base operation for executive travel and business facilities for aviation related organisations. We hope for the airport to re-open late 2023.
“This will create many much needed jobs for the Thanet and east Kent area, and will enable rejuvenation of the local economy. As well as jobs, SMAa and RSP have worked closely with local schools, colleges and universities to promote and advertise STEM and aviation-related studies, in the form of apprenticeships, the construction of an onsite-aviation college and collaboration with local educational establishments to create opportunity and experience.
“We would like to thank our many thousands of members and all local people that took part in the examination for the DCO, and would like to pay a very special thanks to RSP, who have been in the fight with us from the very beginning, well over 6 years.
“A special thanks goes out to our excellent MP Sir Roger Gale, for his tireless and relentless hard work during the campaign – keeping the government, all 3 administrations since this fight began, on its toes and informed as to the latest in our campaign.”

Thanet council leader Rick Everitt

Leader of Thanet District Council, Cllr Rick Everitt said: “The council welcomes the fact that the Secretary of State has issued his decision over the Development Consent Order, as continuing uncertainty over the future of this important site is damaging in itself.

“We understand that Manston is an emotive issue for residents on both sides of the debate and for those in Ramsgate in particular.

“In terms of the council’s position, we need to address this decision through the review and update of the Local Plan, in line with the Local Plan Inspectors’ recommendations.

“We’ve had no opportunity to read or consider the decision in detail in advance of today’s announcement and as such it would be inappropriate for the council to make any further response at this stage.”

County councillor Karen Constantine

Karen Constantine has resigned as a district councillor

Cllr Constantine said: “This is a surprising result, which goes against the evidence that flights and noise significantly damage the health of people living under flights paths and nearby.

“Elsewhere in the country people are vigorously campaigning against detrimental airport expansions. I expect to see an exodus of people and businesses who have invested in Ramsgate. There is no doubt that aircraft and air cargo in particular will damage our tourism offer and our quality of life.

“I expect to see a reinvigorated campaign to continue to challenge this development. Of course the prospect of jobs are very much welcomed, especially at this time where employment prospects don’t look strong across Thanet. Of course before any plans can come to fruition we will need to see all the necessary funding in place to take this development from drawing board to reality.

“I remain sceptical that this will happen as air cargo capacity exists elsewhere and the tide is turning against flying as we all look towards a greener future.”

MP Craig Mackinlay

Craig Mackinlay

The South Thanet MP said: “I am delighted with the Secretary of State’s decision. We can now get Manston up and flying again providing post-Brexit Britain with the additional airfreight and passenger capacity we need.

“The re-opening of Manston will generate a substantial number of jobs in a relatively short period of time. East Kent stands out as an area of high unemployment compared to South East norms; we have an asset in Manston that can play a key role in improving the economic strength of our area.

“The reality is that high value global trade will continue to be transported by aircraft. Manston has been an airport for more than a hundred years, is designated an airport in the Local Plan and provides a ‘spade ready’ and rapid solution to assist in the country’s new global position outside the EU.

“I look forward to working with RSP, Sir Roger Gale MP, as well as our local authorities and central government to deliver on the promises I made at successive elections to support the re-opening of Manston Airport.

“After what has been a very challenging time for everyone, this is news that should put a spring in our step. A great day for Thanet.”

Save Manston Airport

Dan Light, on behalf of the campaign group, said: “The day has finally come and Manston Airport will be reopening as a functioning freight (and later a passenger) hub. This has taken six years to achieve. I started this in March 2014 and never in my wildest dreams did I think the group would take us this far.

“I wanted to make everyone aware but didn’t quite know how to go about it all and I learned as I went along. I was joined by Keith Churcher who had previously been part of a local campaign in Medway and his experience and ideas helped me through. The likes of Dot Favell came along who dug deep with a lot of information to help the campaign and has stuck through it all keeping the group ticking over alongside myself.

“I feel the real work was done outside Facebook because it would have been just another ‘group’ otherwise. We all fought hard in the best way possible, we got answers, we did what we needed to do to fight to get this airport back. We took to the streets, we protested, we didn’t take no for an answer! We stayed true to the campaign and look at the result! RSP have stuck with this and kept to their word and for that we thank you! well done!

“On behalf of myself, Keith, Dot, Lesley, Paul and all old admin I want to say thank you all for your efforts! We conquered in our own way. Unfortunately a few splits happened but we all took the time to get to the common goal of the right result.”

Thanet Green Party

Thanet Green Party leader Mike Garner said: “We are frankly astonished at the Minister of Transport’s decision to overrule the Planning Inspectorate’s recommendations and approve the DCO for Manston.

“He’s ignored all the facts considered by the Examining Authority, recent court rulings on the Government’s climate commitments and the devastating impact of Covid on the aviation sector. The decision will inevitably be challenged in the courts, meaning this sorry saga will drag on well into the future, with inevitable negative effects on all of us in Thanet.”


October 2013: Infratil announce the sale of Manston airport to Stagecoach tycoon Ann Gloag for a nominal £1, plus accrued debts.

November 2013:  Ann Gloag’s Manston Skyport takes over the airport

March 2014: Ann Gloag announces plans to close the airport

April 9, 2014: The last Dutch airline KLM flight leaves Manston

April 2014: Newmarket Holidays said its Verona and Naples seasonal charter flights would move to the expanding Lydd Airport

May 15, 2014:  The airport closes with the loss of 144 jobs. An offer of the £7million asking price for the site by US firm RiverOak Corporation is refused. The payment was offered in a deal where Ann Gloag was asked to leave Skyport’s £2million in the bank account making a net £5million offer.

June 2014: A petition with about 7,700 signatures, to support a compulsory purchase order to preserve Manston airport for aviation purposes, was presented to Thanet District Council

July 2014: Flying school TG Aviation lose a High Court battle to use the runway despite still having 50 years to run on their lease. The company is forced to move to Lydd

July 2014: Thanet District Council (TDC) agrees to investigate raising a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) on Manston airport.

July 2014: A petition with  26,524  signatures protesting against the closure of Manston is handed to 10 Downing Street by MPs Sir Roger Gale and Laura Sandys and campaigners

July 2014: US company RiverOak  writes to Thanet council offering to buy and run the airport and say they will fully cover all costs, including the CPO.

By James Stewart from England (commons.wikimedia)

July 2014: There is a fire sale of Manston assets

August 2014: TDC issue a formal notice and the process of finding an indemnity partner for the Manston CPO begins

September 2014: The site has new owners – Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner of Discovery Park. A second sale is held.

December 2014: The Labour controlled council decide not to proceed with a CPO stating there was not a suitable indemnity partner

February and March 2015: Transport Select Committee looks at the Manston airport issue as part of its examination of smaller UK airports. Pauline Bradley, Director, Manston Skyport Limited and Alastair Welch, Interim Director, Kent Airport Limited, are grilled about the ownership of the Manston airport site but the question is never fully answered.

June 2015: An Independent review by PwC, on behalf of the Department for Transport, into the process on decisions about the future of Manston Airport is completed. The report is critical of Thanet council’s approach to the CPO indemnity process.

June 2015: Planning application received by TDC for change of use of Building 870 followed by applications for change of use of four hangars on the site to non-aviation use.

The same month a presentation is given and the name Stone Hill Park is revealed for the site by Mr Cartner and Mr Musgrave.

Manston airport

July 2015: It was announced that the site may be used to house overflow lorries from Operation Stack. This did not take place

October 2015: The planning application for change of use of airport buildings is refused.

The same month TDC Cabinet agree to take no further CPO action on Manston saying RiverOak do not meet the indemnity requirements.

November 2015: Thanet council announces a further soft marketing exercise for Manston airport

December 2015: It was announced that RiverOak would undertake a Development Consent Order (DCO) process to acquire permission from central government to reopen the airport

 January 2016: Lothian Shelf (718) appeal the decision of the Planning Committee over Building 870 and the non-determination of the other three applications.

February 2016: Thanet District Council announced a total of five expressions of interest had been received, with three being carried forward to the next stage of the CPO process

June 2016: SHP submit a masterplan planning application to Thanet District Council, seeking permission for 2,500 homes, commercial sectors and public parkland, under the name Stone Hill Park.

October 2016: It is reported SHP received payments totalling £3.539 million from the Department for Transport to keep Manston airport on standby as a lorry park

October 2016: AviaSolutions publishes its report, commissioned by Thanet council at a cost of £50,000, into the viability of Manston’s future. The conclusion of the report was ‘airport operations at Manston are very unlikely to be financially viable in the longer term and almost certainly not possible in the period to 2031’.

Thanet council say the report means  the authority does not have sufficient evidence to continue to designate the site ‘for aviation use only’ within its Local Plan.

MP Sir Roger Gale says he will quit politics if Manston does not reopen as an airport.

The same month Lib Dem Russ Timpson suggests Manston could be used for aircraft salvage or the development of a space port.

June 2016: A report to Thanet council Cabinet members on the latest round of soft market testing concludes: “Cabinet note the results of the soft market testing assessment and take no further action in respect of the interested parties.”

Discovery Park

November 2016: Mr Cartner and Mr Musgrave sell Discovery Park to an investment company to concentrate on their plans as majority shareholders, with partner Ann Gloag, for Stone Hill Park.

December 2016: UK registered RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd buys the financial, strategic and operational responsibility for the redevelopment of Manston and seeing through the DCO from the US RiverOak corporation. The US firm is no longer involved with the Manston project.

January 2017: Plans to axe the aviation-use only designation at Manston airport go out to public consultation as part of the draft Local Plan.

February 2017: Disruptive Capital, with financier Edi Truell as chairman, say they will commission a report on their plans for aviation use at Manston airport

An appeal to change the use of 4 Manston buildings

March 2017A public inquiry hearing into the refusal of change of use applications for four buildings on the airport site is held.

The hearing also leads to questions about RSP’s funding vehicle M.I.O Investments, which is registered in Belize.

The same month SHP unveils heritage plans for the Manston site

April 2017: RSP threatens legal action over an email which RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd (RSP) say Cllr Wells sent to 35 members of the authority and which, they say, contained defamatory allegations against RSP and  M.I.O Investments.

The same month RSP publishes three parts of a four part report outlining its future proposals and criticising a previous airport viability study commissioned by Thanet council.

The study on behalf of Riveroak Strategic Partners forms part of the Development Consent Order process.

May 2017: An unnamed US logistics firm announces its interest in taking ownership of Manston and plans to put £100m into the site. Represented by Dale Crawford of DTD Consult the firm says the aim is to relocate 12 aircraft currently in Europe to the Manston site and plan to gain a compulsory purchase order for the 750-acre plot.

SHP say they have no interest in selling the site.

May 2017: Following meetings with Thanet council Dale Crawford says the American firm is looking at options for a direct purchase. A deal does not come to fruition.

July 2017: The decision of a Public Inquiry over Lothian Shelf ‘s (718) appeal to allow the re-designation of buildings on Manston Airport for non-aviation use is released.

Government Inspector Matthew Nunn dismisses all four appeals. He said to grant the appeals “would be likely to compromise any future aviation use of the airport.” The outcome meant TDC Policy EC4 remained, reserving aviation only use for the Manston airport site.

November 2017: The government announces the deal to extend the arrangement to use the Manston site for Operation Stack if needed.

Councillors voted the plan down

January 2018: Thanet’s Draft Local Plan is voted down by councillors who object to the aviation only clause for the site being removed. The vote leads to a split in the Thanet UKIP group and the eventual demise of the party being in control of TDC. It also results in government intervention aimed at getting a plan in place.

DCO documents

April 2018: RSP lodges the DCO with the Planning Inspectorate

Enhanced plans from SHP

May 2018: SHP submits enhanced plans to Thanet council for development at the site

May 2018: The same day it is announced that RSP has ‘temporarily’ withdrawn the DCO

May 2018: The Planning Inspectorate publishes a response to questions from Ramsgate Town Councillor Susan Kennedy over the withdrawn submission. PINS outline their ‘concerns’ with the current application.

June 2018: Stone Hill Park (SHP) announces it is in talks with Homes England to support the redevelopment of the airport site at Manston through the £3billion Home Building Fund.

July 2018: Thanet council Cabinet members voted to move forward with a new option on the Thanet Draft Local Plan for 2,500 homes allocated to the villages, Margate and Westwood instead of the Manston airport site – but also striking out both the policies (SP05 and EC4) in place to protect aviation.

July 2018: Kent County Council urges the Government to make use of lorry parking facilities at the Manston airport site as part of preparations for Brexit.

Then-leader of KCC Paul Carter said contingency plans needed to be put in place to minimise disruption on strategic routes through the county and that an alternative to Operation Stack had to be found before new border and customs arrangements are introduced for the UK withdrawal from the European Union.

July 2018: RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) re-submits its application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) for the Manston airport site.

The DCO seeks development consent and compulsory acquisition powers over the land. A DCO is the means of obtaining permission for developments categorised as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP). This includes energy, transport, water and waste projects.

August 2018: The Development Consent Order application is accepted for the pre-examination stage by the Planning Inspectorate.

September 2018: The decision on Stone Hill Park’s application to build houses, business and leisure facilities on the Manston airport site should have been considered by Thanet council’s planning committee by August 15 but ‘the complexity’ of the situation leads to an agreed extension of December 31.

December 2018: PINs publishes the timetable for hearings and deadlines for information to be submitted during the examination of the DCO application.

January 2019: The first ‘issue specific’ hearing into the Development Consent Order application  by firm RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP)  begins at Margate Winter Gardens.

HGV trial at Manston Photo Frank Leppard

January 2019: A special development order designating the Manston airport site for use as a lorry park to cope with possible post-Brexit jams at the Port of Dover comes into effect.

The order ‘augmented’ the deal to use Manston as a short-term solution for Operation Stack which was first struck with then-site owners Stone Hill Park in August 2015 following a Summer of disruption due to French strikes and growing migrant camps in Calais.

January 2019: A cover letter from RSP to the Planning Inspectorate says it is restructuring in response to concerns about its funding vehicle M.I.O Investments Limited, which holds 90% of shares in the company but is registered in Belize. The remaining 10% of its shares are held by RiverOak Manston Ltd

M.I.O Investments Limited ultimate beneficial owners are resident in Switzerland and the UK. It is managed and administered by Helix Fiduciary AG, a Swiss registered and regulated fiduciary company.

March 2019: An unexploded wartime bomb uncovered on the Manston airport site on March 14) is detonated by an Army bomb squad.

A Royal Logistic Corps Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team was called in yesterday morning to help Kent Police deal with the device.

Photo Swift Aerial Photography

March 2019:  Works well underway at the Manston airport site in preparation to stack up to 6,000 lorries for the anticipated UK exit from the European Union.

May 2019: The Manston airport site is stood down from immediate readiness as a ‘No Deal Brexit’ lorry park.

The RTC meeting at the Oddfellows

May 2019: Ramsgate Town Council sponsors a public meeting to discuss the proposed Development Consent Order to reopen and develop the former airfield at Manston, by RiverOak Strategic Partners.

January-July 2019: The PINs Examination hearings for the DCO take place, led by Kelvin McDonald, and cover 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 needed.

Other areas raised are job creation, infrastructure investment and potential economic boost for Thanet and east kent.

Representations are made by a wide variety of organisations, including 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.

Further questions are raised about business plan forecasts, road networks and the proposed use of the Northern Grass.

The question of land contamination was also been raised with the likely presence of firefighting foam residual chemical PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid ) in the land and water.

July 2019: Contracts  exchanged agreeing the sale of the Manston airport site to RiverOak Strategic Partners subsidiary RiverOak MSE Ltd, by sellers Stone Hill Park. RiverOak Strategic Partners reportedly paid £16.5 million. SHP owned 742 acres of the site, which totals around 770 acres, with the remaining plots belonging to other interested parties.

Stone Hill Park withdraws enhanced planning proposals for homes, business and leisure on the Manston airport site.

Manston airport site Photo Frank Leppard

October 2019: A report by the Planning Inspectorate to submit a recommendation over the development consent order for the Manston airport site is delayed because a final fee is yet to be processed. A week later the recommendation report is sent to the Secretary of State

January 2020: The decision by the Secretary of State over the development consent order to create a cargo hub at the Manston airport site is pushed back by four months.

The decision had been due on January 18 but a written statement to Parliament made by Nusrat Ghani, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, says the latest delay means the outcome will be announced on May 18.

January 2020: Submission of yet another round of comments and further information is requested by the Secretary of State for Transport before a decision  over the development consent order will be made.

February 2020: Controversial plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport are deemed unlawful because climate commitments were not taken into account.

The Court of Appeal judgement follows a case launched by environmental campaigners. Judges said for the third runway to go ahead it would have to fit with UK climate policy.

February 2020: Submissions made to PINs in January are published.

May 2020: The May 18 deadline comes and goes with no decision announcement. On May 20 it is revealed that the decision has been pushed back again until July 10, 2020.

Covid test centre Photo Frank Leppard
July 2020: The site is used as a Covid test centre. The Department for Transport grants the DCO