Ramsgate Town Council agrees to make up to £10,000 donation for Judicial Review bid against Manston airport development

The meeting was held online

Ramsgate Town Councillors have voted to contribute towards a Judicial Review application against the Secretary of State’s decision to grant a development consent order on Manston airport.

An Extraordinary meeting of the council took place today (July 21) to hear a resolution proposing the donation of £5,000 – and possibly up to £10,000 if there is a shortfall in funding.

The resolution was put forward by Cllr David Green to use council funds for the crowdfunder campaign launched by Chair of Ramsgate Coastal Community Team Jenny Dawes last week.

The crowdfunder currently has had 503 pledges amounting to £43,000 towards the JR costs.

Solicitors Kate Harrison and Susan Ring of Harrison Grant have agreed to act and to instruct barristers Richard Wald QC and Gethin Thomas in the action.

A Judicial Review would look at whether the Government followed correct procedure in reaching the decision to approve the DCO for RiverOak Strategic Partners.

The decision on a development consent order for the Manston airport site was announced on July 9 after delays in January and May.

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

Jenny Dawes says her action is being launched due to the decision being made against the examining panel’s advice.

Concerns were raised by Cllr Stuart Piper that the public had not been given enough notice of the proposal with its publication only taking place yesterday. However, Cllr Green said the public had already participated in public meetings and shown opposition to the cargo hub plans and said he had been contacted by some 150 people supporting the motion.

He added that the sum raised so far was ‘quite remarkable from a relatively small town like Ramsgate.’

Questions were also raised over exactly who would receive the money. Cllr Anne-Marie Nixey said funds are going directly to the lawyers who have agreed to take the case.

Clarity was also asked for on the legality of the town council making a donation with town clerk Richard Styles saying he had received advice from the National Association of Local Councils that the town council was able to fund either its own Judicial Review action or support one launched by residents.

Cllr Nixey said she was voted in as opposing the cargo hub and, as well as personally contributing to the crowfunder, and was in favour of the council also backing the cause.

She added: “There has never been proof that the majority want an airport. The majority of submissions at the examination were people who do not want it, over 50%, and when we have public meetings people said they do not want it.”

But Green Party councillor Becky Wing said although she and the party supported the Judicial Review she did not believe tax-payers money should be used for the process.

She added: “As Green Party members we are totally and utterly against any type of airport on Manston. I have made a donation to the crowdfunder and the Green Party will also make a donation. But this is not our money, it belongs to the residents of Ramsgate. I do not think we should be handing over money with so many other needs in the town. I would not support handing over taxpayers money although I personally support (the cause).”

Cllr Wing asked for clarification on the Labour Party’s stance on the airport in general. Cllr Green said: “The Labour position is we are against night flights and against a cargo hub but not necessarily against the airport.”

Cllr Lynda Piper also voiced opposition saying the support of 2,000 Ramsgate residents who are opposed to a cargo hub was a “tiny proportion” of Thanet residents.

Questions have been raised over whether Ramsgate Town Council will be liable for any costs if the Judicial Review falls. Although initially the meeting heard this would not be the case Cllr Stuart Piper shared information after the vote saying any donation of over £3,000 would make the contributor an official backer and therefore liable for costs. The town clerk has said he will investigate and bring information back to the council at its meeting on July 29.

A recorded vote  showed the majority in favour of making the contribution with Cllrs Lynda and Stuart Piper, Cllr George Rusiecki against the proposal and Cllr Wing abstaining from the vote.

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay said yesterday (July 20) he believes the spoils of a review will go to the lawyers, adding: “Ramsgate Town Council should tread warily in committing up to £10,000 of local taxpayers’ money supporting a Judicial Review into the Manston DCO decision. Town and Parish Councils have clearly defined roles in the local government hierarchy and local residents should ask if this is one of them?”

The Judicial Review route has previously been taken by councils. In 2018 Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Hammersmith and Fulham and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, alongside London mayor Sadiq Khan and campaigning group Greenpeace, launched a legal challenge against the Heathrow expansion plans.

RSP previously said restrictions were in place as part of the DCO agreement on areas including air movements, night flights and noise quota counts as well as stipulations for local employment and training.