Protest group XR Thanet target North Thanet MP’s office as ‘climate crime scene’

XR Thanet target the office of North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale Photo Frank Leppard

Extinction Rebellion protest group XR Thanet has targeted North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale’s constituency office by creating a ‘climate crime scene.’

The environmental campaign group criticised the MP’s support of RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) which plans to create a freight hub at the Manston airport site.

They say Sir Roger is prepared to see a freight hub at Manston airport “whatever the cost to the environment, the quality of life for those living under the flightpath and to the local tourism industry.”

RSP was granted consent for the project in July. The firm says the aim is to reopen the airport in a £300m project to create an air freight hub with passenger services and business aviation. Plans for construction include 19 freight stands and four passenger stands for aircraft as well as warehousing and fuel storage to meet forecast demand. There are also proposals for a training centre.

Video Frank Leppard

XR Thanet joint co-ordinator Peter Batt said: “Manston airport has never been a commercial success, primarily because of the spare capacity of larger, more-established and better-located airports.

“Given this background and our urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Manston is precisely the kind of infrastructure project that we should scrap. The fact we’re even still discussing this represents a failure of politics at a local and national level – a failure to grasp the greatest existential threat that humanity has ever faced.

“By granting RSP consent to develop the Manston site back in July, the government has ignored both its legal obligation to cut carbon emissions under the Paris Accord, as well as its own planning and aviation experts.”

Photo Frank Leppard

Sir Roger says the Manston freight plan “represents a reflection of the democratic wish of the people of Thanet.”

Following the consent announcement he said: “ There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the post-Brexit and post-Covid requirement for additional runway and handling capacity has been foremost in the Minister`s mind when taking his decision.

“There is also the small matter of more than £300 million of inward investment now confirmed at a time when the economy is in the rough and unemployment is inevitably bound to rise. That money is a sum the like of which has never before been seen in East Kent and its long-term job creating potential for future generations of local young people will be colossal.”

But XR Thanet says there will be no jobs if “we kill the planet.”

Photo Frank Leppard

Mr Batt said: “Too many of our local political leaders – Sir Roger prime among them – have campaigned to reopen Manston at any cost, putting the interests of a small group of investors and supporters before that of the wider community.

“Manston is not needed, but is being sold to local people on the extremely dubious promise of jobs. What our political leaders need to understand is that if we kill the planet, there will be no jobs.

“It’s time that politicians like Sir Roger promote the greater good and ditch this vanity project.”

Supporters of the airport 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.

RSP say they expect the airport to be operational by 2023, although an expected extension of the Brexit lorry park use of the site will hold up the beginning of works for several months.

They say the scheme will create over 23,000 jobs across East Kent and the wider national economy by the airport’s 20th year of operation.

A Judicial Review bid over the consent decision has also been launched by Jenny Dawes of the Ramsgate Coastal Community Team. The Secretary of State for Transport and RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd have declared their intention to contest the claim.

They have five weeks to prepare and submit their full grounds for resisting the claim.

Manston airport closed in 2014 shortly after Stagecoach tycoon Ann Gloag bought the site from Infratil.

Find a timeline of events here