Manston airport development order officially quashed with fresh decision from Secretary of State now pending

Manston airport Photo Frank Leppard

A Development Consent Order granting approval for an air freight hub at Manston airport  has now been officially quashed with a new decision now needing to be issued after a re-examination of the Planning Inspectorate evidence.

The action comes as the result of a Judicial Review challenge to the decision, launched by Ramsgate resident Jenny Dawes last year, which was to have been heard in the High Court tomorrow (February 16).

The substantive hearing was due to look at whether the Government followed correct procedure in reaching the decision to approve the DCO for airport landowners RiverOak Strategic Partners.

But, last December the Department of Transport acknowledged that the decision approval letter issued from the Minister of State did not contain enough detail about why approval was given against the advice of the Planning Inspectorate and said the Judicial Review would not be contested.

An official consent order from the court. has been issued today (February 15), saying the DCO is quashed, the Defendant (Secretary of State for Transport) shall pay the claimant’s (Ms Dawes) reasonable costs – limited to £35,000 – and the Interested Party (RiverOak Strategic Partners) shall pay the Claimant’s additional costs, also limited to £35,000. A decision on whether this sum includes VAT has not been made.

The Secretary of State will now need to issue a renewed decision.

Ms Dawes, who brought the Judicial Review following a successful crowdfunder, said: “This is the first time a decision to grant a DCO has been quashed. Secretary of State Grant Shapps is now expected to invite further submissions from interested parties. He has three months to make a decision, although this can be extended.

“If he grants a DCO, another Judicial Review will be brought on existing grounds and any further grounds that may arise on review. If he refuses a DCO, Riveroak Strategic Partners may wish to bring a Judicial Review.”

RSP director Tony Freudmann said: “In the High Court today Mr Justice Holgate approved a court order which had been agreed by all the parties to the Manston judicial review in December last year.

“The order allows the judicial review on the ground that the Secretary of State for Transport did not give adequate reasons for his decision. It also quashes the Manston DCO and orders costs in favour of the Applicant.

“The effect of the order made today is only to require the decision to be re-taken following a further representation period, it does not reverse any earlier stages of the process. The Secretary of State is likely to explain the reasons for his decision in more detail this time round.”

The DCO 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 examining panel recommendation was for refusal. This was overturned by the Secretary of State when granting the original DCO.

The Judicial Review challenged that decision based on:

Ground 1: Need

Ground 2: Breach of Procedural Requirement/Unfairness

Ground 3: Net Zero Duty

Deb Shotton, Vice Chair of the Thanet Green Party which opposes the project on climate grounds, says there is increasing interest in development of the site for clean energies, saying: “Green jobs in a growth industry would be far more beneficial for Thanet and beyond.”

Airport campaign group SMAa says the order means the process can start moving again.

The site is in ownership of RSP after a £16million buy out from previous owners Stone Hill Park who had hoped to gain permission for a multi-use housing, business and leisure development.

RSP aims to create aviation at the site with a cargo hub and associated business. 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.