MP apologises over Manston lorry park payments gaff

Manston lorry park Photo Frank Leppard

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale has made a public apology after incorrectly stating that Manston airport owners RiverOak Strategic Partners had not received any money from government in relation to the site’s use as a Brexit lorry park and that all monies had been paid to former owner Stone Hill Park.

The comment was made during a BBC Radio Kent interview earlier this month.

In fact RSP has received £8.5million from the Department of Transport in compensation for use of the site in relation to possible delay of works for an air freight hub – if a currently quashed development order granting that use is reissued.

Former owner SHP, which retains its contract, and payments, with the Department for Transport for use of the Manston site as a ‘Brexit’ lorry park and is responsible for providing equipment if the site is used for the parking up of HGVs, has been awarded £3.2million under the extended contract.

Sir Roger Gale MP

Sir Roger said: “On February 15, I participated in a radio interview with BBC Radio Kent  about the use of costs of Manston airport as a lorry park.  In response to a question about the Government`s payment for these services I indicated that the owners of the airport were not receiving payment and that the monies paid were due to Stone Hill Park under the agreement of sale between SHP and the current owners, RiverOak Strategic Partnership.

“Having subsequently seen the Department for Transport`s response to a Freedom of Information request it is clear that the figures quoted, £8.5 million to the owner and £3.2 million to the operator, relate not as I had supposed to the totality of fees paid between 2015 and the present day but to a new contract commencing from January 1.

“I was therefore incorrect in saying that the fees were being paid not to RSP but to SHP and for that error I have unreservedly apologised.”

Manston lorry park Photo Frank Leppard

The contract extended a deal for the Manston airport site to continue to be designated as a ‘EU exit’ lorry park until the end of June 2021.

A special development order allows use of the site to hold up to 4,000 HGVs to help cope with possible post EU exit jams at the Port of Dover.

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.

The aim was to park lorries up at the site and so reduce pressure on the M20. The government extended the deal in November 2017 to run until the end of 2019.

Photo Barry Davis, via Wikimedia Commons

The deal was then extended again until December 31, 2020 with additions to allow work on the site to create a new access, add temporary hardstanding and modifications to the new entrance and create lining and signage.

This was part of the planning for a ‘no deal’ withdrawal  that saw the enactment of Operation Brock (under Operation Fennell) –  the updated version of lorry queuing system Operation Stack.

However, Operation Brock was only intended to function for a few months resulting in a sunset clause for the orders to cease to have effect on December 31, 2020.

With the end of the transition period for exit from the EU’s single market and customs union, new border arrangements had to be in place from January 1, this year, These included extending the use of the Manston site until the end of June.

Lorry parking at Manston became active prior to January 1 and had some 3,800 HGVs parked up after the French border was closed to UK travellers just before Christmas. The border reopened on December 23 but Manston was needed as a holding site for the backlog of thousands of trucks that had built up.

It has also being used for a pop up site to administer lateral flow covid tests to hauliers although HGV drivers spending less than 48 hours in the UK no longer require a covid test.

Lorry park costs

A Parliamentary question lodged by Broadstairs-born Lord Pendry last year asked how much had been spent on preparations for the Manston lorry park.

In answer Baroness Vere of Norbiton said: “I can confirm that between August 2015 and June 2020, the Department of Transport has paid a total of £19.4million for the use of Manston airfield as a lorry park.

“DfT paid £10.3m as part of the EU Exit no deal preparation contingency planning and £9.1m for the use of Manston airfield for business as usual and Operation Stack.”


A statement from RSP says: “The Department for Transport has agreed to pay RSP compensation for the use of the Manston site as a post Brexit customs clearance post for the first six months of this year.

“ In addition, the DfT will pay a further amount to cover the cost of site reinstatement following their departure from Manston. The operation of the site during this period is in the hands of Manston’s former owners who have their own separate agreement with the DfT.

“All monies received from the DfT will be re-invested in the Manston project with the object of making up for time lost due to the DfT’s occupation.”


  1. Will Roger be unreservedly apologising to the people of Birchington for ensuring housing developing on their farmland?

    Further apologies are welcome for endeavouring to land a screaming cargo plane over Ramsgate at 500 feet every 12 minutes via a monstrous cargo hub.

      • If you are going to support RSP’s scheme you at least need to do your homework and actually know what you are actually supporting. This is taken from their own publication. “By year 20 it is envisaged the airport handling a little over 26,000 a year the equivalent of 36 departures and 36 arrivals a day or between *4 – 6 flights an hour during normal operating hours.
        *NB These are averages so some hours there will be more and sometimes less flights” 60mins divided by 5 aircraft = 1 every 12mins

  2. why would the DfT be paying £8.5m plus whatever else to RSP to use its land for 6 months, when it would be lying empty. That’s over half the £16m they paid for the land!!!

    • It can’t happen again Glenn, according to the I Newspaper, dated 8th February, UK exports are down 68%, so there won’t be any need to use Manston as a lorry park anymore!

  3. Funny how it took a FOI request by the BBC for this information to be published. I really can’t believe good ole Tone didn’t think to mention to Gale the £8.5m RSP got off the DFT. I seem to remember Gale going apeshit when SHP got money for the use of Manston. Now he says nothing. The whole thing stinks

    • says SHP still paid for operating the site, so not sure what RSP are doing for the money. Not a bad return on teh £16m they paid

  4. Funny how RSP didn’t think to mention this until forced to by the FOI by the BBC anybody would think they didn’t want people to know ?

  5. It is ironical that the DfT should be compensating RSP with our money. It was RSP who choose to go for a DCO. It was RSP (or their consultants) who presented a risible case for the fantasy airport. It was RSP who have chosen to continue with the DCO even after they bought the site.

  6. Oh come on. Easy money to share out for the use of a piece of land which would otherwise lie idol. These buisness people and MP’s out to defraud the taxpayer. You scatch my back, I scratch yours! What a complete waste of ££ millions in tax payers money. So it seems we the public are the mysterious unnamed backers who are paying our taxes for a future ‘not needed’ private company freight airport plan there. Are there no senior ministers in the UK government that are straight these days and will look into what goes on in this corner of the country?

  7. Miss spoke, forgot, got confused, or the reality he out right lied unreservedly, this is a massive scam that runs through Riveroak, Gale, That South thanet moron and Grant Shapps. 8 million + for an unused slab of concrete, incredible, any kick backs, I wonder this is why politicians should not be allowed to get involved in business, it should be done through courts, and an independent panel a genuine caught out Lie, as someone already said in another comment, if their lips move, they’re lying.

  8. This is outrageous! Does it only apply if the DCO is granted [No pun intended] ? Even then, there’s no time lost as work cannot start until the DCO decision is confirmed and then no work on the ground until TDC approves a master plan. Is their any public body that can challenge this.

  9. Will he say sorry for going on Meridian News the other week & spouting off total drivel about how Manston Airport will be the world leader in carbon free flights & that it will bring tens of thousands of jobs to the area?

  10. “In addition, the DfT will pay a further amount to cover the cost of site reinstatement following their departure from Manston. ”
    Does this mean that the DfT will pay for the construction of the refurbished airport? I mean, what reinstatement can there be? Remove the portaloos and collect up the road cones?
    I’ll do it for just £1M

    • Shouldn’t RSP pay the DfT for betterment after all they did cut the grass & fill in the sink hole ? It can’t cost much to return it to the overgrown abandoned sh*thole airfield it was ?

  11. For years the plane spotters have been very vocal about RSP had plenty of Private funding and had no need of Government subsidies unlike Cartner & Musgrave (Stone Hill Park) who they insisted made a living out of Government grants.
    Strangely there isn’t a single word about this £8.5M on planespotter sites and not one word defending this bung on here.
    RSP only paid SHP £16.5M for the 720 acres they bought in 2019 and already they have made more profit than any aviation company since 1959
    Oh and the planespotters much lauded claim that there is a restrictive covenant on the land stopping houses being built that is utter bollux as well

  12. What a sad group of insulting comments from the anti-airport brigade. People are entitled to have a view about supporting or opposing the airport, but why do some people need to be so unpleasant?
    RTC Cllr David Green also doesn’t seem to understand the DCO process. Perhaps he’s confusing the DCO with a CPO. RSP’s master plans have nothing to do with TDC. A DCO and Nationally Important Infrastructure Project (NSIP) has to have plans passed by the government, which it was, not the local council.

    • Ummm… No it wasn’t. DCO decision has been quashed – meaning it effectively never happened (as it wasn’t legal) – and must now be redetermined.

    • My Sad friend, the question you should ask is why RSP want a DCO rather than planning permission from the local council. Is it because they don’t want to have to answer to the local community? Now why would that be?

    • Considering the excessive rudeness of, and personal attacks made by, airport supporters over the past few years, “Sad Thanetian”‘s comment is a bit rich to say the least.

  13. Is Roger Gale going to apologise to Jenny Dawes or the 1,000+ local residents who contributed to the crowdfunder after he blamed local campaigners and the JR for the “delay” to Manston? (See IOTN, 2nd December 2020).

    Truth is,dodgy Tony Freudmann and RSP are quite happy to keep stringing this out for as long as they can. RSP recoups more money in one hit from DfT than they’ll ever make – or raise – through the “airport” and neither of them ever has to prove that they’ve actually got £300m to invest or a business plan to make good on those ludicrous jobs numbers they’ve promised. Trebles all round!

    • Oh dear Ann, if the freight hub does open all those HGVs will be there, just this time they will be taking freight away up the M2. Didn’t your inside contact tell you that?

    • Yet another RSP supporter who hasn’t read Sally Fiction’s appraisal
      A clue HGVs will bring cargo and take cargo Sally believes over 200 a day
      Then you have the fuel bowsers at least 50 a day because the pipeline only reaches the Isle of Grain
      Then you have all those cars for the new houses for the 32000 working at the airport (yes that was sarcasm)

  14. In order to be able to moderate comments I am switching this off (so that I can finish work for the evening) and will turn commenting back on in the morning. Thanks in advance for your understanding

  15. Before we can give credibility to RSP’s claim that they have been delayed it would be useful to know where they are on their process with the CAA and the requisite public consultations.

  16. The airport could be more widely used as an annex to the very successful greenhouse complex down the road from MANSTON, you already have a concrete base just sanitised the surface erect poly tunnels or prefabricated structures and supplies the nation with much appreciated home grown produce this would in turn give jobs to local people working in a clean convivial environment no aviation fuel polluting our island and making thanet once more a pleasant area to live and work in . We don’t need an airport this is born out by the fact that it has been closed for so long now it hasn’t been missed and as for those people that used to sit outside the entrance with banners they must have or should by now found other employment ,I hate to think they would have belittled themselves by sitting in a dole queue sponging off the state .

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