Airspace Change Proposal for Manston does not gain approval for next step – site owner says documents will be ‘re-evaluated’

Manston airport site Image RSP

An air space change application being undertaken by Manston airport site owners RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) has failed to gain approval at the first ‘gateway assessment’.

The Civil Aviation Authority flight path process has to be completed for a permanent change to airspace usage, such as a change of routes if Manston becomes operational.

In 2019, RSP began the process to secure approval from the CAA for its use of airspace and procedures for safe and efficient operations to and from the airport.

The Civil Aviation Authority CAP 1616 process for airspace change is carried out in 7 stages, with 14 steps. It also includes four process ‘Gateways’ beyond which an applicant is not allowed to proceed until approved by the CAA.

The first is the Develop & Assess Gateway which follows submission of an options appraisal.

The appraisal looks at issues including, in the case of Manston, how many flights go over Ramsgate and how many go in the direction over St Nicholas-at-Wade. It looks at what options there are for issues such as the noise impact on health and quality of life: air quality; greenhouse gas impact; capacity’; access; fuel burn and costs for things such as training and operations. It also covers safety assessment.

As part of this RSP is required to produce a comprehensive list of route designs with options that minimise the time spent overland by designing tracks that route over the sea as much as possible. This is required to reduce impact on communities such as Ramsgate and Herne Bay. For Ramsgate it is unlikely that overland flight can be designed out because of how close it is to the airport site.

To pass through the first gateway stage RSP needed to:

  1. produce a comprehensive list of airspace change design options;
  2. have engaged with relevant stakeholders to explore those options to the CAA’s satisfaction;
  3. produce a design principle evaluation that the CAA has accepted
  4. produced an Initial options appraisal (phase I);
  5. the CAA must have produced and then published an assessment that the options appraisal is satisfactory

The CAA says the RSP submission did not meet Criterion 3 and Criterion 5 because of “errors and inconsistencies.”

It says these are:

Criterion 3 (Design Principles Evaluation): The development of the baseline (“Do-Minimum”) scenario and comparative assessment of the suggested Design Options against the Design Principles contained errors and inconsistencies which did not evidence clearly that the Design Options had been adequately assessed against the Design Principles.

Criterion 5 (Initial Options Appraisal): In Step 2B, the presentation of the Options Appraisal (which built on Step 2A) contained errors and inconsistencies which did not allow the CAA to conclude that it had been correctly undertaken. (

Criterion 5 (Initial Options Appraisal): The Options Appraisal did not take account of all environmental assessment requirements associated with an Airspace Change Proposal that has potential to alter traffic patterns below 7,000 feet

The CAA says: “The CAA has completed the Develop and Assess Gateway Assessment and is not satisfied that the change sponsor (RSP) has met the requirements of the process up to this point.

“The CAA does not approve progress to the next step.

“The Civil Aviation Authority has informed the change sponsor of this decision. The change sponsor is now able to reconsider its submission before resubmitting it for further review by the Civil Aviation Authority at a future Develop & Assess Gateway.

“It is important to note that whether an Air Change Proposal passes a gateway successfully or not does not predetermine the CAA’s later final decision on whether to approve the airspace change proposal. This decision is not an explicit or implicit comment on the merits or otherwise of this ACP. This will come at the decision-making stage (Stage 5).”

In response RSP said: “From the outset, RSP has stated that the CAP 1616 process used by the CAA to manage proposed changes to airspace is robust and challenging; this provides both aviation and non-aviation stakeholders with assurance that our proposals will be carefully scrutinised by an independent Regulator.

“The CAP 1616 process includes a series of ‘Gateways’ which the CAA states are intended ‘to minimise any work having to be repeated, particularly in getting the supporting documentation for consultation right’.  Although the CAA’s recent Stage 2 Gateway decision is disappointing, it reflects the robustness and transparency of this process; it is by no means unusual for Airspace Change Sponsors to have to revise and re-submit their proposals before the CAA grants permission to proceed further with the process.

“Manston represents a unique application of the CAP 1616 process; such an airspace change has never before been proposed for an airport still under development.  Reflecting on the CAA’s feedback, RSP will re-evaluate the supporting documentation with a view to re-submitting to the CAA for a further Stage 2 Gateway Assessment and progressing the ACP to the next stage, which will involve a full public consultation.

“As the CAA states, ultimately, we see this feedback as an important contribution to a successful public consultation.”

Airspace Change process

A Development Consent Order granting approval for an air freight hub at Manston airport last July was quashed in February this year with a new decision now needing to be issued after a re-examination of the Planning Inspectorate evidence.

The action came 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.

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 was issued to quash the approval and the new decision letter is yet to be published.

The DCO is a separate process to the air change proposals.

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.

Find the CAA airspace change application progress chart here