Government lease for lorry park use at Manston will not be extended beyond June 30

Manston Photo Frank Leppard

The Government has today (June 18) confirmed that it will not extend its use of Manston airport as a lorry holding facility beyond June 30, when the current lease expires.

South Thanet MP, Craig Mackinlay, received the news in a letter from Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Rachel Maclean MP.

The Government acquired Manston for the period to the end of June as a contingency in case freight traffic was disrupted at the end of the EU Transition Period. These circumstances no longer apply.

The current assessment based on analysis of predicted tourist traffic levels during the summer and potential knock-on impact on freight traffic shows that the use of the site this summer is not required.

South Thanet MP, Craig Mackinlay, said: “I hope my South Thanet constituents and the people of Thanet and East Kent will find this decision reassuring, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their understanding over these last few months.”

Operations at the site were officially suspended at the end of March.

Hundreds of staff worked at the lorry park on temporary contracts and it is understood they were offered transfer to other sites including Ashford, Thurrock, Ebbsfleet and a new one being developed at Guston.

The contract to use part of the Manston site as a lorry park was extended until the end of June 2021 in a deal made between landowners RiverOak Strategic Partners, former landowners but lorry site operators Stone Hill Park and the Department of Transport.

The site came into use earlier than the planned January 1 date after the French government closed the border to UK travellers and accompanied freight going into the country shortly before Christmas over fears of the spreading ‘Kent’ variant of covid.

The move led to the site being parked up to capacity with a large backlog of HGVs on county roads.

Photo Hazel Nicholls

Currently further representations are invited for the Secretary of State’s re-determination of the application by RiverOak Strategic Partners for an order granting Development Consent for the reopening and development of Manston Airport.

The Secretary of State has also appointed an independent aviation assessor to advise him on matters relating to the need for the development and to produce a report summarising those findings.

Submission deadline is July 9.

A Development Consent Order granting approval for an air freight hub at Manston airport  was  quashed in February 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 was issued from the court to quash the DCO.

Responses should be sent by email to [email protected], marked “For the attention of the Manston Airport Case Team”.

Representations and the new reports will be available to see after the deadline at


  1. Do we know who the’independent aviation assessor’ is and how impartial they actually are?

    • I have been wondering why that has been kept secret so far. There are obvious hints to bias as the previous acceptance of the DCO by the SOS has been taken down so nobody can make a judgement and comments based on it.

  2. Now the Secretary of State , and the Department for Transport, no longer require the Airport for use as a lorry park, there is no impediment to the Granting of the DCO to RSP..
    Let’s hope that this time the letter is properly constructed, setting out the reasons for granting with no ambiguities, nor reasons to challenge…
    Let’s see the work begin to reinstate the Airport to full operational use .

  3. I agree with Ranger 27. Thanet is so run down and devoid of employment companies and inward investment. Let’s hope by the DfT not renewing their lease with RSP, things are moving in the right direction for the work to commence on the airfield, towards Thanet becoming a more prosperous place. There’s over £300Million waiting in the wings to be spent on modernising the most environmentally friendly airport in the UK, if not the world!

    • “The most environmentally friendly airport in UK”.

      Apart from a Public Water Supply aquifer banned in 2019.

      Apart from impending enforcement of United Nations Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants.

    • Theres over 300 million waiting in the wings ?

      So this 300 million is going to be spent on getting manston connected to the fuel grid ? Up grading the runway ? Re- routing the B2190 and moving the caravan site to allow longer run off area ? The run off area is to short for today’s laws. Paying for a new 3 lane motorway ? Paying for a goods station to be built for trains ? Paying to mi e manston to the middle of the country ?

      No investment with any common sense is going to invest in manston.

      Really do you know who these investors are ?

      Thanet is booming just look ar all the Lamborghini, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Porsche, jaguar, Maserati on thanet roads. ( sarcasm but true )

      We dont need noise filthy cargo hub.

    • Where’s this mythical £300,000,000?
      Being guarded by the unicorns? Stashed on the electric barges? A numbered bank account in the BVI?
      Do tell. Mr Freudmann would be keen to know, too.

  4. So it can be an airport again like its supposed to be. We will still have people having thier childish tantrums, those people could always move to an area without an airport.

    • When it was (briefly) an airport, it failed over and over again, losing £millions in the end. All because too few people flew from it. The catchment area, here at the far end of Kent, is too small.
      So why on Earth would Manston work as a freight “hub”?
      The £300M people keep on bleating about doesn’t actually exist. This was the sum in 2018 that RSP said it would need to get the airport going. They don’t actually have the money. At the planning meetings, they were pressed over and over again by the ExA as to where the money would come from, and they were very coy in replying. What RSP expect is that the bulk of the £300,000,000 would be raised by investment and bank loans, from indeterminate persons and entities.
      This is problematic. As pointed out by Louise Congdon of York Aviation, the cost of servicing bank loans and paying dividends to investors would be so expensive that landing charges would be so high that no carrier in his right mind would transfer his business to Manston.

      Given that RSP own the site, and the DfT no longer have an interest in it, why doesn’t Mr Freudmann simply start up an airport again (he’s had lots of practice!)

    • Why should we move?, no airport when I bought my house here, we all now have to consider air pollution, Sir Roger of River Oak, did not want the 3rd Heathrow airport as his grandchildren live near to it, but more than happy for my Grandchildren to be polluted, what is the difference?

      It will not be commercially successful, as so far has not been, lets turn it into a successful place, the Kent Duxford?, a new theme park, I do not profess to have the solution but I do know a cargo hub will kill this fantastic local area.

  5. Why is it that people who don’t want an airport here don’t suggest that people who do should move to live near one?

    And who ordained that the ex-airport site is “supposed to be” an airport”? God?

  6. I’ve just had a post disappear into the aether.
    It mentioned, by name, the CEO of an aspirant aviation company based not a million miles away.
    Is there some sort of censorship?

  7. Andrew

    Very good post but sadly the pro airport supporters just but their head in the sand and believe anything that RSP say.

    We can repeat ourselves until we are blue in the face as to why manston as an airport keeps going bust. It’s so obvious to most people.

    No fuel grid there for the aviation fuel will be the highest in the country to purchase.

    No infrastructure,

    A duel carriageway lead to a 2 lane motorway, most motorways are 3 or 4 lanes. A 2 lane road wont be enough to carry the extra freight and fuel tankers.

    No railway hub or freight yard.

    Runway run off area to short.

    Wrong location.

    Manston has nothing going for it.

    I find it funny how the pro manston never counter these points. These are all sound points that are made. The normal response is telling us to move lol.

    Manston was basically an RAF base once the RAF moved out, manston has gone bust after bust after bust. Mainly because of the points raised above.

    Yet the pro manston believe RSP are going to wave a magic wand and all the previous problems are going to vanish !

    The most sad about this is it has meant thanet has stagnated because of RSP false promises.

    Even and it’s a very long shot, manston did reopen the pay back on the 300 plus investment would be enormous. And over a short time span as well. The sums just dint and up.

    I appreciate the pros wont believe a word I write and wont counter the points raised !

    • A lot of people say the location is no good for an airport.

      What do people think the location would be good for?.

        • Looking at the points made by Art?, you would need to clear the site down to ground level before even starting to build the whole lot from scratch.

          Is there the demand for that?.

          • I also forgot to add on the cost of resurfacing the runway 😉

            Or moving the short duel carriageway at the end of the runway to give it the correct run off area.

            And the cost of removing the small caravan part as well !!

  8. Manston airport was important in our history, and is important today. The sooner it is up and running again the better.

    • So jack how do you answer the points I have raised ?

      Very easy saying it should open but how do you get round the points raised as the cause of it going bust over and over again

      • As long as there is a company to put its money where its mouth is it is worth a try. The country needs this facility. My hope is that River Oak may be able to save it.

        • But RSP doesn’t have any money.
          They didn’t when they tried to get TDC to CPO the site under Iris Johnson
          They didn’t when they tried again under Chris Wells.
          They didn’t when they applied for a DCO (the ExA asked them over and over again)
          It is clear that the country *doesn’t* need this facility. When the occasional plane lurched from its runway, it was losing vast amounts of money.
          Since it closed in 2014 (pre Brexit and more covid) I haven’t noticed any declines in the fortunes of the UK that can be attributed to shortage of air cargo capacity.

  9. Manston was doomed as soon as the RAF pulled out and the MOD stopped paying bills for stuff like fire cover & security and it had to pay for itself. It’s failed three times and if it opens it will fail again for the same reasons if it should reopen. It’s like banging your head against a wall and expecting a different outcome. A good use would be to put houses there that are now destined for farmland. I’m also wondering why some comments critical of RSP are disappearing ?

  10. It is a good job that this defeatist attitude was not so prevalent between 1939 – 1945 when everyone pulled together for the good of all.

    There used to be a perfectly straight road between Whitstable harbour and Canterbury- the crab and winkle! What happened to that? It could have been useful now – very useful. There are houses built over it, just enough to render it useless for freight.

    • Jack

      What has WW2 got to do with manston becoming a cargo hub ?

      I dont remember using that as a reason for manston airport being non viable.
      But feel free to answer the points I raise 😉

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