Members of Thanet council are to receive a presentation by Manston airport site owners RiverOak Strategic Partners tonight (July 6) – but the meeting has fuelled complaints that a full range of views will not be represented.
The members briefing is ahead of a July 9 deadline for representations to be submitted ahead of the Secretary of State’s re-determination of the application by RSP for an order granting Development Consent for the reopening and development of the airport site.
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 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.
The Secretary of State then invited further representations looking at areas including need for the development, climate change, and any other matters arising since 9 July 2019 which Interested Parties consider are material ahead of a fresh decision being made.
RSP will attend tonight’s briefing to update councillors on the Conservative-led authority about the project.
An RSP spokesperson said: “This is a routine presentation to councillors and is a follow-up to an earlier presentation to members made on November 3 last year at the invitation of the then Leader Rick Everitt. No reference will be made to the July 9 deadline just as no reference was made to the then pending judicial review at the last presentation.”
However, the briefing has provoked anger from some residents and groups who object to the RSP DCO application on a range of grounds such as potential damage to the tourism industry due to aircraft noise and emissions to concerns over night flights and health impacts.
Letters of complaint have been sent to Thanet council CEO Madeline Homer including one from town councillor David Green who says he is “outraged” that the briefing will take place prior to the Secretary of State’s July 9 deadline.
Cllr Green highlighted his concern that RSP alone would be making the presentation, adding: “Not, I note, a briefing by an independent aviation or planning expert, not even by TDC’s own professional planning officers.”
He added: “Whatever happens to the DCO application, TDC will be involved as the Local Planning Authority in the monitoring of the site’s development. To show such complete bias in approach at this stage compromises TDC for the future.”
Cllr Green says he will take the matter further and requests that Thanet council publishes its response to the DCO redetermination before July 9.
Thanet Green Party’s vice chair Deb Shotton has also written to TDC and Local Government minister Robert Jenrick to express her concern over the briefing saying it will be “unrecorded, unminuted and unconstitutional.”
Resident Laura Marks submitted a complaint, saying: “As a statutory consultee, TDC has a duty to respond to the latest stage of examination, further to the original DCO being quashed upon no defence offered by the Dept of Transport for their overruling of the planning inspectors’ thorough assessment which concluded, as we all know, with a resounding vote of no confidence.
“If you are hearing from RSP, the applicant, why are you not hearing from the objectors or the planning officers or indeed the latest slew of aviation experts commissioned by various parties?”
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd will attend an informal members briefing this evening (Tuesday 6 July) to provide an update to councillors. Councillors were also briefed by RiverOak in November 2020.
“Council members are invited to attend regular briefings on a range of topics. The meetings are informal in nature and decisions are not made within this setting. Thanet District Council is not the decision making authority regarding the airport. Decisions on this matter will be made by the Secretary of State for Transport.
“The council has a formal policy position that is set out in the local plan, agreed by full council, which allows for the outcome of the Development Consent Order (DCO). “The council will be responding to the Secretary of State’s consultation regarding the Manston Airport DCO and this response will be published on the council’s website.”
In a separate meeting at the end of last month Ramsgate Town Council voted to spend funds commissioning an independent report to inform the authority’s response to the call for submissions from the Secretary of State.
It was agreed that “Ramsgate Town Council (RTC) recognises the need for expert advice before responding. The short timescales imposed by the SoS has meant a swift negotiation with Peter Forbes of Stratford’s, independent experts previously used by Thanet District Council.
“They will agree to produce a draft for consideration by (Ramsgate Town) Council before the deadline of July 9. Their charges are £2,000 for the draft. Should RTC require advice in responding to the SoS expert and others, the charge will be an extra £4,000.”
This, too, has prompted complaints from residents in favour of the airport development over the use of council funds in relation to some councillors’ interests in objection pressure groups.
RTC is due to consider the report and response at a meeting tomorrow (July 7).
Peter Forbes, Director of Alan Stratford and Associates last published a personal assessment of the airport plans in July 2020 where he drew the conclusion that a cargo hub was not viable at Manston.
RSP says it will reopen the airport in a £300m project to create an air freight hub with passenger services and business aviation.
Call for submissions
Responses to the Secretary of State’s call for submissions should be sent by email to email@example.com, marked “For the attention of the Manston Airport Case Team” by July 9.
Representations and the new reports will be available to see after the deadline at https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/projects/south-east/manston-airport/