Ramsgate Town Council discusses Manston airport approval and anticipates legal challenge

Manston airport Photo Frank Leppard

A legal challenge against the granting of the Development Consent Order for Manston airport by government is ‘anticipated,’ says Ramsgate Town Council.

The DCO gives the go-ahead for plans to create a cargo hub at the airport site. It was granted for the second time last month. The approval for the air freight hub was initially granted in July 2020 but  quashed in February 2021 following a Judicial Review challenge by Ramsgate resident Jenny Dawes which had financial backers including Ramsgate Town Council.

A new decision then had to be issued after a re-examination of the Planning Inspectorate evidence.

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 Examining panel and by eight issue-specific hearings, two compulsory acquisition hearings and four open floor hearings held in Margate and Sandwich.

The panel 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.

Fresh approval was issued in August by Transport Minister Karl McCartney MP and the DCO will come into force from September 8.

The majority of Ramsgate Town Councillors are not in favour of the airport proposals and in 2020 members voted to contribute up to £10,000 towards the Judicial Review application.

At a meeting last night (August 31) it was not resolved to again make a financial contribution but instead to consider the option once the grounds of a new challenge are known.

Cllr Steve Albon, who chaired the meeting, said he believed the approval was given for political purposes and there was no ‘validation’ for a cargo hub.

However, on the subject of funding towards a second JR bid he said RTC needed to “consider where we spend our money” in reference to the cost of living crisis meaning residents likely needing services such as food banks.

Cllr David Green, who proposed the issuing of a statement by the council, said the Secretary of State had “got it wrong” and branded the decision a ‘slap in the face.’

Cllrs Stuart and Lynda Piper and George Rusiecki said they disagreed with the stance of RTC and that some of the wording of the proposed statement was inflammatory.

Cllr Piper said he believed the cost of a legal challenge would be “astronomic” while Lynda Piper said she did not “want to be associated” with the proposed statement.

An amended statement was approved by councillors. Both Cllr Pipers and Rusiecki voted against, Cllr Barbara Young left the meeting before the vote and Cllr Helen Crittenden abstained because she said although she ‘completely does not support the airport” she felt RTC should “take a more neutral stance” and “acknowledge this is an extremely divisive situation for our town rather than to fall on one side or other of the divide.”

Cllr Ann-Marie Nixey said just acknowledging the decision was divisive was “not strong enough,” adding: “People are up in arms and feel very strongly and I would like to represent them by making more of a public statement that we oppose this.”

The statement issued by Ramsgate Town Council says: “It is disappointing that once again the Government has decided it knows better than the independent examiners and its own advisors.

“Ramsgate Town Council stands with the residents of Ramsgate and elsewhere who fear the consequences for their town and their quality of life.  We remain unconvinced that the claimed benefits for local people are real or deliverable.

“This decision is a concern for all of us who are worried about climate change and exposes the hypocrisy of the Government on this vital issue.

“We anticipate the decision to the grant the DCO will be challenged legally, and once the grounds of the challenge are known the Council will meet to consider its options.”

Airport site owners RiverOak Strategic Partners say they aim 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.

Ramsgate Town Councillors opposed to the plans say they believe it is ‘undeliverable.’ Airport supporters say they do not believe town council funds should be used for a Judicial Review.