An application to quash the development consent order for Manston airport plans to go ahead has been denied.
The DCO was initially granted in July 2020 when the Department of Transport approved the application to create an air freight hub at the site.
It was quashed in the High Court in February 2021 following a legal challenge launched by Ramsgate resident Jenny Dawes and supporters which resulted in the Secretary of State conceding the decision approval letter issued from the Minister of State did not contain enough detail.
The DCO was granted for a second time in August 2022 by then Transport Minister Karl McCartney.
In response Ms Dawes launched a second Judicial Review application in a bid to halt the airport plans and crowdfunded £75,000 in pledges to pay for the action.
The judicial review application was initially dismissed by Mr Justice Lane in January but then allowed on partial grounds in a review by Mrs Justice Lieven in March.
At a hearing before Honourable Mr Justice Ian Dove in July the focus was on the process for two areas -whether need for the airport was correctly assessed and whether due consideration was given to what impact the scheme might have on the Government’s ability to meet its future carbon reduction targets.
Barristers representing the Claimant Jenny Dawes, the Defendant the Secretary of State for Transport and the Interested Party RiverOak Strategic Partners put their cases to the judge.
Mr Justice Dove has now issued a lengthy judgement dismissing the application. At the end of the judgement he says: “I am not persuaded that either of the claimant’s (Ms Dawes) grounds are made out in substance and therefore this application for judicial review must be dismissed.”
Ms Dawes says she plans to appeal the judgement.
RSP wants to create aviation at the site with a cargo freight hub and associated business. Construction is planned to be phased over 15 years and include 19 freight stands and four passenger stands for aircraft as well as warehousing and fuel storage.
Campaigners against the development raise issues including noise, need, climate harm and damage to Ramsgate’s tourism industry.
A statement from RiverOak Strategic Partners says: “RSP is delighted that, after two days of hearings at the High Court and several months of deliberation, Mr Justice Dove has dismissed the application to quash the Government’s approval for the Manston Airport Development Consent Order.
“This is a highly significant and positive development towards our aim of turning Manston into a state of-the-art air freight hub underway and working to support the long-term economic development of East Kent.
“We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the people, businesses, education bodies and other stakeholders across Thanet and East Kent – for whom Manston’s reopening represents a vital lifeline for their communities – for their continued and devoted support.”
On her campaign page Jenny Dawes said: “Sadly the application for judicial review was not successful
“While I am disappointed with the judge’s decision today, this is not the end of the process. Judicial review proceedings are seldom straightforward and this one particularly so, given that this is thought to be the first redetermined Development Consent Order (DCO) considered by the courts.
“Having already succeeded once in a judicial review against the Secretary of State’s first decision to approve Manston Airport, we always knew it would be more difficult to succeed a second time round.
“That is not because the economic case for Manston Airport has improved or because the climate change concerns have been resolved – quite the opposite in fact – but because the government was more careful the second time round to immunise its decision from judicial review. So far, that approach has worked.
“However, I remain firmly of the view that the government’s decision to proceed with Manston Airport, in the face of expert evidence to the contrary and in the context of the worsening climate crisis, is nonsensical, and the procedure followed by the Secretary of State was deeply flawed. The case raises significant issues relating to DCO redetermination processes, which will have an impact on how those cases are conducted in the future. I will therefore be appealing today’s ruling.”
Reaction to the judgement
North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale said: “I am naturally pleased that after an inordinate amount of delay Manston Airport can now prepare for take off. There is a vast sum of money waiting to be invested in East Kent and I would like to thank all of those, RiverOak, financial backers and the majority of the public who have kept the faith and got us to where we are today.
“I know that RiverOak intend to commence work as swiftly as practically possible, and I look forward to the day when the next chapter of Manston’s proud aviation history will commence.”
County Councillor for Ramsgate Karen Constantine said: “This decision will a blow to many. Not least of those concerned with the impact on our health – we now know how damaging to health living under aircraft flight paths is. Which is why most communities fight against new airports and runway extensions.
“Also of concern is the impact on our progress to net zero. It remains to be seen where all the financial investment is actually coming from. I think it’s high time the financial veracity of this project was proven and not simply stated.
“We must remember this decision isn’t about whether or not RSP have a sound plan or not – it’s about the decision making procedure. So we will be appealing.
“Tony Freudmann has yet to disclose details on workforce plans despite a commitment to do so. Nor I have seen any details on noise reductions for the mostly Victorian, Regency and Georgian housing stock.
“I now urge people to look very closely at the plans, to think about how freight flights might impact our tourist economy and our health. The benefits of this proposal do not outweigh the detrimental impact.”
Leader of Thanet District Council, Cllr Rick Everitt said: “We note the court’s decision today regarding the judicial review. Given the history of this matter, it is not immediately clear to us if this is the end of the DCO process.
“RiverOak Strategic Partners will be well aware that there are other legal processes to complete before the airport is able to operate according to their proposals, including a number of consents required from the district council as the local planning authority.
“Although there are different and strongly held views about Manston within the community, the council’s role is to engage constructively on these matters, as it would with any other planning applicant. If these matters now come forward then that is what we will do.”
Manston Airport is safeguarded for airport-related uses in Thanet’s current Local Plan – a blueprint for development and infrastructure in the district. The council will address the DCO decision through the update of the Local Plan.
TDC Conservative Group statement: “We are delighted that the Government’s approval of the DCO for Manston has been upheld today in the High Court. This is a very happy day for all councillors and campaigners who have wished to see the airport reopen.
“Manston Airport is vital to the economic prosperity of Thanet and the wider East Kent area. The employment and training opportunities that it will create for local people is very exciting. The Conservatives have always supported the reopening of Manston Airport.
“Now is the time for all councillors, including the Labour administration at TDC to get behind what will be a huge economic driver for our district. I look forward to seeing planes flying from there again as soon as possible.”
Save Manston Airport association: “With this latest Judgement by Mr Justice Dove, Manston Airport will re-open as a highly green airport – it will be re-built from the ground up, to use green principles, and Green Electric and Hydrogen power, with half a Billion pounds of Infrastructure investment.
“This decision will create many much-needed jobs for the Thanet and east Kent area, and will enable rejuvenation of the local economy. As well as jobs, SMAa and RSP have worked closely with local schools, colleges and universities to promote and advertise STEM and aviation-related studies, in the form of apprenticeships, the construction of an onsite-aviation college and collaboration with local educational establishments to create opportunity and experience.
“We would like to thank our many thousands of members and all local people that took part in the examination for the DCO, and would like to pay a very special thanks to RSP, who have been in the fight with us from the very beginning, now 10 years.
“A special thanks goes out to our excellent MP Sir Roger Gale, for his tireless and relentless hard work during the campaign.”
Jane Hetherington, Chair of the Ramsgate branch of the Labour Party, said: “We are extremely disappointed at the recent decision, which will be contested by the appellant, Jenny Dawes. We have consistently supported the principle that the planning decision should be based on factual evidence. The Secretary of State (SOS) has clearly been selective in the evidence he has given weight to.
“We support the residents of Ramsgate in their desire to be protected from the environmental consequences of a cargo hub and the negative impact this will have on local jobs and businesses.
“We have serious concerns about the impact this ruling will have on the physical and mental health of residents, in an area which already experiences grave health inequalities. Ultimately, we feel that the inhabitants of Ramsgate, in particular our children, deserve a better future than that offered by this development.”
October 2013: Infratil announce the sale of Manston airport to Stagecoach tycoon Ann Gloag for a nominal £1, plus accrued debts.
November 2013: Ann Gloag’s Manston Skyport takes over the airport
March 2014: Ann Gloag announces plans to close the airport
April 9, 2014: The last Dutch airline KLM flight leaves Manston
April 2014: Newmarket Holidays said its Verona and Naples seasonal charter flights would move to the expanding Lydd Airport
May 15, 2014: The airport closes with the loss of 144 jobs. An offer of the £7million asking price for the site by US firm RiverOak Corporation is refused. The payment was offered in a deal where Ann Gloag was asked to leave Skyport’s £2million in the bank account making a net £5million offer.
June 2014: A petition with about 7,700 signatures, to support a compulsory purchase order to preserve Manston airport for aviation purposes, was presented to Thanet District Council
July 2014: Flying school TG Aviation lose a High Court battle to use the runway despite still having 50 years to run on their lease. The company is forced to move to Lydd
July 2014: Thanet District Council (TDC) agrees to investigate raising a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) on Manston airport.
July 2014: A petition with 26,524 signatures protesting against the closure of Manston is handed to 10 Downing Street by MPs Sir Roger Gale and Laura Sandys and campaigners
July 2014: US company RiverOak writes to Thanet council offering to buy and run the airport and say they will fully cover all costs, including the CPO.
July 2014: There is a fire sale of Manston assets
August 2014: TDC issue a formal notice and the process of finding an indemnity partner for the Manston CPO begins
September 2014: The site has new owners – Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner of Discovery Park. A second sale is held.
December 2014: The Labour controlled council decide not to proceed with a CPO stating there was not a suitable indemnity partner
February and March 2015: Transport Select Committee looks at the Manston airport issue as part of its examination of smaller UK airports. Pauline Bradley, Director, Manston Skyport Limited and Alastair Welch, Interim Director, Kent Airport Limited, are grilled about the ownership of the Manston airport site but the question is never fully answered.
June 2015: An Independent review by PwC, on behalf of the Department for Transport, into the process on decisions about the future of Manston Airport is completed. The report is critical of Thanet council’s approach to the CPO indemnity process.
June 2015: Planning application received by TDC for change of use of Building 870 followed by applications for change of use of four hangars on the site to non-aviation use.
The same month a presentation is given and the name Stone Hill Park is revealed for the site by Mr Cartner and Mr Musgrave.
July 2015: It was announced that the site may be used to house overflow lorries from Operation Stack. This did not take place
October 2015: The planning application for change of use of airport buildings is refused.
The same month TDC Cabinet agree to take no further CPO action on Manston saying RiverOak do not meet the indemnity requirements.
November 2015: Thanet council announces a further soft marketing exercise for Manston airport
December 2015: It was announced that RiverOak would undertake a Development Consent Order (DCO) process to acquire permission from central government to reopen the airport
January 2016: Lothian Shelf (718) appeal the decision of the Planning Committee over Building 870 and the non-determination of the other three applications.
February 2016: Thanet District Council announced a total of five expressions of interest had been received, with three being carried forward to the next stage of the CPO process
June 2016: SHP submit a masterplan planning application to Thanet District Council, seeking permission for 2,500 homes, commercial sectors and public parkland, under the name Stone Hill Park.
October 2016: It is reported SHP received payments totalling £3.539 million from the Department for Transport to keep Manston airport on standby as a lorry park
October 2016: AviaSolutions publishes its report, commissioned by Thanet council at a cost of £50,000, into the viability of Manston’s future. The conclusion of the report was ‘airport operations at Manston are very unlikely to be financially viable in the longer term and almost certainly not possible in the period to 2031’.
Thanet council say the report means the authority does not have sufficient evidence to continue to designate the site ‘for aviation use only’ within its Local Plan.
MP Sir Roger Gale says he will quit politics if Manston does not reopen as an airport.
The same month Lib Dem Russ Timpson suggests Manston could be used for aircraft salvage or the development of a space port.
June 2016: A report to Thanet council Cabinet members on the latest round of soft market testing concludes: “Cabinet note the results of the soft market testing assessment and take no further action in respect of the interested parties.”
November 2016: Mr Cartner and Mr Musgrave sell Discovery Park to an investment company to concentrate on their plans as majority shareholders, with partner Ann Gloag, for Stone Hill Park.
December 2016: UK registered RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd buys the financial, strategic and operational responsibility for the redevelopment of Manston and seeing through the DCO from the US RiverOak corporation. The US firm is no longer involved with the Manston project.
January 2017: Plans to axe the aviation-use only designation at Manston airport go out to public consultation as part of the draft Local Plan.
February 2017: Disruptive Capital, with financier Edi Truell as chairman, say they will commission a report on their plans for aviation use at Manston airport
March 2017: A public inquiry hearing into the refusal of change of use applications for four buildings on the airport site is held.
The hearing also leads to questions about RSP’s funding vehicle M.I.O Investments, which is registered in Belize.
The same month SHP unveils heritage plans for the Manston site
April 2017: RSP threatens legal action over an email which RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd (RSP) say Cllr Wells sent to 35 members of the authority and which, they say, contained defamatory allegations against RSP and M.I.O Investments.
The same month RSP publishes three parts of a four part report outlining its future proposals and criticising a previous airport viability study commissioned by Thanet council.
The study on behalf of Riveroak Strategic Partners forms part of the Development Consent Order process.
May 2017: An unnamed US logistics firm announces its interest in taking ownership of Manston and plans to put £100m into the site. Represented by Dale Crawford of DTD Consult the firm says the aim is to relocate 12 aircraft currently in Europe to the Manston site and plan to gain a compulsory purchase order for the 750-acre plot.
SHP say they have no interest in selling the site.
May 2017: Following meetings with Thanet council Dale Crawford says the American firm is looking at options for a direct purchase. A deal does not come to fruition.
July 2017: The decision of a Public Inquiry over Lothian Shelf ‘s (718) appeal to allow the re-designation of buildings on Manston Airport for non-aviation use is released.
Government Inspector Matthew Nunn dismisses all four appeals. He said to grant the appeals “would be likely to compromise any future aviation use of the airport.” The outcome meant TDC Policy EC4 remained, reserving aviation only use for the Manston airport site.
November 2017: The government announces the deal to extend the arrangement to use the Manston site for Operation Stack if needed.
January 2018: Thanet’s Draft Local Plan is voted down by councillors who object to the aviation only clause for the site being removed. The vote leads to a split in the Thanet UKIP group and the eventual demise of the party being in control of TDC. It also results in government intervention aimed at getting a plan in place.
April 2018: RSP lodges the DCO with the Planning Inspectorate
May 2018: SHP submits enhanced plans to Thanet council for development at the site
May 2018: The same day it is announced that RSP has ‘temporarily’ withdrawn the DCO
May 2018: The Planning Inspectorate publishes a response to questions from Ramsgate Town Councillor Susan Kennedy over the withdrawn submission. PINS outline their ‘concerns’ with the current application.
June 2018: Stone Hill Park (SHP) announces it is in talks with Homes England to support the redevelopment of the airport site at Manston through the £3billion Home Building Fund.
July 2018: Thanet council Cabinet members voted to move forward with a new option on the Thanet Draft Local Plan for 2,500 homes allocated to the villages, Margate and Westwood instead of the Manston airport site – but also striking out both the policies (SP05 and EC4) in place to protect aviation.
July 2018: Kent County Council urges the Government to make use of lorry parking facilities at the Manston airport site as part of preparations for Brexit.
Then-leader of KCC Paul Carter said contingency plans needed to be put in place to minimise disruption on strategic routes through the county and that an alternative to Operation Stack had to be found before new border and customs arrangements are introduced for the UK withdrawal from the European Union.
July 2018: RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) re-submits its application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) for the Manston airport site.
The DCO seeks development consent and compulsory acquisition powers over the land. A DCO is the means of obtaining permission for developments categorised as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP). This includes energy, transport, water and waste projects.
August 2018: The Development Consent Order application is accepted for the pre-examination stage by the Planning Inspectorate.
September 2018: The decision on Stone Hill Park’s application to build houses, business and leisure facilities on the Manston airport site should have been considered by Thanet council’s planning committee by August 15 but ‘the complexity’ of the situation leads to an agreed extension of December 31.
December 2018: PINs publishes the timetable for hearings and deadlines for information to be submitted during the examination of the DCO application.
January 2019: The first ‘issue specific’ hearing into the Development Consent Order application by firm RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) begins at Margate Winter Gardens.
January 2019: A special development order designating the Manston airport site for use as a lorry park to cope with possible post-Brexit jams at the Port of Dover comes into effect.
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.
January 2019: A cover letter from RSP to the Planning Inspectorate says it is restructuring in response to concerns about its funding vehicle M.I.O Investments Limited, which holds 90% of shares in the company but is registered in Belize. The remaining 10% of its shares are held by RiverOak Manston Ltd
M.I.O Investments Limited ultimate beneficial owners are resident in Switzerland and the UK. It is managed and administered by Helix Fiduciary AG, a Swiss registered and regulated fiduciary company.
March 2019: An unexploded wartime bomb uncovered on the Manston airport site on March 14) is detonated by an Army bomb squad.
A Royal Logistic Corps Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team was called in yesterday morning to help Kent Police deal with the device.
March 2019: Works well underway at the Manston airport site in preparation to stack up to 6,000 lorries for the anticipated UK exit from the European Union.
May 2019: The Manston airport site is stood down from immediate readiness as a ‘No Deal Brexit’ lorry park.
May 2019: Ramsgate Town Council sponsors a public meeting to discuss the proposed Development Consent Order to reopen and develop the former airfield at Manston, by RiverOak Strategic Partners.
January-July 2019: The PINs Examination hearings for the DCO take place, led by Kelvin McDonald, and cover a number of contentious issues surrounding the application, including night flights, noise and noise compensation, land values, funding and funders and the question of whether the project is needed.
Other areas raised are job creation, infrastructure investment and potential economic boost for Thanet and east kent.
Representations are made by a wide variety of organisations, including Thanet council and Historic England, campaign groups including Save Manston Airport association, Supporters of Manston Airport, No Night Flights and Nethercourt Action Group, numerous individuals and both Manston museums.
Further questions are raised about business plan forecasts, road networks and the proposed use of the Northern Grass.
The question of land contamination was also been raised with the likely presence of firefighting foam residual chemical PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid ) in the land and water.
July 2019: Contracts exchanged agreeing the sale of the Manston airport site to RiverOak Strategic Partners subsidiary RiverOak MSE Ltd, by sellers Stone Hill Park. RiverOak Strategic Partners reportedly paid £16.5 million. SHP owned 742 acres of the site, which totals around 770 acres, with the remaining plots belonging to other interested parties.
Stone Hill Park withdraws enhanced planning proposals for homes, business and leisure on the Manston airport site.
October 2019: A report by the Planning Inspectorate to submit a recommendation over the development consent order for the Manston airport site is delayed because a final fee is yet to be processed. A week later the recommendation report is sent to the Secretary of State
January 2020: The decision by the Secretary of State over the development consent order to create a cargo hub at the Manston airport site is pushed back by four months.
The decision had been due on January 18 but a written statement to Parliament made by Nusrat Ghani, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, says the latest delay means the outcome will be announced on May 18.
January 2020: Submission of yet another round of comments and further information is requested by the Secretary of State for Transport before a decision over the development consent order will be made.
February 2020: Controversial plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport are deemed unlawful because climate commitments were not taken into account.
The Court of Appeal judgement follows a case launched by environmental campaigners. Judges said for the third runway to go ahead it would have to fit with UK climate policy.
February 2020: Submissions made to PINs in January are published.
May 2020: The May 18 deadline comes and goes with no decision announcement. On May 20 it is revealed that the decision has been pushed back again until July 10, 2020.
December 2020: Manston airport site is used as a Brexit lorry park
February 2021: The DCO is quashed and the redetermination process begins
April 2021: An air space change application fails 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,
June 2021: The contract to use part of the Manston site as a lorry park comes to an end
August 2021: An air space change application being undertaken by Manston airport site owners RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) fails to gain approval for the ‘gateway assessment’ stage.
October 2021: An independent assessor’s report commissioned by the Secretary of State concludes the case of need for a freight hub at the Manston airport site is not proven.
The draft report, drawn up by Ove Arup & Partners Ltd, was commissioned as part of the process of re-determination after approval for the airport project was given but then quashed by a High Court order.
August 2022: Transport minister Karl McCartney MP grants the DCO once more.
September 2022: Ms Dawes launches bid for a second Judicial Review
January 2023: The JR application is dismissed
March 2023: A JR review is allowed on partial grounds in a review by Mrs Justice Lieven
July 2023: At a hearing before Honourable Mr Justice Ian Dove the focus was on the process for two areas -whether need for the airport was correctly assessed and whether due consideration was given to what impact the scheme might have on the Government’s ability to meet its future carbon reduction targets.
September 2023: Mr Justice Dove dismisses the JR application on all counts.