Reclamet application for change of use of Manston airport hangar questions enforcement threat and ‘pre-determination’

Reclamet site at Manston airport (Tony Michael Consulting)

A retrospective application to change the use of Hangar 2 at Manston airport from handling of cargo/storage/ processing of vehicles and HGV/lorries to use for car distribution, repairs and sales has been lodged with Thanet council after a threat of enforcement action.

Reclamet car breakers and recycling company, which has its main base in Birchington and has been incorporated since 1991, has used the hangar for the past year for processing car spare parts, storage and distribution by sale to both UK and European clients. An element of painting also takes place to renovate car parts.

However, in February this year Thanet council contacted the site owner to say the hangar was being used “in breach of planning control” for “business use”.

TDC said: “As you will be aware, planning permission was not sought or secured to use the land for the open storage of cars by your company and therefore the use is unauthorised and open to enforcement action. “

The correspondence also stated: “Should a retrospective application be submitted for the unauthorised use of airport land by Reclamet, it would not be looked upon favourably and therefore we will not be requesting the submission of a planning application.”

Thanet council says Reclamet’s use for car storage and distribution is in breach of Thanet Local Plan policy SP07 which states the site is safeguarded for airport related uses only.

In response Reclamet has lodged the application and documents submitted on the company’s behalf by Tony Michael Consulting question the validity of the breach and also raises the issue of pre-determination.

(Image Tony Michael Consulting)

The consultant says the current/proposed use is identical to the historical use of the site – storage and distribution, adding: “A history of such use, and by vehicles of all types, particularly heavy vehicles, their inspection, storage and processing, is shown and in the public record.”

He adds: “Policy SP07 is the only contention of (Thanet council) – this is shown to be complied with, by both direct planning precedent in the approval of F/TH/22/1543 in June 2023 (an application for temporary change of use of land for a period of five years for self storage facility), and air-freight links that are presently being negotiated (for car part customers).

“Policy SP07 lies on extremely uncertain ground, based on a DCO that has been overturned once, was in direct opposition to the Planning Inspectorate’s position, and has just completed a further Judicial Review with its decision pending. As such, it may no longer apply within the next few days.”

In the planning application document, it highlights the employment of 74 people associated with Reclamet’s car storage and distribution operation.

It also says the “redundant and disused building has had an inconsistent history of occupancy.”

Previous uses are listed as:

2002/2003 – Operated by Manston Airport with a cargo imports and exports shed with security screening and Border Inspection Post, DEFRA and Environmental Health checks of meat and fish imported from outside the EU, and cold storage.

April 2012 – Operated by Manston Airport. Border Inspection Post DEFRA and Environmental Health checks of perishables imported from outside the EU, and cold storage.

May 2014 – February 2019 – Owned by Stonehill Park Ltd – vacant.

February 2019 – June 2021 – UK Government, Department for Transport for EU Exit Inland Border Facility and DVSA HGV vehicle check point under Special Development Order Town & Country Planning Act 2019 No. 86.

September 2021 – One day event, Kent County Council Highways, Vision Zero road safety event.

January 2022 – June 2022 – Film set location for Sam Mendez film “Empire of Light”.

October 2022 – April 2023 – Manston History Museum indoor boot fair every first Saturday of each month.

December 2022 – Two day event at Manston History Museum and TrainFor Grp. Christmas event and market.

May 2023 – Reclamet Holdings Ltd

(Image Tony Michael Consulting)

The document adds: “No formal and consistent use since 2014 (and there has been)  a history of use involving vehicles – cars, heavy lorries (vehicle check point by DfT for HGVs, Operation Stack, import and export goods check.

“Therefore vehicles of all kinds, but mainly commercial and large, have used, visited, been stored, inspected  at this site, throughout its history The character of the site is established therefore for this use.

“The present use has been in place since May 2023. There is no evidence of harm to the public domain, countryside or any other domain, as evidenced by no enforcement complaints or actions.”

‘Negative determination’

The consultant also claims the application has been pre-determined, saying: “Aside from any other matters, this position taken by (Thanet council) made judgement on the planning grounds of the matter in the few minutes it took to write the email – without the 8-12 weeks such applications normally take to consider all relevant information, reports, evidence, drawings, planning history and planning precedent, not to mention statutory consultees’ representations or professional reports.

“It also violated the applicant’s rights to due and fair process. As such, the matter is now prejudiced as the Local Panning Authority has concluded its position and there is a bias towards a negative determination. If all planning matters can be so quickly determined, why bother with making planning applications?”

Thanet council says the use of the site is Suis Generis ( unique and of its own type or class ) The applicant says the  use of the site is for storage of cars, reducing these to car parts, sorting and storing these parts and subsequently selling them and says this is within “storage and distribution use class.”

The consultant says the granting of an application for Capital Containers for a temporary self storage use at the airport site -which is owned by RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP)- in June last year was for “an identical site and location and similar use – with that use being acknowledged as non-airport related.”

A decision on the Reclamet planning application has not yet been made. The documents can be viewed on Thanet council’s planning portal, reference F/TH/24/0506.

Policy SP07

Aviation use only for the Manston airport site was included in Thanet’s Local Plan when it was adopted in 2018.

The Plan -which is a 20 year blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure on the isle – was initially voted down in January of that year by Conservative and ‘rebel’ UKIP councillors.

The vote, which led to the collapse of the UKIP administration, was prompted by a change of status for Manston from aviation-only to a mixed-use designation to include 2,500 homes. An amendment to defer for two years the mixed-use designation pending the resolution of the DCO process was not sufficient to persuade the majority of councillors.

The failure to vote through the plan led to the government stepping in to speed up the process. In the approved plan the 2,500 property allocation went to the villages, Margate and Westwood.

Judicial Review application

The  airport site currently awaits the outcome of a judicial review  application.  In February, the Rt Hon Lord Justice Warby granted permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal against the dismissal of a judicial review application challenging the decision of the Secretary of State to make the second development consent order (DCO) for the re-opening of Manston Airport.

In his Order, Lord Justice Warby reasoned that certain aspects of the High Court decision warranted appellate scrutiny and that the remaining arguments relating to “need’ were properly arguable. A decision from that hearing is yet to be released.

Drift track

Enforcement action has also been threatened against a drift track operator at the airport site who has not received the relevant planning permissions.

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “We are aware that there is a drift track in operation in Manston. Currently it does not have planning permission.

“A number of complaints have been received from members of the public regarding noise levels. These are currently under investigation. Our Environmental Health team encourages anyone affected by the noise from the site to submit a complaint.

“Our Planning Enforcement team has contacted the site owners and business operators, and a planning application, for the change of use to a motorsport facility, has been submitted.”

The application for the track has not yet been published on the council’s planning portal.

37 Comments

  1. “A number of complaints have been received from members of the public regarding noise levels” from the drift track! God help them if it ever opens as an airport.

    • This is a joke right, complaining about cars drifting when the plan is for the largest, oldest, most polluting aircraft are to land at the multiple times failed airfield. At least until it goes belly up again.

  2. TDC RECENTLY GRANTED THE CONTAINER STORAGE COMPANY PLANNING PERMISSION SO WHY WOULDNT THEY GRANT RECLAMET PLANNING WHEN THEY RECYCLE OVER 100,000 PARTS PER ANNUM AND EMPLOY ALMOST PEOPLE, THE AREA NEEDS MORE EMPLOYMENT AND WE NEED TO RECYCLE MORE

  3. Why does an “ industrial unit “ have to keep asking permission to do things? The clue should be in the name. If this useless government wants to do anything useful while it’s still in office they should ban unnecessary stupid planning laws that offers employment.

    • Those of us with memories longer than a gnat will recall that it was Riveroak who objected to Stone Hill Park’s attempt to obtain a change of use. Apparently RSP had the line that everything at Manston should be ‘aviation only’.

  4. Looks like another way labour are trying to stop manston being profitable and making out it should be houses when they are buying unsellable homes already. Labour are just Tories in sheep’s clothes untrustworthy and useless

    • It was UKIP and Tory administrations that passed the Locsl Plan, including policy SP07, which reserves Manston for aviation only use.
      Recycling car and lorry parts is, by no stretch of the imagination, aviation related.
      The applicant makes the point that the DCO might, in a few weeks’ time, be overturned. If that happens, then TDC can reconsider SP07. When and if that clause is taken out, the applicant can try again.

    • Ah I have it now!Anyone wearing an M&S jumper or wool suit in the Labour party is in fact a closet Tory.I never knew that.Thank you for illuminating the situation for us all.
      What about those wearing polyester are they entryists for the fossil fuel lobby?
      If I were Reclamet or any here thinking that Planning law is straight forward I would think again.
      The JR will be decided soon, and who knows if Julian Assange can be given a get out of jail free card from the Court of Appeal, the JR might finally sink RSP.

    • Oh heaven’s above. It doesn’t matter which party is in ‘control’ locally, the legislation remains the same. That’s why UKIP, when they ‘promised’ ‘no more houses’ in 2015 quickly found out they had to up the number of housing they had to find land for housing development. As demanded of them by the Tory government.

      In the meantime Reclament and RSP just need to justify using an airport facility for scrap car dealing.

  5. Local plans will be overturned under another government, they are deeply flawed. They do not allow for adaptation, this alone makes them unmanageable and not fit for purpose.

  6. Lots of ill informed comments on this thread.
    RSP, who own the site, can not move forward with their plans at present, until the Court of Appeal release their Ruling.
    The Development has been in Limbo , since the DCO was granted, due to the legal objections from Ms Dawes and her few supporters…
    The leases to those businesses currently onsite, are on a temporary use basis. The lessees were advised to seek Planning Permission from TDC..That surely is not the Responsibility of RSP to oversee ?
    As mentioned on the IOTN article, the site has been used for various purposes over the past few years, all of them on a temporary basis…Did anyone object when the Covid Testing was on the site, or the use of the Hanger for the urgent relief supplies to Ukraine ?
    The DfT , Border Force et al used a large part of the site for Op Brock, when at one stage there was over 4000 trucks on the Runway, again, only temporary usage.
    There are aircraft expected to be arriving for a “Fly In” weekend imminently…Is that a problem?
    So many are harping on about housing on the site…None are planned.
    Take a breath, stop stressing over trivia. As soon as the Legal Processes are completed, then RSP can get on with their tasks, including, for the objectionable Kenny Wraight, the CAA Application. It’s not been neglected nor forgotten, it’s a case of priorities.
    Much is to be done before the CAA Licence is required, so all of that is prepared for..
    As for TDC, well, as stated, they may have slipped up on the predetermination of this Reclamet situation.
    But that is something that the lawyers and TDC Officers can argue…

    • Let’s see if some of these non aviation business stay on site if the judicial review finds in RSPs favour, after all as per local plan that people are fond of quoting, they are non aviation. My guess is RSP will need every business and hold boot fairs every weekend all year round just to keep there losses below 5 million a year.

  7. Just as soon as SHP sold the site to RSP, there was nothing in principle to stop RSP from flying aircraft. All they needed was a CAA licence and planning permission from a very supportive LA (the then leader, Ashe Ashbe, used to attend SMAa BBQs)
    But, since acquiring the land in 2019, RSP has done exactly nothing to move the airport forward.

    How do you know how many supporters Ms Dawes has? At least 2000 donations were made. How many turn up to SMAa BBQs, with or without senior local politicians?

    And the number of supporters is irrelevant. The JR will stand or fail on its merits, not its popularity.
    And I notice that in a recent newspaper piece, TF now says IF major airlines were to approach him, THEN they would be welcome. Not quite the same as airlines are queuing up to start using Manston, is it?

    • Or MPs interfere with the judicial review, I question the integrity of any of this, as it should never be an airfield again, history and facts show this along with the overwhelming lack of any interest from any credible operators.

      • I don’t think MPs can interfere with the JR.
        Look what happened when the then PM Boris Johnson tried and failed to prorogue Parliament?
        What is more likely to happen is that the SoS (should the JR prevail) will simply tweak the terms of the DCO and reissue it.
        But no amount of tweaking will take away the fact that Manston, as a commercial airport, is a dead duck.

    • I have donated several thousands of pounds to the Judicial Review, as have many thousands of people who live largely in the CT11 postal area, who will mostly be affected should by some miracle Manston re-open!

      • I’ve donated several thousands of pounds to the airline industry. Incidentally, when flying out from Heathrow to Budapest, I flew over Thanet (I recognised all the bays in Minnis/Birchington/Westgate/Margate). If only it did a quick stop to pick up/drop off passengers!

  8. I just wish Reclamet drivers would learn to drive properly ,along the country lanes in that area,Speeding at high speeds ,just last week i was forced into the hedging by their driver didn’t stop to check ,just drove off, Lucky for me I was a a slow speed so no damage

  9. Absolutely agree, it’s a disgrace it’s come this far. It should be a dead subject, like the airfield at the multiple times failed airfield.

  10. Of course TDC could just grant permission allowing the use until such time as there is real work starting for aviation activities to return to Manston.

    • Peter (AKA Ms Pink) I have urged you to get your HRT sorted before now, please do so, or contact Sara Rodriguez the Menopause Practioner, for all our sakes!

    • Peter (AKA Ms Pink) I have previously urged you to get your HRT sorted before now, please do so, or contact Sara Rodriguez the Menopause Practioner, for all our sakes!

  11. Could be another reason Reclamet want to operate from manston handy place for their aircraft to operate from !

  12. Scrap business [these days rebranded as ‘recycling”] is best done away from densely populated areas so this seems a reasonable use. This will never be a commercial airport again and will down alongside Croydon and Hendon that gave been part of history but now have the Graham Park and New Addington estates as their legacy. Waste no more time or money on this chimera.

  13. Hopefully Reclamet stay in manston, they could go into aircraft end of life work, yes scrapping aircraft for profit.

  14. Scrapping aircraft for profit will be the only profitable thing happening on that site,cits of zero strategic or national importance, not even local significance.

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