Legal challenge to Manston airport scheme denied

Manston airport site Image RSP

An appeal against the dismissal of a bid to go to judicial review to challenge the decision approving the reopening and redevelopment of the Manston airport site has been rejected.

A judgement issued today (May 21) by Lord Justice Peter Jackson, Lord Justice Lewis and Lord Justice Warby follows a hearing at the Court of Appeal in April.

A bid for a Judicial Review into the decision to give the Manston airport project the go ahead was dismissed last September but claimant, Ramsgate resident Jenny Dawes, then appealed that judgement.

Today’s judgement means the DCO remains granted, as announced by the Department for Transport in August 2022, and RSP says work can now begin to recruit staff both for the construction phase and for operational roles once the airport is ready to reopen.

Ms Dawes and supporters wanted the airport project approval to be quashed citing reasons including a lack of need for airport services at Manston.

Airport owners RiverOak Strategic Partners want 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.

Tony Freudmann of RSP

Tony Freudmann, Director of airport owners RSP, said: “We have always remained confident in our proposals and unshaken in our belief that we can create something very special at Manston which delivers both important capacity for UK air freight – and a sustainable economic boost for East Kent.

“Although the past seven years have been intensely frustrating at times, the fact that we have gone all the way to the Court of Appeal means no stone has been left unturned in the examination of our proposals.

“We can now deliver our plans knowing with certainty that we have demonstrated, beyond question, that Manston has a vital role to play in addressing the airspace capacity issues blighting London and Southeast – and that this historic and strategically important airport can reinvent itself once again to meet the nation’s needs in the global marketplace.”

RSP says detailed planning, construction, recruitment and the completion of the airspace change project will now take three years to complete – with the airport ready for operation in 2027.

‘Ensured fairness’

Jenny Dawes, the appellant, said: “We always knew it would be difficult.  We may not have succeeded in quashing the second Manston Airport DCO but, importantly, this decision has clarified the rules and ensured a modicum of fairness for future campaigners where the Secretary of State relies on new evidence that has not been consulted on when redetermining a DCO application.

“Nothing in the Court of Appeal’s decision touches on whether the Secretary of State was right to conclude that evidence based on interviews, transcripts of which were not disclosed, was sufficient to justify his decision.

“And nothing in the decision confirms that Manston Airport is viable. The economic case for Manston Airport has not improved, nor have the climate change concerns been resolved.

“I remain firmly of the view that the government’s decision to proceed with Manston Airport, in the face of all the expert evidence to the contrary and the worsening climate change crisis, is nonsensical.”

Legal challenge

In October last year, the appeal application by Ms Dawes was refused but she then lodged an application for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

In February this year, Ms Dawes was granted permission to appeal against the dismissal of her application for Judicial Review.

The Development Consent Order application was submitted by RSP in April 2018, withdrawn and then resubmitted in July 2018. At that time Stone Hill Park planned to develop housing and leisure for the site.

The Planning Inspectorate examination for the DCO began in January 2019 and ran through to July 2019. In that July RSP bought 742 acres of the 770 acre site from Stone Hill Park for £16.5 million. Stone Hill Park withdrew its masterplan application for the site.

The Planning Inspectorate Examining Authority panel recommended that development consent should not be granted.

The Secretary of State disagreed and the DCO for the airport scheme 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 Ms 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.

Following the quashing, the Secretary of State issued a Statement of Matters in June 2021 inviting further representations from interested parties and announcing that he had commissioned an independent aviation assessor, Ove Arup, to advise him on matters relating to the need for the Development and to produce a report summarising those findings.

The DCO was granted for a second time in August 2022 by then Transport Minister Karl McCartney who disagreed with the findings of the Examining Authority report and the conclusions of the independent aviation assessor.

Ms Dawes then launched a second Judicial Review application. Since the first application for judicial review some £200,000 has been raised to pay for action through around 2000 donations.

The judicial review application was initially dismissed by Mr Justice Lane in January 2023 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 2023 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.

Mr Justice Dove issued judgement dismissing the application in October.

Ms Dawes then applied for permission to appeal against the judgement but this was also denied.

The application for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal was then lodged and was granted on the ground of need.

The Court of Appeal has now denied that application for appeal.

The airport closed 10 years ago this month, in May 2014, with the loss of 144 jobs.