Council pledge on Manston airport site in bid to get green light for Local Plan

Manston airport, photo taken by John Horton in 2014 just before the closure

An email has reportedly been sent to all Thanet councillors pledging an amendment to the status of the Manston airport site in order to get the Local Plan voted through on Thursday (January 18).

The message, reportedly from chief executive Madeline Homer, says the amendment would mean site proposals for mixed use development would be deferred for two years.

Thanet’s Draft Local Plan – a blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure up until 2031 – will be voted on by Full Council on Thursday (January 18)

The plan sets out how much development is needed to support the future population and economy. Transport, employment and infrastructure -such as roads, schools and GP surgeries – are also examined in the plan.

Consultation was carried out last year on revisions to the plan, including axing the aviation-use only designation at Manston airport which was shut down in 2014.

The Manston issue

But the change of status for Manston has become a sticking point, with the possibility that it may cause the plan to be voted down.

The aviation-use only clause was part of the isle’s last valid local plan which was adopted in 2006.

But Thanet council say the authority commissioned AviaSolutions report, published in 2016, concluded that “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.”

They say there is no evidence to support retaining the aviation-only designation and have earmarked the land as a site for 2,500 homes.

A mixed use plan has been submitted to Thanet council by Stone Hill Park, which owns the Manston site. The plan is for up to 4,000 new homes over 20 years; a new hi-tech manufacturing business park; a new country park and a state-of-the-art sports and leisure village.

But RiverOak Strategic Partners, which aims to reopen the airport site in a £300m project to create an air freight hub with passenger services and business aviation, and airport campaigners have criticised the Avia report for  having “basic factual errors and questionable methodology.”

They require the aviation only designation to stand. RSP is currently carrying out consultation and plans to lodge a Development Consent Order with the government which would allow a CPO of the land.

Council divided

The issue has divided councillors who are due to vote on the Local Plan with many, including those in the UKIP administration, said to be considering rejecting it because of the axing of the aviation only status for the airport site.

In response the email from the chief executive is reported to tell councillors there would be “a number of serious consequences for the council and the community” if the plan is voted down, including the risk of Central Government stepping in and taking over the process, meaning a greater number of homes being built on the isle.

The message says a decision to reject the Local Plan without proper grounds also runs the risk of Judicial Review on the basis of irrationality, bias or predetermination.

Councillors have been told that legal advice on how this could be avoided has been sought.

Amendment

The email from Madeline Homer says: “The advice is, it could be achieved by deferring the mixed-use designation pending the resolution of the DCO process. The deferral would be for two years, the rationale for this is that the Inspector needs to balance the interest of all parties in respect of the site and the Inspector must be sure the provisions within the local plan do not prejudice delivery of housing as it relates to the required 5 year housing supply.

“This deferral would also allow any other interested parties to pursue the operational use of the airport through agreement with landowners or through becoming an indemnity partner as part of CPO process with the council.”

The revised proposal would read; ‘That subject to the inclusion of the following in relation to the Manston Airport site: The site proposals are deferred for a period of two years. In the event that a DCO or CPO supporting aviation use is accepted within that two years (or the landowner operates a commercial airport at the site within that time) the allocation specified in this policy will not take effect. The council agree that, after the Publication period, the draft Local Plan be submitted to the planning Inspectorate for Examination.’

Housing numbers

The local plan is a blueprint for new housing, business and infrastructure on the isle

The plan’s housing target is 17,140 new isle homes by 2031.

Some 1,555 homes have already been constructed; another 3,017 have been given planning permission; 2,700 are accounted for through windfall housing –sites that have historically had planning approval and may be put forward again – and 540  are already empty homes.

This leaves 9,300 properties to be accommodated.

Revised sites would provide 3,450 of these.

The overall figure for the isle could rise to more than 20,200 homes following a threat of government intervention issued in November by Secretary of State Sajid Javid, from the Department for Communities and Local Government. He said the failure of Thanet and 14 other authorities to meet deadlines to put a local plan in place meant the government may serve notice of its intention to intervene.

This would result in the higher housing target due to government proposals to standardise the way local authorities work out housing need.

23 Comments

  1. This offer is very smart and exposes the sheer ridiculousness of the councillors who have militated to derail the Local Plan. We all know that altering the Local Plan to permit a mixed development was only ever the first stage in redeveloping the site. Even if the Local Plan were passed it would take more than two years before detailed planning permissions for the housing could be agreed and the first excavators could arrive to break ground. In other words, RSP have always had the two year window of opportunity which is now being “offered.” This offer does nothing whatsoever to change things. The councillors who were going to vote down the Local Plan will still vote it down because they are intent on playing politics. They are children, playing schoolyard games with people’s lives and the future of the District.

    • The trouble is that allowing mixed use would put the price of the airport land up. Housing land , or mixed use land is much more valuable.This is why SHP are so keen, nothing to do with the prosperity for Thanet.

        • Actually it is designated as aviation land, the fact that a corporate entity from outside Thanet and that only wants the land to make as much money as possible from it, means nothing.

          • RSP is also a corporate entity from outside Thanet. What do you suppose they want?

            It doesn’t really matter how the land is designated at present. If the council doesn’t vote in the local plan, the government will take over and look at the history of the site and weigh up the alternatives for its future use.

  2. Hopefully those Councilors who were elected on their pledge to reopen Manston as an Airport will remember their integrity when they vote on Thursday evening. An election promise is just that and must always be upheld, the Council represents the people not their own interests.

    • An election promise should not be upheld when facts indicate that to do so would cause very significant damage to the lives of the electorate.

      • Going against the will of the people is undemocratic and can lead to civil unrest, the people voted and government whether local or national ARE accountable to the people, otherwise we may as well surrender suffrage.

        • Local voters didn’t just vote on a single issue. All parties except the Greens promised to reopen the airport, but they promised several other things too. Compared to all other local issues, the former airport site and its future use is a minor matter.

          • I respect your views but you are wrong Martha, UKIP’s main issue was the airport, I can still see Farage saying that UKIP was the only party to save the airport. Yes the Tories were in favour, Labour certainly were not. Why else would UKIP have been voted in? #BREXIT is not a local issue. On the wider issue of housing I can’t see how the local infrastructure can take the proposed numbers, roads are already gridlocked and water is a problem, then there’s services, Happy days 🙂

    • UKip councillors will not go against the dictator wells they say no party whip but no one will ever votes against his plans for houses on manston wells says he wants the airport but they wont CPO and lease the airport out so it would be a win win for thanet

  3. Councillor’s who vote down the Local Plan are not listening to the people they represent. The cry of “we don’t need more houses” are letting down the local people on the housing waiting list which runs into thousands. They also are voters and need decent homes to bring up their families. The soothsayers who can say ,because they have been told, that London borough’s will be taking all the houses for overspill are like the sound of doom. The only way this can happen is for the houses built are bought by London borough’s. Can they afford the hundreds of thousands to buy? Also 25% are for social housing or is it the fault of people who cannot afford to buy and do not matter in the scheme of things?We need housing, we cannot hide it under the bed.

  4. A nice dilemma they have here! Vote the local plan in and get flak from the allegedly vast majority of Thanet residents; vote it out and get the government swooping in to remove the council’s powers to make planning decisions and to increase the planned new housing quota by more than 3000.Plus of course flak from those who think that using the area’s largest brownfield site for housing and jobs is a much better idea than having a ruddy great airport there. (But of course there are only a very very few of us…)

    Interesting times in Thanet!

    • easy answer take manston off the local plan keep it aviation use only
      plenty of sites in thanet most are ex-industrial sites if developers built flats they would make more money from sites and could increase properties on the sites and use less country side and farmland

      • The former airport is an ex-industrial site.

        Manston’s location makes it unsuitable for commercially profitable aviation use, but a good place for a military airfield.

  5. Just another delaying process. We need to get on with a decision now. It has been closed several years and all that has happened is Consultation with professional reports that an airport is not viable at Manston. The way this is being handled through these council members is ridiculous and just keeping Thanet from progressing. They should be ashamed of themselves and start acting in the best interests of Thanet and it’s residents.

  6. Thanet’s councilers are set to lose majority of votes if stone hill park is voted in. Major losses to come for TDC. Manston airport the only way forward. Thanet needs create more jobs not job vacancies. Manston will return.

  7. I like the way they the possibility of the “government stepping in” is being painted as a bad thing, is it really so bad, and who’s to say they will do anything better or worse than TDC would, or that these (plucked out of thin air) 3000 additional homes would be imposed upon Thanet? Is that such an imposition anyway? If Thanet needs homes, it needs homes, the more the merrier perhaps? Also, an additional 3000 homes is circa £4.5million a year additional council tax! Innit!

  8. There seems to be a misunderstanding about the value of the land. The value of the land went up as soon as the airport was closed. Land is worth what somebody is prepared to pay for it, and we know that the legal owners have already rejected an offer in excess of £150 million. If the airport were to be acquired by DCO they would have to be compensated and the compensation value will be worked out according to what they would have been able to do with the land in the absence of an airport. It doesn’t make a blind bit of difference whether TDC approves the site for mixed use or not. This is just a piece of propaganda which has been spread on social media by fantasists who are desperate to see the airport reopened.

    • You are wrong about the value of the land going up as soon as the airport was closed. This is why there has been such an objection to allowing mixed use. The value of the land goes up when planning permission is allowed for housing. The airport remains an airport until change of use permission is granted.Otherwise buying the airport would be far too expensive for anyone wishing to do so for aviation, and the airport would be lost.

  9. Cheggars, your position on the basis for the valuation of the airport land is completely wrong. Speculative valuations are not permitted when it comes to the valuation of a site, and the only valuations that matter are those which comply with lawful uses of the land. In the case of Manston, the position was plainly put by Mr. Nunn of the Planning Inspectorate in his judgement on the Stone Hill Park Appeals. Indeed, the decision taken on Thursday by Thanet District Council on Thursday, 18 January 2018, strengthens that: the only lawful use of this land for planning purposes is the use of the land for aviation related uses, and the valuation will be made accordingly.

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