The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Kent, has backed plans for building homes and businesses on the Manston airport site in its submission to a public consultation.
CPRE Kent was responding to the consultation currently being run by RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) which aims to reopen Manston airport as an air freight hub with associated business aviation and passenger services.
RiverOak is currently consulting on its proposals for the airport site before submitting an application for a Development Consent Order to the Planning Inspectorate. The consultation runs until Sunday 23 July.
Following the statutory consultation, the DCO application will be submitted later this year. A decision by the Secretary of State is expected by the end of 2018. If RSP gets the green light for its plans it says the opening of the re-built and refurbished airport will be in 2020.
But CPRE Kent said: “CPRE Kent does not support the use of Manston as a freight hub. We consider that the environmental and social impacts of noise and air pollution outweigh the claimed economic benefits.
“In contrast, the opportunity to convert this brownfield site to the mixed commercial and residential use proposed by its current owners offers more realistic employment opportunities and provides for the prospect of safeguarding the best and most versatile agricultural land which would otherwise be required to meet Thanet’s objectively assessed housing need.”
The owners of the site, Stone Hill Park, have submitted a master plan and outline planning application to Thanet council for 2,500 homes; an advanced manufacturing focused business park; sports and recreational facilities, with the former runway becoming the focal point for a network of parkland, trails and outdoor space, and a ‘heritage hub’ at the site.
Stone Hill Park says it expects its planning application for the site to be examined by Thanet council later this year.
Employment and freight
CPRE Kent said there were doubts over the forecasts for employment, air freight growth and trade contained in RSP documents and particular concerns over night flights.
In RSP documents submitted as part of the DCO process report author Dr Sally Dixon says the revived airport will create 30,000 direct and related jobs within 20 years.
Dr Dixon stated: ““Direct on-site jobs are predicted to be 2,150 by year 5, of which 697 posts are forecast to be created by the airport operator. The direct employment figure will rise with increasing freight tonnage and passenger numbers.
“By the end of year 5, the indirect and catalytic jobs forecast to result from the operation at Manston Airport are 4,515 and 8,601 respectively, and 8,970 and 17,085 by the end of year 20.
“The total figure for jobs created by the operations of Manston Airport is forecast at around 30,000.
“These figures represent a wide range of long-term opportunities for aspiring local school leavers, college graduates, and those at all stages of their careers.”
In volume three of the report, also by Dr Dixon, there are predictions of 1.4 million passengers at Manston by 2040 and 17,000 freight flights by the same year.
But the CPRE response document says: “We have examined the economic case put forward and consider that the projections of economic and employment growth are at best questionable.
“We are particularly concerned that, should sub-optimal loading factors prove to make the operation less viable than projected, there would be overwhelming pressure to schedule more night flights to attract the trade that is restricted from using other airports at night.
“We consider the impacts of night flights entirely unacceptable. The Aviation Environment Federation has identified1 that aircraft noise can no longer be considered simply as an inconvenience, but has severe negative effects on people’s health and quality of life, and night noise has even greater effects.
“Exposure to aircraft noise can lead to short-term responses such as sleep disturbance, annoyance, and impairment of learning in children, and long-term exposure is associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, dementia, and may contribute to long-term mental health issues.”
Last year RiverOak Corporation – which was the American firm behind the DCO process at that time – issued a statement to say reference to 18 night flights per night in their Environmental Scoping document related to methodology rather than actual proposals.
CPRE Kent also questions the direction flights will approach from, saying it will most likely be the east, meaning “significant disturbance to the major conurbation of Ramsgate,” and says: “The surface traffic that will convey goods to and from the airport will impact hugely on road networks that are already under strain from the predominantly road-based freight that uses the channel crossings.”
Ramsgate Town Council has also lodged its objection to RSP’s proposals.
Find out more about the consultation here http://rsp.co.uk/statutory-consultation/
A spokesman for RSP said: “We have received CPRE Kent’s submission in relation to our proposals for Manston and are grateful to them for taking the time to provide feedback. We will consider their comments, along with all of the other submissions received during the consultation, following the close of the consultation period on Sunday 23 July.”