The current owners of the Manston airport site say reports published by the company aiming to acquire the land through a Development Consent Order reveal the extent of possible night flights.
Stone Hill Park has submitted an application to build 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.
But RiverOak Strategic Partners has a different vision and is in the process of applying to the government for a DCO to take over the land and create an aviation base for cargo, air training and maintenance and, possibly, passenger flights.
As part of that process RSP commissioned, and has now published, a four-part report on its plans and what it believes makes them viable. The reports were compiled by aviation industry experts including Dr Sally Dixon.
Dr Dixon’s contribution formed the fourth and final part of the report. In it she predicted some 30,000 jobs would be associated with the airport, directly and indirectly, over the next 20 years if the cargo plans went ahead.
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.
The report concludes: “Freight movements will increase gradually, in line with capacity, to a forecast 17,000 by Year 20. In addition, the airport will be able to handle a number of passenger flights, connecting Kent to the rest of the world. Passenger flights are expected to start in Year 3 of operation with the airport handling around 660,000 passengers, increasing to around 1.4 million by Year 20 of operation.”
SHP believes that for the scale of the operation proposed and, in order for it to be profitable, night flights would be inevitable.
They say the UK average is 101 passengers per plane so the RSP figures would equal 13,861 flights per year. The prediction of 17,000 freight flights would then equal 30,861 flights. SHP say this equates to 85 flights every 24 hours, necessitating night flights.
SHP spokesman Ray Mallon said: “What this report does, in devastating terms, is expose the claims that RSP’s plans would not require night flights.
“This blows a hole in the assurances given by Sir Roger Gale and others that there would be no need for any flights during anti-social hours.
“It would devastate the quality of life for residents in terms of noise and air pollution. I also note that the matter of HGV movements, which would be generated by a busy cargo airport, hasn’t even been mentioned by RSP – their silence speaks volumes.”
Save Manston Airport association Beau Webber disputed the SHP figure and calculations. He said: “SHP still prefer their own definitions of “flights” and “movements”, rather than the industry standard definitions. The key point is one plane landing and taking off is 2 movements. So for a 16 hour working day, say 360 days per year, Year 20 (about 2040) = one plane every 26 minutes.”
But a spokesman for No Night Flights said: “Night flights don’t happen simply because the day slots are full. It’s not a timetabling issue.
“Night flights happen because that’s when the cargo operator wants them. Some 42% of cargo flights in Europe (inc the UK) are night flights. At East Midlands, more than half their cargo flights -58% – are night flights. That’s what the cargo industry wants. If Manston can’t offer that, it won’t get the business.”
Last year RiverOak Corporation – which was the 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.
The statement added: “We are working hard with our professional team to complete the development and testing of our plans, as well as the detailed assessment of their potential environmental impact.”
SHP say the four-part report fails to answer questions over where the £320m investment required would come from and who the people are behind the Belize-registered MIO Investments that owns the major share of RiverOak Strategic Partners.
RSP took over the project in December 2016 from the original DCO applicants, US-based RiverOak Corporation. The company says MIO Investments is a funding vehicle and that RSP is registered in the UK with Companies House and will pay UK taxes.
In March North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale told a Manston planning inquiry funds were in place. He said: “The new business plan put forward for the airport is very different from those that have been tried before. The investment needed, and secured, is very much greater than anything put into Manston before, somewhere north of £150m I believe.”
Mr Mallon said: “Other consultants have produced forecasts that make clear an airport is not viable and that is also the real-world experience of operators on this site.
“RSP rely on speculation and conjecture to arrive at these figures, the people behind SHP rely on a proven track record of turning around failing sites and delivering real homes and real jobs.
“We own the land and have the funding to start work immediately. Our plans will deliver 2,500 homes and over 2,000 on-site, quality, advanced manufacturing jobs with many more in supply chain, service and allied industries. Crucially, our plans respect and preserve both the heritage of the site and the character of East Kent.
“We have held full public consultation on our plans, acted on the feedback and submitted them to the local council for inspection. We remain on track and expect the planning application to be considered in September 2017.”
SHP plans can be seen here
RSP says it will carry out a six-week consultation on its aviation plans from June 12 to July 23.
During the consultation copies of the proposed airport masterplan, research reports and the Preliminary Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) will be available for inspection.
Expression of interest
A US logistics firm is also said to be interested in the Manston site. This month the unnamed firm, being represented by Dale Crawford of DTD Consult, it was proposing an injection of £100m at the site, with the aim of relocating 12 aircraft currently in Europe to the Manston.