Bristow’s Search and Rescue will NOT return to Manston

Department for Transport today (Wednesday) confirmed that the service will remain at Lydd Airport.

Disappointing but not totally unexpected news with the continued uncertainty. The campaign continues to ‪#‎savemanston‬ with Thanet Council still proceeding with their CPO process and RiverOak seeking a Development Consent Order (DCO).

The full article:

BRISTOW’S Search and Rescue Service will not return to Manston.

The Department for Transport today (Wednesday) confirmed that the service will remain at Lydd Airport.

It was originally expected to be based at Manston airport from July 1 last year but the closure of the site prompted talks between Bristow’s and Lydd Airport.

The service started there last August, although former aviation minister John Hayes had said he had agreed for Bristow Helicopters to be based at Lydd for a year, instead of agreeing for the search-and-rescue crafts to be taken away from Manston permanently.

The two helicopters carry out missions for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Sir Roger Gale MP said: “Naturally this is disappointing because Thanet would have liked to welcome the Search and Rescue facility back to Manston airport. However, I have discussed the situation personally with the Minister, Robert Goodwill, and it is clear that maritime security has to take priority over our preferences or those of the DfT and the company. There are aircrew and support staff that have to be able to locate and services that have to be provided and while in the long term I do not believe that Lydd will prove to be the best site I accept that this decision is now inevitable.

“I must emphasise that this conclusion, unwelcome and frustrating though it is and necessitated because of the delay in securing the future of Manston as an airport, will in no way impact upon the viability of the airfield. Search and Rescue has never been an integral part of the RiverOak business plan and, as will be revealed shortly. The acquisition process and the necessary environmental assessments and other work necessary to realise it, are very much on track.

“It is also the case that the Government and Transport Ministers, including the Secretary of State, remain as supportive as they have ever been. I in turn remain absolutely determined to secure the future of Manston airport as an operating airfield in the national interest and I have no reason to believe that is not as achievable today and tomorrow as it was yesterday.”

The airport has been closed since May 2014 and majority shareholders Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner want to create a mixed use development at the site. Stone Hill Park’s plans include 2,500 homes, a business park, the two current museums and a Spitfire Park capable of being used to land Spitfires on occasion.

There will also be green space, a GP surgery, a shop, two schools and a hotel, plus an East Kent Sports Village with 50m swimming pool, outdoor wave pool, sports pitches, courts and a track. Stone Hill Park is expected to submit a planning application to Thanet council this month.

However, Thanet council is still seeking an indemnity partner to help in the compulsory purchase of the site.

American firm RiverOak, twice rejected by Thanet council as the indemnity partner, has submitted a pre-application Development Consent Order (DCO) to bypass the authority by taking their case to central government.

In recent weeks, RiverOak has met with the Department for Transport (DfT) and with the Planning Inspectorate to discuss their DCO application.

Minutes from the most recent meeting with the Planning Inspectorate confirm RiverOak’s intention for Manston airport to be capable of providing over 10,000 additional freight movements by 2024/2025. There would also be low-cost and charter passenger flights. Riveroak also suggested there may be a need for night flights.

RiverOak provided some background context in respect of the need and operation of a ‘dismantling and recycling’ facility for decommissioned aircraft.

The American firm discussed the potential for compulsory acquisition of land currently used by the two Manston museums as it could be required for highways improvement. However, the minutes stated RiverOak say the museums would be provided with upgraded facilities as part of its development. The Inspectorate offered to host an early meeting between RiverOak and Thanet council.