An overview of the current situation with Manston Airport
As published in Thanet Extra 6th April 2016
We are currently in the fortunate position of having more than one potential investor interested in returning Manston Airport to aviation use. This is an important and positive situation and we welcome investors with the right vision and capital but perhaps just as important is their ability to move swiftly to complete the process.
Confidentiality surrounding the CPO process appears to have led to a number of unsubstantiated rumours. Unfortunately this does little to support the campaign. We are now in a far stronger position with a number of different options to save Manston Airport. The fact that there are several interested parties also gives weight to the argument that Manston can be a viable airport.
As campaigners, the Supporters of Manston Airport team welcome all options to return the airport to full aviation use.
Thanet District Council CPO (Compulsory Purchase Order)
The CPO (Compulsory Purchase Order) process for Manston Airport by Thanet District Council is still in progress. In January 2016, Thanet Council announced a new soft market testing process (a process to see if potential indemnity partners are viable for a CPO). Five initial expressions of interest were received. Three of these were carried forward to the next stage of the CPO process after feasible responses to a supplementary questionnaire.
Discussions are currently ongoing between Thanet District Council and potential partners. Strict confidentially is being maintained in order to protect commercial interests and at this time there is no set timescale for this stage. We welcome this cautious and thorough approach by the local authority.
There is still a strong desire by Thanet Council to pursue this route to restore the airport. We look forward to hearing news of the process in due course.
RiverOak DCO (Development Consent Order)
RiverOak, the American company that was twice rejected by Thanet District Council in the previous CPO process, are now seeking to secure a Development Consent Order (DCO) on the site. They expect to submit their application in Q4 2016.
A DCO is a means to obtain developments categorised as “nationally significant”. They are most often used for developments such as power stations, road & railway infrastructure and wind farms. You can view the details of all the projects in the South East, including Manston Airport and the Richborough Connection here.
The DCO of Manston Airport requires a level of investment capable of supporting 10,000 cargo movements per year, either a landing or take-off.
RiverOak are due to release updated summary plans soon, but they previously included: a major international centre for air freight; London airport relief; aircraft recycling and engineering; flight training; executive travel and a base for at least one passenger carrier.
Last year RiverOak failed to prove to Thanet District Council’s satisfaction that sufficient financial resources were in place to commit to a CPO within the required timescale for bringing the airport back into operation. These issues would need to be addressed by a DCO process.
Recently, an updated Meeting Note between RiverOak and the Planning Inspectorate discussed possible road improvements, the consequent effects on the museums and night flights (available here). RiverOak plan to have public consultation activities in the late summer.
Stone Hill Park
Stone Hill Park (the owner’s current ‘proposed’ new name for Manston Airport) have recently held consultation events for their latest proposals for the site. They plan to submit planning applications in April 2016, part in outline and part in full.
They plan to add 2,500 homes (“but with capacity for more should Thanet need it”) and employment areas over the next 10-15 years. They are quoted as saying that this will create around 4,000 new jobs although they don’t say where these jobs will come from. They also want to include parkland, local shops and services as well as an outdoor wave pool and swimming pools. However these plans may well change before their applications are submitted. Latest consultation document here
We will continue to review their plans and oppose these applications.
Change of Use Planning Permission
The current owners (Stone Hill Park Limited) submitted planning applications for change of use in May 2015 on four buildings at Manston Airport. The first (Building 870 on Spitfire Way) was refused on 21st October 2015. The grounds were that it would deviate from the Local Plan’s definition of being land for “aviation use” and also loss of the building for airport use would potentially lead to the need to create additional buildings within the countryside should airport operations resume. This refusal was voted through almost unanimously. More details here
The Planning Officer stated that the policies quoted to object to the permission put the Council in a strong position, as they are “up-to-date” and are in “broad alignment with the National Policy Framework”. His view was that “full weight should be afforded to these policies by Planning Inspector in determining the appeals”. More details here
Since then, the owners have appealed to the Planning Inspectorate because of the delays in three of the applications and the refusal of Building 870. The next stage will be a one day informal hearing planned for July.
There are currently two possible communication masts that may be built in the Richborough area which would have an impact on airport operations. This would mainly involve navigation and circuit heights but are currently considered not to prevent the airport re-opening although it appears that any possible impact on aircraft navigational aids has yet to be investigated. Both masts are initially to improve financial transactions between London and Europe, but may also include other services such as wireless internet and other local services.
We will continue to monitor these, plus review and publish the CAA advice on the New Line Networks’ proposal when it is available, but this may follow their report supplied to Vigilant Global. We will push for both applications to be ideally delayed until the future of Manston Airport is confirmed, unless we have full assurances that they would cause no issues to a functional airport.
New Line Networks, a 305 metre communication mast. A planning application has not yet been submitted for this, but is due soon: http://www.kefmast.co.uk/
Keeping up to date
Keep up to date with the latest news on either this website or other social media locations:
Facebook group (you don’t need to join, but ‘like’ the page to be kept up to date): https://www.facebook.com/supportmanstonairport/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SaveManston or @savemanston
Website: www.supportmanstonairport.org (where you can also sign up for email updates)