The proposed new Local Plan document has been posted on the Council website for presentation before an emergency Overview and Scrutiny Panel meeting on Monday 21st November.
It is highly regrettable that, in the revised plan, Manston Airport is now clearly designated for housing and employment development. Previously it was designated as an “Opportunity Area” for the purposes of preparing the Manston Airport Area Action Plan.
Following Thanet District Council’s recently commissioned Avia Report on the viability of the airport they are saying that they will have to adhere to it’s recommendations namely 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”.
The new proposals state that the airport will be used for “up to 3,000 dwellings (together with a range of other uses including business space; local retail provision; primary schools, etc)”
They have also identified land at Manston Airport for employment use, “The Airport site, as part of a sustainable mixed-use development, could potentially accommodate up to 75,000sqm of new, business floorspace.“
The new proposals will go out to public consultation in mid-January 2017 for six weeks. This will be followed by the publication of a Submission version (full Local Plan) in Summer 2017 and will be presented to the Planning Inspectorate/Examination at the end of 2017.
The recommendation is for the Overview and Scrutiny Panel to – “publish the proposed changes to the draft Local Plan for consultation since it responds to Government guidance, the developing evidence base, and accords with legal advice. It also provides local communities and other stakeholders with the opportunity to comment further on key issues affecting the Local Plan.”
After speaking extensively to Councillors who support the airport the unwavering response is that their hands are tied. Without solid evidence that an airport is viable and likely to be operational in the very near future then “there is a risk that the Department for Communities & Local Government could intervene in the making of the Plan.” TDC “must show that it is making significant progress in dealing with key issues and moving towards a new Local Plan.” or “it is likely to lead to an increase in appeals on unallocated development sites, which might be approved against the Council’s position and result in costs being awarded against the Council.”
SuMA will continue to make the case for Manston Airport by putting in objections against redevelopment of the site and by pressing the case for aviation use only. However, without substantial and unequivocal evidence that the airport could, and will be, a successful operational concern, it is going to be very difficult to influence the new Local Plan as things stand.