RiverOak’s Statement Submitted to the Planning Appeals at Manston Airport

As we know SHP (Lothian Shelf (718) Ltd) have lodged an appeal against Thanet District Council (TDC) because of the Council’s refusal to grant change of use for Building 870 at Manston Airport. SuMA contributed to this decision by delivering a verbal objection at the planning meeting. SHP have also lodged concurrent appeals for ‘non-determination’ on three other airport buildings – applications that were not brought before the planning committee.

The original Hearing, scheduled for 13th and 14th July 2016, was cancelled in lieu of a full Public Inquiry into the matter because of the complexities of the case. The date and venue have yet to be confirmed.

RiverOak was invited to contribute to the hearing by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS).
Their submission has been drawn up by RPS Planning and Development Limited (RPS Group).

In a 56 page document RiverOak’s plans for Manston Airport are outlined by RPS and, in themselves, serve as a primary objection to the appellant’s case.

You can read the entire statement submitted, published with RiverOak’s permission, below:


We await the date of the Public Inquiry meeting and will post as soon as we have it.


1.1 This statement has been prepared by RPS Planning and Development Limited (RPS) on behalf
of RiverOak Investment Corporation LLC (hereon in referred to as ‘RiverOak’) in connection with
four planning appeals by Lothian Shelf (718) Limited (hereon in referred to as ‘The Appellant’).
The planning appeals relate to four separate planning applications which proposed a change in
the use of four separate buildings at Manston Airport.

1.2 The four appeals are being considered alongside each other by way of a Hearing scheduled for
13th and 14th July 2016. The Appellant has lodged the appeals against Thanet District Council
(TDC) for:

  • non-determination of an application for temporary change of use of Building 1 (referred to by
    the LPA as Building South of Terminal 1 (Hanger 1)) from Sui Generis to Class B2 use, for a
    period of 3 years (LPA Ref. F/TH/15/0460);
  • refusal of an application for the proposed change of use of Building 2 (referred to by the LPA
    as Building 870) from Sui Generis to Class B2 use, plus a small extension and associated
    elevational and surface works (LPA Ref. F/TH/15/0457);
  • non-determination of an application for change of use of Building 3 (referred to by the LPA as
    Manston Airport Cargo Centre & Responding Vehicle Point) from Sui Generis to Class B8 use
    (LPA Ref. F/TH/15/0459); and
  • non-determination of an application for change of use Building 4 from Sui Generis to Class
    B2 use (LPA Ref. F/TH/15/0458).

1.3 For the avoidance of doubt, the comments set out in this statement by RiverOak apply equally to
all four of the appeal proposals.

1.4 RiverOak acknowledge that the Appellants have requested that the Inspector assesses each
scheme on the basis of the flexible changes of use which were originally sought by the Appellant
as described in paragraph 2.7 of their appeal statement. RverOak do not have any specific
comments to make about this.

1.5 RiverOak were invited by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) on 5th July 2016 to participate in the
Hearing and to provide a short statement that would be circulated to the main parties.

1.6 In April 2016, RiverOak wrote to PINS in connection with the four planning appeals to notify them
that it was their intention to submit an application for Development Consent under the Planning
Act 2008 encompassing the compulsory purchase of Manston Airport so that it could be revived
as a successful hub for international air freight which would also offer passenger, executive travel
and aircraft engineering services. The aim is for RiverOak to submit the Development Consent
application in early 2017. Meetings have taken place with RiverOak and PINS and regular
discussions continue in preparation for the forthcoming submission. It is in this context that PINS
have invited RiverOak to participate in the Hearing.

1.7 This statement responds specifically to the Hearing agenda items as provided by PINS on 5th
July 2016.

a) Project Description

2.1 On 1st July 2016, RiverOak published details of its plans to reopen Manston Airport and
comments are being invited via a public consultation event which is taking place in July 2016.
The material issued for the public consultation is provided as Appendix 1.

2.2 In June 2016, RiverOak also submitted a report for the purpose of obtaining a Scoping Opinion
from PINS in relation to the Environmental Impact Assessment being undertaken as part of their
application for Development Consent to revive Manston Airport. The Scoping Report prepared by
Amec Foster Wheeler Environment & Infrastructure UK Limited (June 2016) can be found on the
PINS website via this link – https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/wpcontent/

2.3 In addition to the attached July 2016 public consultation document, the Scoping Report includes
a section which explains the need for the proposed development (Section 2.1) and the project
description (Section 2.2). The aim of the project is to revive Manston Airport as a successful
airfreight hub, of national significance, with complementary passenger and engineering services.
The focus, which will be unique for the United Kingdom, would be to provide a dedicated
airfreight facility capable of handling in excess of 10,000 air traffic movements of air freight cargo
per year that is compliant with European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) standards. The Scoping
Report includes diagrams showing the proposed zoning of different areas within the airport; the
proposed layout plan; the detail of the proposed cargo area and the detail of the proposed
passenger area and maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities. These plans are provided
in Appendix 2 along with a full description of the proposed development.

b) Outline Construction Phasing

2.4 The initial phase of construction, which will commence following the grant of the Development
Consent Order (DCO) in early 2018, will focus on returning the airport to operation and reusing
as much of the remaining original airport infrastructure as possible. As the airport has not been
operational since May 2014, and is unlikely to have been subject to regular maintenance since
that date, it is likely that this phase will require a period of 6-12 months during which time the
essential airport equipment and infrastructure will be maintained where it still exists or installed to
bring it back to full use. During this time an application for an Aerodrome Licence will be

2.5 The remaining phases of development will be undertaken in accordance with the emerging and
developing business case for the airport. Initially, the airport will operate using the existing
infrastructure and cargo building facilities. The outline phasing of development currently includes
the following stages:

  • relocate existing facilities located within new development area
  • install new airside infrastructure (relocate taxiway alpha, new fuel farm)
  • provide new site location access
  • upgrade site services (electricity, surface water drainage and treatment)
  • improve community facilities (museums and café/observation centre)
  • development, in phases, of new aircraft stands, aprons and cargo facilities as required
  • development of Northern Grass area for aviation related businesses

c) Proposed Operational Phasing
2.6 The air freight operations, which will be the main focus for the airport, are expected to start
shortly after reopening in late 2019. From this initial base the airport would seek to attract
additional customers and clients including offering the facilities as the base for one or more
freight forwarding and handling companies.

2.7 The forecasting of the air traffic for the reopened Manston, including an assessment of the
current UK air cargo market, of trends in the UK, European and global air freight markets, and of
any long term opportunities, is currently being undertaken as part of the preparation of the
application for Development Consent and the business and needs case for the project.

2.8 Based on the initial assessments undertaken of the current UK air cargo market it is estimated that a reopened and developed Manston Airport, with a focus on air freight and cargo, could
capture in the region of 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes of air freight by 2035. This would be from a
combination of business returning to Manston Airport, the capturing of market share from other
airports (either because of better facilities at Manston Airport, shorter trucking distances from
airports outside the UK or pressure for slots at these other airports) and from general market

2.9 Depending on the type of freight and the fleet-mix operating from the airport, a total of 500,000
tonnes would equate to 10,000 to 20,000 air traffic movements per year. The full details of the
types of aircraft that will operate, the timings of the flights (including the spread of flights per day
or week) and the types of cargo (which will dictate the type of freight handling facilities) are not
fully known at this stage.

2.10 The main operating hours for the core airport staff will be normal office hours Monday to Friday,
with essential management staff working weekends and holidays. In line with the operational
requirements the airport will maintain 24 hour air traffic control, firefighting, border control,
security and other essential services.

d) Next Steps
2.11 RiverOak do not own the land at Manston Airport required to carry out their proposed
development. The owners (the Appellants) have refused, despite a number of requests, to
voluntarily allow RiverOak access to the site for environmental surveying purposes. This is currently delaying preparation of the Development Consent application and so RiverOak is
applying to PINS for powers to enter the site under Section 53 of the Planning Act 2008.

2.12 Notwithstanding this, RiverOak are carrying out a series of informal consultation events between
the 13th and 23rd July 2016 across six locations in East Kent to advertise their proposals for
development in order to collect comments from the general public. A more formal consultation will
take place in Autumn 2016 and this event will include more information about the project and will
demonstrate how the proposals have been informed by feedback from the July 2016
consultation. ‘Preliminary environmental information’ will be made available at this time including
how RiverOak will propose to mitigate the environmental effects of the project.

2.13 The application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) will then be submitted in early 2017.

e) In Summary
2.14 The Council’s appeal statement sets out the long history behind RiverOak’s continued and
consistent attempts since May 2014 up to the present day to acquire Manston Airport for aviation
use. It is clear from this summary and RiverOak’s persistence over the past 26 months plus their
full commitment to submitting an application for Development Consent in early 2017 that they are
fully committed to their plans to revive Manston Airport.

2.15 Consequently, and wholly contrary to what is stated in the Appellant’s statement, it is RiverOak’s
position that it categorically cannot be said that there is no prospect of the airport reopening. This
is the underlying theme of the Appellant’s case. RiverOak cannot agree with this statement, and
therefore, the baseline position adopted by the Appellants in their justification for the appeal
proposals as set out in their Statement of Case.


3.1 RiverOak do not consider that use of the buildings for non-airport related uses are acceptable
especially having regard to local planning policies but also national planning policies and in
particular, those which seek to protect the countryside from inappropriate development.

3.2 RiverOak do not consider that the saved policies in the adopted Thanet Local Plan (2006)
especially Policy CC1 (Development in the Countryside); Policy EC2 (Kent International Airport)
and Policy EC4 (Airside Development Area) are out-of-date. Additionally, and despite it being in
its earliest stages of development, RiverOak are of the opinion that some weight should be given
to the policies in the emerging new Thanet Local Plan and in particular Policy SP05 (Manston
Airport) and Policy SP20 (Development in the Countryside) as set out in the Draft Thanet Local
Plan to 2031 – Preferred Options Consultation (January 2016).

3.3 Despite Manston Airport closing in May 2014 – so before documents comprising the new Thanet
Local Plan were issued in 2015/2016 – the Council’s planning policy objective and position
regarding Manston Airport and the countryside has been entirely consistent – that is:

  • entirely in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which seeks to
    protect the character and the beauty of the countryside, there is a clear presumption in
    adopted and emerging local planning policies against development in the countryside as
    there are sites already allocated in the plans that meet the needs of the District. Only
    development which demonstrates a need that overrides the need to protect the countryside
    will be permitted; and
  • to support the retention, development, expansion and diversification of the airport and
    aviation operations and to continue to safeguard land at Manston Airport for airside
    development appreciating that a successful airport has the potential to be a significant
    catalyst for economic growth especially alongside the major seaport at Ramsgate and High
    Speed Rail in allowing Thanet to provide an international gateway function to boost economic
    development across the region.

3.4 Allowing development on the Manston Airport site which is not aviation-related and on land in the
countryside which is not allocated for typical non-aviation related industrial uses is strictly
contrary to both local and national planning policies and would represent unsustainable
development in the countryside. To allow the appeals would be entirely contrary to local planning
policy objectives which seek to prevent the airport expanding into the surrounding area (which is
in the countryside). The fact that the airport has closed makes no difference as there is every
prospect that it could reopen. Based on the information provided by the Appellants, RiverOak do
not believe that there are any valid material considerations presented by the appeal proposals,
including the Appellant’s desire to generate some economic gain from the closed airport, that
should outweigh the Council’s planning policy objectives for safeguarding land at Manston Airport
for aviation operations.

3.5 RiverOak’s position is that even a temporary change of use for a prescribed and limited time
would be contrary to local and national planning policies. Granting a temporary change of use at
any of the buildings will inevitably be seen as setting a precedent for allowing temporary nonairport
related use of any underused floorspace with the airport boundary. It would be difficult for
the Council to justify refusal of a further temporary permission if circumstances were to have
changed at the end of the temporary term. Decisions taken against strict application of the
Council’s planning policies in relation to Manston Airport will leave the Council increasingly less
able to hold on to the concept of a self-contained airport in the open countryside – appreciating
always that there is every prospect that the airport could reopen and alongside the Council’s
strategic economic priorities for the airport and the region.

3.6 RiverOak would like to draw the Inspector’s attention to an appeal decision dated 9th March 2011
in respect of Endeavour House at Stansted Airport (appeal reference APP/C1570/A/10/2141258).
A copy of the decision by Inspector Christopher Gethin is provided as Appendix 3. The planning
matters that were considered by the Inspector in this decision are very comparable to the
considerations that are relevant in respect of the four appeals by Lothian Shelf (718) Limited. In
this case, the Inspector dismissed the appeal for many reasons that equally apply in this case.

3.7 In is important to note that TDC in their response to pre-application advice inquiries by the
Appellants in May 2015 stated that a change of use in the buildings would be premature in
advance of a clear conclusion on the future of the airport. They also encouraged the Appellants
to consider alternative options for facilitating the prospective business occupiers of Buildings 1 to
4. Despite this very clear advice, the Appellants still submitted their proposals.

4.1 From the plans provided in Appendix 1, it is clear that allowing the appeals will compromise the
future aviation use of the airport in RiverOak’s masterplan layout. This is because the land
currently occupied by Buildings 1 to 4 will be required to deliver the infrastructure necessary to
accommodate the planned capacity of the airport. Indeed, all the land at the airport south of the
B2050 Manston Road will be required for airport infrastructure which will be critical to future
operations and which cannot be located elsewhere within the proposed development site when
considering all other constraints.

4.2 The principles and planning purpose of protecting land that may be required for future airport
development are well established. For example, the Air Transport White Paper of 2003 “The
Future of Air Transport” identified land outside a number of existing airports in the UK that might
be needed for future development and set out policies for that land to be safeguarded against
incompatible development until such time as the land was required.

4.3 There are a number of means identified in the 2003 White Paper by which safeguarding might be
achieved. These are:

  1. Land is formally protected by policies in a local development plan;
  2. Through Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) safeguarding maps which are then material to
    planning by virtue of the Town and Country Planning (Safeguarding Aerodromes, Technical
    Sites and Military Explosives Storage Areas) Direction 2002 (which remains extant); or
  3. In exceptional circumstances, where these arrangements prove inadequate, directions by
    the Secretary of State under Article 14 of the Town and County Planning (General
    Development Procedure) Order 1995 (sic. as stated in the ATWP 2003 paragraph 12.5).

4.4 In line with the advice contained in the 2003 White Paper, TDC has consistently included policies
in their Local Plan to safeguard land at Manston Airport for aviation development so that this land
is not compromised to alternative uses.

4.5 Although a Development Consent Order would include the powers to acquire land necessary for
the development and allow notice to quit to be served on the prospective occupiers of Buildings 1
to 4, this might prejudice future aviation use of the airport by causing delay and uncertainty in the
development programme whilst occupiers are allowed a reasonable period to relocate their
business premises. It can also create uncertainty with respect to the compensation costs payable
and in turn the business case for the airport by unnecessarily increasing the compensation that
will be payable in the future to remove occupiers and uncertainty over the amount payable. The
appeal documents refer, for example, to substantial investment being required for some of these
buildings to be occupied by some of the potential occupiers.

4.6 For these reasons, it is entirely appropriate to interpret that the existing and emerging Local Plan
policies for Manston Airport fully safeguard the site from incompatible ie. non-aviation

4.7 As set out in later sections of this statement, RiverOak do not believe that short-term leases,
which at best could only be offered in respect of the appeal buildings given the wider aspirations
for the airport site by RiverOak and indeed the Appellants themselves, would be commercially
attractive to the market. Consequently, it is RiverOak’s position that not even a temporary change
of use would be acceptable.

5.1 RiverOak would wish to refer the Inspector to their response provided in Section 3 of this

5.2 It is RiverOak’s position that if the airport reopened, that loss of four on-airport buildings to nonaviation related uses could very probably lead to a need to create additional buildings in the

6.1 RiverOak note that despite the Appellants naming some potential occupiers for the buildings, that
no special case is made as to why these occupiers must occupy on-airport premises and the
reasons for this. It would appear that the appeal proposals have been presented merely as an
attempt by the Appellants to secure some economic gain from a closed airport site. This is not a
sufficiently material consideration to outweigh any decision that would be contrary to policies in
the statutory Development Plan.

6.2 RiverOak have not seen any evidence which suggests that there is a shortage of suitable
industrial space/land in the region that could otherwise accommodate the space demands as
presented by the appeal proposals. On the contrary, there appears to be considerable evidence
which suggests that there is more than sufficient space available in the District – not least
opposite the Manston Airport site at Manston Business Park where land is allocated and
safeguarded for B1, B2 and B8 uses – which are exactly those uses being sought by the appeal
proposals. Commentary in the emerging new Thanet Local Plan (page 28 of the Draft Thanet
Local Plan to 2031 – Preferred Options Consultation (January 2016)) suggests that the Manston
Business Park is only half developed with some infrastructure in place ready to serve the rest of
the site if it were developed. If prospective tenants needed to acquire premises close to the
airport for whatever reasons, these same reasons could be accommodated by locating at
Manston Business Park.

6.3 The Appellants state that two of the appeal buildings are in a ‘fair condition’ whilst the other two
are in a ‘poor condition.’ In order to suit modern commercial operating requirements, it is likely
that prospective tenants would need to spend considerable sums of money to improve the
buildings so that they are fit for purpose and developed into attractive premises from which to
operate. It is noted that if Instro Precision Limited had moved into Building 2 (see Section 8 of this
statement for further commentary on this point) that it would have resulted in a £3m cost to
improve the premises so that they were fit for the company’s purposes. RiverOak would suggest
that it makes no commercial business sense to spend money on poor quality commercial building
stock (for what will probably be only a short-term lease) when alternative employment land and
space is available including close to the airport (if this is a specific tenant requirement).

7.1 It is evident from preceding sections in this statement and RiverOak’s persistent and continued
commitment to acquire Manston Airport for aviation uses – previously through applications to
became TDC’s CPO Indemnity Partner and now through pursuance of an application for
Development Consent under the Planning Act 2008 – that there is every prospect that the airport
could reopen – contrary to assertions made by the Appellant. Indeed, TDC agree with this
position as evidenced in their appeal statement (paragraph 5.7) and they agree that RiverOak
could be suitable operators for the airport and that they are capable of delivering an airport use at
the Manston Airport site (paragraph 5.10). Reopening the airport is entirely in accordance with
TDC’s local planning policies for Manston Airport and it is essential in realising the Council’s
strategic policies for economic growth in the District and the wider Kent region.

7.2 The planning process for dealing with proposals for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects
(NSIPs) was established by the Planning Act 2008. The 2008 Act process, as amended by the
Localism Act 2011, involves an application being made and an examination of major proposals
relating to energy, transport, water, waste and waste water, and includes opportunities for people
to have their say before a decision is made by the relevant Secretary of State. The application
that is submitted is for a Development Consent Order (DCO). The DCO is drafted by the
Applicant, examined and, if approved, it is made as a piece of secondary legislation under the
Planning Act 2008. A DCO can include all the principal consents required to build and/or operate
the infrastructure in question, including planning permission and, where necessary, the
acquisition of land. The DCO can also include associated development on land that is required
for certain ancillary purposes to enable the operation of the NSIP.

7.3 RiverOak’s propsals for Manston Airport are defined as an NSIP under Section 23 of the
Planning Act 2008 by virtue of it being for ‘air cargo transport services for at least 10,000 air
transport movements of cargo aircraft per year’. As the proposals fall within the definition of an
NSIP, there is no alternative other than to make an application for a DCO. Indeed under the
Planning Act 2008, it would be an offence to proceed with this project without obtaining a DCO.
RiverOak have confirmed that they are applying applying for a DCO.

7.4 There is an important consideration to be had should the appeal proposals be allowed in the
context of the application for Development Consent. RiverOak are submitting an application for
Development Consent under the Planning Act 2008 which will also encompass the compulsory
purchase of Manston Airport. If the appeals are allowed, RiverOak would need to compulsory
purchase the four appeal buildings and serve notice on the tenants. This would lead to delay and
compensation complications for RiverOak in addition to the negative impacts associated with
businesses having to find alternative premises.

7.5 Furthermore, to permit any planning permissions that would go against TDC’s planning policy
objectives for supporting retention, development, expansion and diversification of the airport and
aviation operations and very obvious intentions to safeguard land at Manston Airport for airside
development, would undermine the Council’s very strong and consistent airport policy position to
the prejudice of any future DCO examination.

a) Purpose of the Appeal Proposals
8.1 In their Statement of Case (paragraphs 2.12 to 2.26), the Appellants explain the purpose of the
four applications. In some instances (Buildings 2 and 4) the Appellants state that the applications
are proposed specifically to respond to interest from named tenants. For Buildings 1 and 3, no
prospective occupiers have been identified. RiverOak would appreciate an update from the
Appellants on the position regarding the proposed tenants. This is requested especially in light of:

  • Instro Precision Limited’s recent announcement (May 2016) that they will be relocating to a
    new manufacturing plant at Discovery Park, Sandwich following Dover District Council’s
    decision to grant planning permission in April 2016 for a new 4,230m² (45,531ft²) research,
    development and manufacturing building (LPA application reference 16/00045); and
  • RiverOak’s understanding that Powermain Limited are already operating unlawfully from
    Building 4 despite a number of reports being made to TDC’s enforcement department.

8.2 It is RiverOak’s view that without named operators to occupy the buildings, and adequate
evidence to demonstrate this, that the purpose for the applications no longer exists and
consequently, the appeals should not be allowed.

b) How do the appeal proposals fit alongside the proposals by Stone Hill Park Limited
(the Appellants) for mixed-use, housing-led redevelopment of Manston Airport as set
out in planning application OL/TH/16/0550 which was submitted to TDC in May 2016?
8.3 It is clear from plans submitted with the Stone Hill Park Limited hybrid planning application,
especially drawing no. PL1436-VW-016 Parameter Plan 6 : Demolition and Retention (see
Appendix 4) that Buildings 1 and 4, which are the subject of two of the appeals, are proposed for
demolition. The purpose of the appeal proposals for these two buildings is further questioned but
in any event, RiverOak would like to understand what market evidence there may be to support
the obvious associated implication that Buildings 1 and 4 could only realistically be leased on a
short-term basis with no ability to provide certainty to prospective occupiers about the exact
length of their lease period given the wider development ambitions for the Manston Airport site.
RiverOak would suggest that short-term, uncertain leases would not appear attractive to the
market even if it is the Appellant’s position that the terms of leases can be factored-in to ensure
that risk is mitigated.

Please refer to the PDF document for details of the following appendices:

Manston Airport Public Consultation Document (July 2016)
Diagrams showing RiverOak’s proposed development for Manston Airport including a full description
of development
Copy of appeal decision APP/C1570/A/10/2141258 – Endeavour House, Stansted Airport, Essex
Stone Hill Park Project : Drawing no. PL1436-VW-016 Parameter Plan 6 : Demolition and Retention