Manston airport: the very name raises more than the odd eyebrow and elicits any number of sighs, but this month’s twist in a seemingly never-ending story caught out just about everyone.
Just as the Planning Inspectorate’s examination into its application for a Development Consent Order was nearing its end, RiverOak Strategic Partners agreed to buy the airport site for £16.5 million from Stone Hill Park Ltd, which had its own plans to build some 4,000 homes, business units and sporting facilities there.
Three representatives from CPRE Kent (director Hilary Newport, Thanet chairman David Morrish and environment committee member Chris Lowe) had been present at various stages of the inquiry, which was led by a four-strong Examining Authority.
The Planning Inspectorate gave public notice that it had completed its examination on Tuesday, July 9, confirming that its findings, conclusions and recommendations would be sent to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, no later than Wednesday, October 9.
Mr Shapps will then decide whether the airport scheme should be regarded as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and a Development Consent Order approved; it is unlikely that the recommendations of the Examining Authority will be made public until after that decision is made.
Contracts were exchanged between RSP and SHP on Wednesday, July 3, but the deal could only be completed a week later (July 10) once permission had been given by then-Secretary of State Chris Grayling.
That permission was necessary due to a Special Development Order designating Manston’s use as a lorry park to cope with potential post-Brexit congestion at Dover – the contract for that runs until December 31, 2020.
SHP has withdrawn its objection to the DCO and will no longer take part in the Local Plan inquiry. However, it keeps its DfT contract (and payments) in relation to the Brexit lorry-park plan, while it will be responsible for providing equipment should HGVs need to use the site.
The deal leaves RSP subsidiary RiverOak MSE owning more than 95 per cent of the site required for its airport plans; the compulsory-purchase provisions of the DCO are now not essential for the reopening of the airport.
SHP reportedly owned 742 acres of the 770-acre site, with some plots belonging to other parties.
Mr Morrish, of Thanet CPRE, said: “These events have emphasised the need for Manston to be resolved before the draft Local Plan can be properly considered – a view that we at CPRE have consistently put forward.
“Manston airport has been the elephant in the room throughout the Local Plan inquiry and there is still no real point in the Local Plan deliberations continuing until the Secretary of State for Transport has made a binding decision on the DCO.”
It is understood that RSP will only be able to progress its airport plans if the Transport Secretary approves the DCO application, a Planning Inspectorate spokesman telling KentOnline: “In order to construct and operate a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, development consent is required in the form of a Development Consent Order.”
Monday, July 29, 2019