Is it the final blow for Manston as an airport? An independent report has concluded there is no national need for the Thanet site to reopen as a freight hub. Its long and convoluted saga since closure in 2014 included the granting in July 2020 of a Development Consent Order to RiverOak Strategic Partners to reopen the airport. The decision was made by Andrew Stephenson, Minister of State for Transport, who effectively dismissed the conclusions of the four-man Planning Inspectorate’s Examining Authority, which had been clear the DCO should not be granted. Mr Stephenson’s move was slated by Dr Hilary Newport, director of CPRE Kent, who said: “It is shocking that four inspectors spent some nine months preparing a report and concluded very strongly that the DCO should be refused. “The developer was not able to demonstrate need, there were adverse impacts on traffic and transport and there were concerns over noise pollution. “Most importantly, though, the Examining Authority recommended the Secretary of State refuse the DCO due to conservation of habitats and species regulations. “In short, the inspectors’ conclusions were ignored. “This decision flies in the face of the Heathrow third-runway judgement where the Court of Appeal ruled that proposals had failed to consider this country’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions.” The developer’s delight, however, did not last long as in February this year the granting of the DCO was quashed, the Department for Transport accepting that the approval letter from Mr Stephenson had not contained enough detail on why the conclusions of the Planning Inspectorate’s Examining Authority were pushed aside. After that turn of events, Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, demanded further evidence from interested parties while also commissioning the independent report before the DCO decision could be redetermined. And that report, by Ove Arup & Partners and released on Thursday, October 21, concluded that any potential increase in demand for air freight could be met by other airports such as Heathrow. It stated: “The Examination Authority recommended there was no need case for the proposed development. “Overall, the independent assessor concludes that there have not been any significant or material changes to policy or the quantitative need case for the proposed development since July 2019 that would lead to different conclusions being reached with respect to the Manston development.”
It set outs the principal reasons for its verdict:
The changes to policy, notably the withdrawal and reinstatement of the Airports National Policy Statement and adoption of the Thanet Local Plan, do not significantly change the policy context that was in place at the time of the Examination
The recent growth in e-commerce sales is not driving a demand for additional runway capacity for dedicated air freighters in the South East
Although there have been short-term changes in the balance between belly hold freight and dedicated freighter activity during the Covid-19 pandemic, these changes are not expected to be permanent, notwithstanding growth in e-commerce and changes to the UK’s trading patterns post-Brexit
There is unlikely to be a significant reduction in belly hold freight capacity (once the passenger market recovers) due to the introduction of narrow-bodied twin-engine aircraft
Despite the uncertainty concerning the timescale for the Heathrow Airport third runway, changes since July 2019 as described do not lead the Independent Assessor to reach a different conclusion on the need case for Manston Airport. East Midlands Airport has sufficient capacity to handle additional dedicated freighter services should the market demand them, while the planning determination at Stansted confirms that significant freight capacity remains available
There is no new evidence to suggest a different conclusion should be drawn in respect of the locational performance of Manston compared to East Midlands Airport, and to a lesser extent Stansted, to that of the Examination Authority report
Mr Shapps has written to RSP and interested parties, asking for comments on the report by Friday (November 19) before making his final decision.
Proposals to reopen Manston airport as a freight hub have hit yet another stumbling block. No sooner had the granting of a Development Consent Order allowing developer RiverOak Strategic Partners to progress its plans been quashed than it has now learnt it must also resubmit documents relating to air space. February’s High Court quashing of the DCO was down to the approval letter from Andrew Stephenson, Minister of State for Transport, not containing enough detail on why he had effectively dismissed the conclusions of the Planning Inspectorate’s Examining Authority. The court verdict meant the DCO process had to be restarted, but RSP has also fallen short in convincing the Civil Aviation Authority to approve its Airspace Change Proposal. For that change to be backed by the CAA, RSP needed to complete seven stages and 14 steps; it also had to win approval for four ‘gateways’. Sadly for RSP, however, the CAA concluded that RSP’s ‘develop and assess gateway’ included in the second stage of the process was unacceptable. Last week’s CAA pronouncement cited “errors and inconsistencies” in RSP’s submission, which failed to meet two necessary criteria. It said: “The Civil Aviation Authority has informed the change sponsor [RSP] of this decision. “The change sponsor is now able to reconsider its submission before resubmitting it for further review by the Civil Aviation Authority at a future develop & assess gateway. “It is important to note that whether an airspace change proposal passes a gateway successfully or not does not predetermine the CAA’s later final decision on whether to approve the airspace change proposal. “This decision is not an explicit or implicit comment on the merits or otherwise of this Airspace Change Proposal (ACP). This will come at the decision-making stage.” Responding, RSP said: “In order for the CAA to allow an ACP to pass through a gateway, the change sponsor must satisfy the CAA that it has followed the process correctly before it can move to the next stage in the process. “The purpose is to minimise any work having to be repeated, particularly in getting the supporting documentation for consultation right. “Following advice from the CAA, RSP will re-evaluate the supporting documentation with a view to submitting the documents to the CAA for a further Stage 2 Gateway Assessment in the near future and progressing the ACP to the next stage which will involve a full public consultation.”
The granting of a Development Consent Order allowing developer RiverOak Strategic Partners to reopen Manston as a freight hub has been quashed. The Department for Transport had already accepted that the DCO approval letter from Andrew Stephenson, Minister of State for Transport, did not contain enough detail on why the conclusions of the four-man Planning Inspectorate’s Examining Authority were effectively dismissed. And today (Tuesday, February 15), the department agreed to a High Court Consent Order stating the minister had indeed not laid out adequate reasons explaining his decision to go against the advice of the inspectors. The Examining Authority had been clear that the DCO should not be granted. The revocation of the DCO meant a judicial review of Mr Stephenson’s decision scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, February 16-17, at the High Court did not go ahead. The review had been launched by Jenny Dawes, chair of Ramsgate Coastal Community Team. However, on Wednesday, December 2, she wrote on her CrowdJustice page set up to help fund the judicial review: “… yesterday my solicitors received a letter from the Treasury Solicitor, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport, which said ‘my client has agreed to concede this claim on the basis of ground 1(b), namely that the Secretary of State did not give adequate reasons in his decision letter to enable the reader to understand why he disagreed with the Examining Authority Report on the issue of need for the development of Manston Airport’. “We subsequently learned that the Interested Party, RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd, will not be defending their claim.” With neither the DfT nor RiverOak contesting proceedings, the High Court judgment was short. It did, though, result in the government being ordered to pay Mrs Dawes’s legal costs of up to £35,000; RSP was ordered to pay additional costs, again capped at £35,000. A statement from RSP said: “In the High Court today, Mr Justice Holgate approved a court order which had been agreed by all the parties to the Manston judicial review in December last year. “The order allows the judicial review on the ground that the Secretary of State for Transport did not give adequate reasons for his decision. It also quashes the Manston DCO and orders costs in favour of the Applicant. “The effect of the order made today is only to require the decision to be re-taken following a further representation period, it does not reverse any earlier stages of the process. The Secretary of State is likely to explain the reasons for his decision in more detail this time round.”
Well, it was never going to go smoothly, was it! The granting of a Development Consent Order allowing developer RiverOak Strategic Partners to reopen Manston airport as a freight hub is to be quashed. The Department for Transport has accepted that the DCO approval letter from Andrew Stephenson, Minister of State for Transport, did not contain enough detail on why the conclusions of the four-man Planning Inspectorate’s Examining Authority were effectively dismissed. The Examining Authority had been clear that the DCO should not be granted. It is understood that its approval will be quashed within three weeks, with a revised decision needed after the Planning Inspectorate evidence is re-examined. The likely revocation of the DCO means a judicial review of Mr Stephenson’s decision scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, February 16-17, at the High Court will not now go ahead. The review had been launched by Jenny Dawes, chair of Ramsgate Coastal Community Team. However, on Wednesday last week (December 2), she wrote on her CrowdJustice page set up to help fund the judicial review: “… yesterday my solicitors received a letter from the Treasury Solicitor, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport, which said ‘my client has agreed to concede this claim on the basis of ground 1(b), namely that the Secretary of State did not give adequate reasons in his decision letter to enable the reader to understand why he disagreed with the Examining Authority Report on the issue of need for the development of Manston Airport’. “We subsequently learned that the Interested Party, RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd, will not be defending their claim. “My lawyers set out three grounds of challenge to the decision to grant a Development Consent Order for the re-opening and development of Manston Airport: Ground 1: Need Ground 2: Breach of Procedural Requirement/Unfairness Ground 3: Net Zero Duty” Two days later, Friday (December 4), Ms Dawes added: “Following the quashing of the Manston Airport Development Consent Order 2020 by the Court, the Secretary of State will write to all interested parties, setting out key issues and inviting further written representations on those issues. “Interested parties include the applicant, the local authority and anyone who previously registered by filling out a Relevant Representation form at the inquiry stage (and had it accepted as valid). “The Secretary of State will make a decision based on the Examining Authority’s Report and the further representations. The Secretary of State has three months to make a decision but this can be extended. “The decision could be either a refusal to make a Manston Airport Development Consent Order or a decision to grant such a Consent Order. “If a DCO is refused, RSP may wish to bring a judicial review. I would be an Interested Party in any such challenge. “If a DCO is granted, another judicial review can be brought on the existing grounds and any further grounds that may arise on review of the decision letter. “Any money left over from the current CrowdJustice campaign can be held in readiness and used towards a second judicial review.” At the time of writing, that campaign had seen more than £88,000 pledged towards the initial review. Responding in July to the news of the DCO approval, Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, had said: “It is shocking that four inspectors spent some nine months preparing a report and concluded very strongly that the DCO should be refused. “The developer was not able to demonstrate need, there were adverse impacts on traffic and transport and there were concerns over noise pollution. “Most importantly, though, the Examining Authority recommended the Secretary of State refuse the DCO due to conservation of habitats and species regulations. “In short, the inspectors’ conclusions were ignored. “This decision flies in the face of the Heathrow third-runway judgement where the Court of Appeal ruled that proposals had failed to consider this country’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions.” Although the Manston decision had to be made in the name of Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, the DfT said Mr Shapps had “not personally been involved in this decision because of a conflict of interest, following previous statements of support made prior to his appointment as the Secretary of State for Transport” and the decision had “in practice been allocated to and taken by the Minister of State for Transport, Andrew Stephenson”.
The Stop Gatwick Expansion Roadshow heads to a venue just over the county border this month – and you are warmly invited to go along. Groombridge village hall is hosting the roadshow on Saturday, October 12, from 2pm-5pm; the event has been organised by the Campaign Against Gatwick Noise Emissions (CAGNE), helped by the Tunbridge Wells and Wealden Green Party. A CAGNE committee member will be on hand to talk to visitors about the issue of noise pollution relating to Gatwick airport. To learn more about CAGNE, click here
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.”
With the issue of airport expansion still very much alive, you might be interested in a free talk on aviation being held just over the county border in Surrey.
The Impact of Aviation Growth on Local Communities and Climate Change is being given by Tim Johnson, director of the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), in Lingfield.
Organised by Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (CAGNE) and the Kent and Surrey branches of CPRE, the talk is being hosted by Lingfield Parish Council.
The AEF is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to tackling the environmental impacts of aviation, while Johnson has almost 30 years’ expertise in the aviation, environmental and planning field.
He is a lead representative for the international environmental NGOs at the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organisation, where he co-leads groups set up by the Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection to develop the standards and recommended practices of reducing aircraft noise and emissions.
He is also a member of the Department for Transport’s external advisory group and represents community and environmental interests on the DfT’s airspace modernisation board and the Airspace and Noise Engagement Group.
As if all that were not enough, Johnson sits on Sustainable Aviation’s advisory panel and the Airports Council International airport carbon accreditation advisory board.
In short, he a bit of an expert!
AEF was founded in 1975 as a voice for community groups impacted by airports, airfields and flight paths. Today it represents more than 50 organisations throughout the UK.
The Impact of Aviation Growth on Local Communities and Climate Change is being held on Wednesday, June 12 (7.30pm-9pm), at Lingfield and Dormansland Community Centre, High Street, Lingfield, Surrey RH7 6AB. If you would like to attend, you can email Liz at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01342 834282.
A four-strong Examining Authority will be considering more than 2,000 representations made in response to the bid to reopen the Manston airport site as a freight hub.
Following the Planning Inspectorate’s decision to consider RiverOak Strategic Partners’ case for reopening the airport through a Development Consent Order, the latest stage in one of the most contentious – and long-running – planning issues in Kent has drawn a predictably strong response.
If the panel determines that Manston should be regarded as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, the Secretary of State for Transport can grant seizure of the site.
One of the respondents is site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd, which has contrasting plans to build some 4,000 homes, business units and sporting facilities there.
Those who have registered with the Planning Inspectorate are known as Interested Parties and will be asked to a meeting, run and chaired by the Examining Authority.
This part of the process is expected to last about three months, after which the Planning Inspectorate has six months to carry out its examination.
Interested Parties will be asked to give further written details of their views during this time, while there might be public hearings.
When all that is concluded, within the next three months the Planning Inspectorate must prepare a report and recommendation for the Secretary of State, who then himself has three months to decide on the application.
Finally, there is a six-month period when that decision can be challenged in the High Court.
Meanwhile, a question to the leader of Thanet District Council about whether the local authority had produced either a Statement of Common Ground, detailing agreements and disagreements pertinent to the case, or a local impact report drew a non-committal answer.
The leader said only that the council “was engaging” with RiverOak Strategic Partners.
Thanet CPRE has chosen not to give a view on the airport as feelings on the subject are so mixed.
We have today (12th July) submitted our consultation response to RiverOak Strategic Partnership’s consultation into the future of Manston airport.
We are concerned that the environmental and social impacts of noise and air pollution outweigh the claimed economic benefits. In contrast, the opportunity to convert this brownfield site to mixed commercial and residential use offers more realistic employment opportunities and would help of safeguard the best quality agricultural land which would otherwise be required to meet Thanet’s objectively assessed housing need.
Manston airport by Simon Moores, flickr
Director Hilary Newport said “We don’t think a new airport here would provide any overall social or economic benefits, and there is a real danger of converting the site into an airport is that is highly unlikely to be viable, and would therefore again become a blight on the area, and retard the more useful, and economically and socially beneficial uses for another decade.”
CPRE Kent also considers the negative impact of night flights on surrounding communities to be unacceptable.
The consultation period closes on 23rd July. You can read our consultation response here.
CPRE Kent has taken part in two consultations on airports – the UK Airspace Policy consultation and the Department of Transport Runway Consultation.
We do not accept that there is a case for additional runway capacity in the south east. Under-used runways exist within the UK and to add capacity in the south east will only further aggravate the north-south economic divide. Plus, there will be further impact on the environment and it will further damage the UK’s efforts to control carbon emissions, there will be additional pressure on transport and housing and more people affected by noise and air pollution.
In the Airspace consultation we raised concerns about flight paths and noise including:
More call-ins by the Secretary of State to changes in flight paths – there have been three major changes to flight paths at Gatwick over the past four years (the ADNID trial, the concentration of approach routes to the east of the airport, and the concentration of departure routes). These changes have caused thousands of complaints, yet none of them would have fallen within the proposed criteria for call-in so it needs to be much wider.
We consider the proposals for compensation to be inadequate. The proposals for increased noise insulation would only apply very close to the airport and would provide no benefit to those who wished to open their windows or spend time out of doors. Compensation for new or changed flight paths should be paid by the airport concerned.
We are disappointed at the proposal to retain unchanged the guidance which states that noise should be given priority up to 4,000ft, while noise and climate change should be given equal priority between 4,000 and 7,000ft. We do of course recognise the importance of limiting climate change emissions, but we are aware that many of our members are severely disturbed by the noise of aircraft at heights of 4,000 to 7,000ft and even higher. This is particularly true in areas where ambient noise is low.
We strongly oppose a policy of transferring some noise controls to the airports. It would be wrong in principle to put such controls into the hands of a commercial business, which will always put profit first.
The announcement of the apparent end of Manston Airport’s history of aviation came today with the news that the majority holdings of the site have been bought by property developers.
It seems new owners Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave, part of the consortium behind the nearby Discovery Park in Sandwich, intend to redevelop the site rather than to re-open the airport. Their regeneration plans could include commercial, manufacturing and residential uses and represent a potential boon to Thanet and the surrounding area, with the promise of up to 4,000 jobs.
However, this will only be the case if the plans are firmly linked into Thanet’s emerging local plan, subject to full public consultation, and consider the environmental constraints of the area.
The site could make a significant contribution to the wider development needs of east Kent, potentially protecting greenfield sites from development. We hope that the local authorities will grasp this opportunity for a properly joined up planning strategy for the wider area.
Manston – while we have never opposed the development of Manston as a regional airport, we remain sceptical about its ambitions to become a successful international airport. It has been operated as a fully commercial airport since 1992, and yet a succession of owners have not been able to make it a prosperous going concern. Even though the latest owners Infratil have encouraged KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to fly from Manston, they are still proceeding with its sale. The continuing promise of jobs that are never realised is just maintaining false hopes amongst Thanet’s residents. We also remain opposed to night flights, believing that the disruption to the sleep of local residents and possible associated health aspects are untenable impacts from this very small gain in custom for the airport.