What is to be done with the Manston airport site? One of the most contentious issues in the county could have moved at least some way towards resolution with Thanet District Council’s Cabinet approval of its draft Local Plan for publication.
It of course covers a range of issues as the local authority sets out the isle’s planned development until 2031, but the subject that has attracted the greatest coverage and sparked the greatest division of opinion is the future of Manston.
Now, plans by site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd for 2,500 homes (a figure that could ultimately increase to 4,000), business units and sporting facilities would appear to have been backed with last Wednesday’s (October 25) approval of the Plan, which includes an allocation of 2,500 properties at the site.
A succession of operators struggled to make the airport work as a commercial venture and in May 2014 then-owner Ann Gloag, the joint founder of the Stagecoach bus company, closed it before selling a majority stake of the 750-acre site to “regeneration specialists” Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner, who rebranded it Stone Hill Park.
Alongside this, however, would-be airport operator RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) stated it had the plans and the funding in place for the site to be revived as a freight hub.
It says this would be a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and the Secretary of State can grant seizure of the site through a Development Consent Order (DCO).
It is intending to apply to the Planning Inspectorate for the DCO by the end of this year, with a subsequent decision from the Secretary of State expected by the end of 2018.
RSP says the granting of the DCO would allow it to have a a refurbished airport back in business by 2020.
Such hopes, however, took a nosedive when a TDC-commissioned report concluded that Manston was not viable as an operational airport.
It was subsequently little surprise when council policy incorporated Manston as a site suitable for redevelopment as something other than an airport.
CPRE Kent has been following the saga closely, producing a substantial response to RSP’s Manston Consultation earlier this year. It can be viewed here.
Commenting on the latest news, Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, said: “We believe in sustainable use of brownfield land, but it’s got to the right development in the right place.
“We trust that if the Stone Hill Park scheme does go ahead, it will negate the need to build on valuable agricultural land elsewhere in Thanet.”
Monday, October 31, 2017