Manston report: airport hopes dealt another grim blow

If nothing else, the saga of Manston airport has had enough twists and turns to hold the attention

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.

For (yet) more on the tale of Manston, see here

Monday, November 15, 2021

So what now for Manston? And for Thanet?

Manston… its future hangs in the balance

In a collision of some of Kent’s more enduring stories, the thorny subject of Thanet District Council’s Local Plan is being voted upon tonight (Thursday, January 18), with housing numbers and Manston airport certain to be among the main factors debated.
The Plan of course covers a range of issues, mapping 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 the Manston airport site.
Manston’s days as an airport could be numbered, following the revelation of plans by site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd to build 2,500 homes (a figure that could rise to 4,000), business units and sporting facilities there.
Those proposals appeared to have been backed in October last year when the local authority’s cabinet approved the draft Local Plan, which includes an allocation of 2,500 properties at Manston, but tonight it is to be voted upon by the full council in circumstances so contentious that some are predicting a change in regime at the local authority.
That could occur should council members refuse to adopt the Local Plan, a situation intensified by that fact that Thanet is one of 15 councils to have been put “on notice” by Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, for its lack of progress in putting forward its Plan for examination.
If the Plan is refused tonight, its adoption is likely to be set back by anything up to 18 months, prompting Mr Javid’s department to step in and effectively impose its own plan on Thanet, most notably, it is feared, an increased housebuilding target – up from 857 a year (a total of 17,150) to 1,063 (more than 21,000), assuming proposed new government methodology is accepted.
In contrast to the Stone Hill proposals for Manston, meanwhile, would-be airport operator RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) has stated that it has 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 had intended to apply to the Planning Inspectorate for the DCO by the end of 2017, with a subsequent decision from the Secretary of State expected by the end of this year.
RSP says the granting of the DCO would allow it to have a refurbished airport back in business by 2020, but such hopes nosedived when a TDC-commissioned report concluded that Manston was not viable as an operational airport.
However, a recent leaked email from the council’s chief executive revealed a proposal for a two-year deferment on accepting the scheme for housing and business at Manston. This would give RSP time to pursue the DCO.
So… a rejuvenated airport or Manston new town? What is the opinion of CPRE on the isle?
Geoff Orton, Thanet district secretary, said: “We have agreed not to take a view on the airport as feelings are so mixed.
“Those in favour of an airport, though, see the airport as an employment opportunity. What would be the point of building 21,000 homes without it? If there’s no airport, what economic future does Thanet have?”
As for what appear to be eye-wateringly high housebuilding targets, Mr Orton echoed the views of many in highlighting their constant increase alongside a local economy that has almost been a byword for unemployment.
“The official figure of 17,000 was already a hike on the previous 12,000 – now we could be looking at a figure north of 20,000. And all this without the airport?
“Further, we’ve lost the deaf school in Margate, along with two care homes – and more rumoured to be going. And with retail becoming more automated, what are Thanet’s young people going to do for work?”
In what is looking increasingly like a perfect storm, the loss of Thanet’s remaining open space is another likely depressing outcome of the forthcoming political machinations, but Mr Orton believes that could be offset to a large degree through brownfield development.
“Thanet is the worst district south of Bolsover for empty properties, while we have a real problem with our high streets. There’s also the deaf school site, while the Canterbury Christ Church University campus is due to be closed. All can be used for housing.”
And a final word from Mr Orton?
“The longer Manston is held in reserve as a relief lorry park, as suggested by the Transport Minister is a possibility – and we know all about the Stack dilemma – the more opportunity for a sensible Local Plan assisted by neighbourhood planners to develop, and the more strategic value our threatened Class I farmland assumes.”
Indeed. Tonight’s meeting at the Thanet District Council offices in Margate should be interesting…

For more on the Manston airport saga, see here

For CPRE Kent’s substantial response to RSP’s Manston Consultation last year, see here

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Manston: the story moves forward

The end of the line for airport operations at Manston?

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

Submission to Airport Commission focuses on noise and tranquillity

CPRE Kent has made a submission to the Airports Commission consultation into a new runway at Gatwick or Heathrow, raising the issues of noise and tranquillity and pressure on the environment and infrastructure.

The consultation closed yesterday (3rd February) and the Commission will publish its report this summer.

In our submission, we have drawn on the devastating impacts of recent flight path alterations which have seen a concentration of flights over previously tranquil areas of west Kent.

“This has brought misery to many people living in west Kent,” said CPRE Kent Director Hilary Newport. “The importance of tranquillity cannot be overstated – it is the main reason why people enjoy the countryside and can prevent stress and aid people’s enjoyment of exercise and play.”


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Campaign Against Gatwick Expansion

CPRE Kent will be campaigning stongly against a new runway for Gatwick. The impact on Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and the Weald would be devastating – the noise, the loss of tranquillity in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the congestion and the pressure for more and more housing to cater for the 90,000 jobs which it claims would be created.

With two runways, Gatwick could handle 560,000 air traffic movements a year, compared to 250,000 a year at present. At busy times of day now aircraft take off or land at a rate of nearly one a minute – with a new runway it would be doubnearly two a minute.

“We do not have the road or rail capacity to cope with the additional passengers,” said CPRE Kent Director Hilary Newport. “It could severely affect people’s quality of life in West Kent because of the additional noise, the congestion, the pressure to build on greenfield sites and the loss of tranquillity in some of our most beautiful areas.”

We believe there is enough existing runway capacity at British airports to accommodate the demand for flights. The South East also has excellent rail and ferry links to the continent and use of these should be maximised.

We also believe that to focus aviation growth on London, which already has so many runways, is wrong for the UK. It will cause great pressure to build on greenfield sites and it will reinforce the North South divide.

On November 22nd we joined colleagues from CPRE Sussex and CPRE Surrey at a Gatwick Campaign meeting, attended by all the interested parties including five MPs and many local councillors. We are heartened that the Leader of Kent County Council Paul Carter has now come out in opposition to the second runway and airport expansion because of the impact on people living in West Kent..

We will be lobbying MPs and councillors to oppose the plans. We will respond to the Airports Commission consultation paper. And we will continue to campaign against the noise and loss of tranquillity caused by damaging flight paths.

We will be working together with some of the many groups opposed to Gatwick:

Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC)

CAGNE (Communities Against Gatwick Noise Emissions) East based in the area around Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.

HWPAAG (The High Weald Parishes Aviation Action Group) consisting of eight parishes In the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty all adversely affected by aircraft noise. (Chiddingstone, Hever, Leigh and Penshurst Parish Councils)

Gatwick Obviously Not

WAGAN (Weald Action Group Against Noise)

December 3rd 2014

No Time for TEA (Thames Estuary Airport!)

Sir Howard Davis’s Airports Commission has finally announced that the idea of a wholly new hub airport in the Thames Estuary will no longer be considered a possibility.  We have to breathe a sigh of relief at this, since the enormous environmental damage, financial cost and business risk of such an enterprise have finally been clearly and damningly recognised.

Given the resounding pounding that the idea of a new ‘Boris Island’ has received this morning does give us cause to consider why so much public money has been unnecessarily spent in extending the work of the Commission in hammering the last few nails into this particular coffin.  Nevertheless, we must not allow ourselves to be distracted from the fact that the focus for airport capacity expansion is now firmly on either Gatwick or Heathrow.

CPRE Kent remains convinced – along with other Non-Governmental Organisations – that the case for expansion is far from clear-cut.  We contend that adequate airport capacity already exists; it is not passenger numbers but flight numbers that are the key parameter.  Flight numbers have not increased in line with passenger numbers, since aircraft now carry more passengers per flight.  Sensible management of transport policy, making best use of existing alternative (and less environmentally damaging) routes, could free up significant runway space (the south east has astonishingly good rail connections to mainland Europe, yet Heathrow alone carries over 10 flights per day to Paris alone).  Let’s make sensible use of the runway space that already exists – and yes, even at Manston, provided it can be operated under a sensible planning regime that prevents the erosion of night flight controls – before we rush to increase pollution, sacrifice homes, blight lives and lose green spaces.


2nd September 2014