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.”
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 email@example.com 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.
CPRE Kent has expressed its concern about the effect on tranquillity and the environment of airport expansion after the Government backed a third runway at Heathrow.
The countryside protection charity has campaigned against airport expansion at both Gatwick and Heathrow, in particular because of the serious impact on air quality and the devastating effect of aircraft noise.
“Aircraft noise brings misery to those living under the flight paths, including many people 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, it can prevent stress and increases our enjoyment of exercise and play.”
Photo: Phil Weedon
CPRE Kent also fears the extraordinary pressure that will be placed on the environment and existing infrastructure around Heathrow. Thousands of additional employees and passengers will be drawn to an area of the country already struggling to cope with the demand for housing and transport. Continue reading →