As members will know, we have been waiting for the High Court to adjudicate on the judicial review of the decision by the Secretary of State to allow Manston Airport to reopen. Despite the Lockdown, the Courts are still working, though more slowly than usual. As it happens, the High Court had been due to reach a decision this coming week (ending 12th Feb 2021). However, behind the scenes things have been happening, and there seems to have been a meeting of minds. The original decision letter of 9th July 2020 from the Secretary of State contained just two relatively short paragraphs on the subject of the “need” for Manston, despite so much being discussed in the six months of public hearings. All sides would have appreciated more detail on this point, and it seems that is what we should now get.
It was therefore agreed that the best and simplest way to achieve this would be for Mr Shapps to withdraw his original decision letter; the DCO is quashed, the Court action therefore lapses, and Mr Shapps will then be able to issue a much more detailed letter to explain his decision, no doubt with input from impartial but knowledgeable civil servants from the Department for Transport. At the same time the DCO will be reinstated. We expect that all this will take place during the next few weeks.
During the public hearings in 2019, when a barrister suggested that a particular form of wording should be used for a document “because it has always been used in the past,” the Chairman of the hearings pointed out that did not need to happen. He reminded us that in the House of Commons the previous week, the Speaker of the Commons (then Mr Bercow) had suggested that sometimes Precedent should not be followed and, indeed, that always following Precedent might well result in blocking Progress!
Now that the airline industry has suffered a major blow from the coronavirus epidemic, and despite the Supreme Court giving approval for the expansion of Heathrow, Mr Shapps’ letter, when reissued, is expected to reaffirm the value of Britain having more, but smaller, regional airports, such as Manston.
Nicholas Reed, Press Officer