Building a strong economic future for Kent
Manston Airport is a unique and important transport infrastructure asset in the UK. An illustrious history as a Battle of Britain airfield and, with the right commercial appetite, investment and operation, a promising future as a vibrant hub for international airfreight – one which delivers economic prosperity and employment across Kent and protects a strategic aviation resource for the nation.
Our proposal is to reopen Manston as a global freight hub, enabling the airport to fulfil its role in helping the UK trade across the globe and to import vital and time-sensitive goods, including fresh fruit and medical supplies. The air freight market is ripe for an alternative to the overcrowded London airports system. Manston’s accessibility, long runway and community support represent the strongest option available to Government to increase runway capacity in the south east for air freight. Our analysis also tells us that Manston enjoys considerable support among airlines and freight forwarders too.
A revived Manston Airport will provide air freight operators with a realistic alternative to the overcrowded London airports, ease the considerable road congestion caused by lorries carrying freight through the channel tunnel to European airports, improve resilience and boost economic growth and jobs in Kent. Our plans seek also to attract passenger services and business aviation too, providing the people of Kent with an international airport once more. Our proposals will also create over 23,000 jobs across East Kent and the wider national economy by the Airport’s 20th year of operation.
The DCO process
Given the scale of our proposed redevelopment of Manston Airport, the plans were submitted for consideration as a ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project’, as defined by the Planning Act 2008, to be granted by the Secretary of State for Transport.
In July 2016, RiverOak Investments, as we were then known, conducted a non-statutory consultation into our proposals for Manston, with six events held in the local community and feedback forms available both online and in printed form.
More than 800 responses to the non-statutory consultation were received, with 90% of local people supporting our proposals. All of the feedback and questions received during the non-statutory consultation were factored into the development of our detailed proposals for Manston, which were published for formal, statutory consultation, along with the preliminary environmental information (PEI) report, in June and July 2017..
There were 2,200 responses to the 2017 statutory consultation. These responses were considered and the plans underwent further development. In November 2017, RiverOak announced plans to give the public a further chance to comment on its proposals to reopen Manston. This further consultation took place from 12 January 2018 to 16 February 2018. This fulfilled a number of requirements set out in the Planning Act 2008 and allowed the public and all stakeholders an additional opportunity to comment upon our proposals, which had undergone further development.
The DCO application was originally submitted to the government Planning Inspectorate (PINS) at the beginning of April 2018. It was withdrawn in early May 2019 to satisfy PINS’ requests for further information about certain parts of the application. These related to funding, to the categorisation of the project as being of national significance, and to certain aspects of the supporting environmental statements, before being resubmitted in July 2018. The Planning Inspectorate announced its decision to accept the application for examination on 14 August 2018, the first DCO application for a nationally significant airport project to be accepted for examination by the Planning Inspectorate.
In January 2019, examination of our proposals by the Planning Inspectorate got underway and, following a series of issue-specific and open floor hearings, the process closed in July – on the same day that RSP confirmed acquisition of the Manston site from Stone Hill Park.
In October 2019, it was confirmed that the DCO inspectors had issued their recommendations to the Secretary of State for Transport, with a decision initially expected from the Secretary of State in January 2020 – but subsequently delayed to May 2020 following the General Election and then again to July 2020. The Development Consent Order was granted on 9 July 2020.
on 15 February 2021, Mr Justice Holgate approved a court order which had been agreed by all the parties to a judicial review in December 2020. The order allowed the judicial review on the ground that the Secretary of State for Transport did not give adequate reasons for his decision. It also quashed the Manston DCO and ordered costs in favour of the Applicant.
The effect of the order requires 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 the next time round.
RSP also began the process of securing approval for airspace procedures in 2019.
Creating jobs for Manston
Following the acquisition of the Jentex site on Canterbury Road West in Ramsgate – which is designated as the location of the airport fuel facility – RSP is meeting with a wide range of other potential partners and stakeholders across Thanet and East Kent. Our aim is to answer questions people and organisations have about our proposals and explore opportunities to develop partnerships that will bring additional benefits to local people from our commitment to reopening the airport. As part of this partnership approach, RSP has created the Manston Skills and Employment Board (MSE-B) to ensure people from East Kent have the right skills to take the wide range of jobs that will be created by the reopening of Manston.
The MSE-Board considers the future employment and skills needs of the airport following DCO approval, from planning and construction through to operation. The aim of the MSE-B is to ensure that Manston and associated businesses will have access to well-trained and experienced potential employees across a diverse range of skillsets. The MSE-B will do this by ensuring a comprehensive range of services are available to young people, job seekers and employers in the area around the airport.
In addition to RSP, the MSE-B membership currently includes representatives from:
- Dover District Council
- Canterbury City Council
- Kent County Council
- EKC Group
- Canterbury Christ Church University/EDGE Hub
- Kent and Medway Skills Commission
- The Education People
- Jobcentre Plus
- Discovery Park
- Thanet and East Kent Chamber of Commerce
Board representation is available to unrepresented local councils and business sectors.”