Published: 17:00, 06 January 2016
| Updated: 17:12, 06 January 2016
The US firm trying to reopen Manston airport will have monthly meetings with the Government’s planning authorities after holding talks with officials this week.
Bosses at RiverOak sat down with members of the planning inspectorate for two hours in Bristol on Tuesday as it discussed its latest proposals to take control of the old runway near Ramsgate.
The company revealed last month its plans to use a development consent order to buy the airport, which was closed in May 2014 after wracking up losses of more than £100 million over 16 years.
It involves applying to the Secretary of State Patrick McLoughlin to deem the site a nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP), a process which the Government says typically takes three years.
Mr McLoughlin visited the airport before the general election and threw his weight behind the campaign to reopen it.
"The planning inspectorate have given us no reason not to believe this will move forward fast..." - Sir Roger Gale MP
RiverOak said the first of the monthly meetings would begin in February.
Sir Roger Gale, the North Thanet MP who has campaigned for the airport to reopen, said the airport could open as early as next spring.
He said: “There is no reason why it should last three years at all. The planning inspectorate have given us no reason not to believe this will move forward fast. It ticks all the boxes.
“These things always slip so maybe we are being optimistic saying spring next year but it’s possible we will get things moving in the timescale I hope for.”
NSIP status would require RiverOak to prove it could attract 10 million passenger movements a year to Manston or 10,000 freight movements annually.
Sir Roger said: “Long term it has the potential, yes. In the short term you cannot go from zero to that level of traffic in 24 hours.”
Thanet council already turned down the chance to try and buy back the airport site with RiverOak last year through a compulsory purchase order.
Sir Roger added: “No one can guarantee the decision of the Secretary of State but what I have achieved is the path to a proper hearing.
“RiverOak will be put through the mincer and the business plan and finances will have to stack up.
“If it doesn’t, then the Secretary of State will turn it down and that is fine by me. That is the decision.
“What I have found offensive is [Thanet council leader Cllr Chris] Wells and his team were elected to go for a compulsory purchase order and to subject to due process an an indemnity partner and they did not do that.”