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Manston airport: Stone Hill Park hits out at 'vague' RiverOak plans

By Chris Price

Developers with plans for 2,500 homes and commercial space on the former Manston airport have said an investment group has “industrial scale” rival plans for cargo flights from the site.

Stone Hill Park attacked “vague” proposals by US firm RiverOak, which was twice rejected by Thanet Council as a partner for a compulsory purchase order for the airfield.

Bosses pointed to calls by the Department for Communities and Local Government for greater clarity on a raft of issues on its plans to acquire the site through a development consent order.

The former Manston airport, now called Stone Hill Park. Picture: Simon Burchett
The former Manston airport, now called Stone Hill Park. Picture: Simon Burchett

The Planning Inspectorate made the comments in a series of responses to questions on the plans on its website. An application is expected by the end of the year.

RiverOak held informal consultations on its proposals for the first time in July, where it said the airport is able to handle about 14 return flights per day, a base for at least one passenger carrier, an aircraft recycling and engineering facility, a flight training school and business facilities for aviation companies.

Project leader Tony Freudmann, a former chairman of the airport, said the company had the ability to pay “fair compensation” to its present owners if it was successful.

An outline planning application for homes, offices and leisure facilities was submitted to Thanet council by Stone Hill Park in June, which will become the site’s name if approved.

Ray Mallon, spokesman for Stone Hill Park, said: “Gradually the truth is emerging that RiverOak has no intention of running a passenger-based airport but rather a 24/7 industrial scale cargo hub that will destroy the tranquillity of local life.

RiverOak project leader Tony Freudmann
RiverOak project leader Tony Freudmann
Stone Hill Park spokesman Ray Mallon
Stone Hill Park spokesman Ray Mallon

“The figures RiverOak have submitted are vague but suggest 20,000 take-off and landings a year. That equates to 54 flights every day and night of the year and doesn’t include any passenger flights that may be added later.

“Quite rightly the Secretary of State has instructed RiverOak to clearly indicate the maximum number of flights they plan, operational hours and numbers of trucks and other vehicles that this would result in using the site.”

Mr Mallon said he was aware of mounting concern at how the round the clock cargo hub planned by RiverOak would destroy the quality of life locally.

“This is not what people signed up for. They have been spun fables about low cost holiday flights when the reality is cargo planes taking off and landing day and night with roads choked with heavy goods vehicles.

A planning application submitted for Stone Hill Park, the proposed development on the site of the former Manston airport
A planning application submitted for Stone Hill Park, the proposed development on the site of the former Manston airport

“I’d urge anyone with an interest in the future of this site to view the documents on the planning inspectorate website. It’s clear that the Secretary of State is on to RiverOak and has asked for maximum parameters for air traffic movements and operational hours. I look forward their response.”

Mr Mallon said he was now more confident than ever that the DCO would fail.

"We have said in our proposals that we believe this would equate to Manston handling something like 14 return services a day – which is 10,000 air transport movements a year, not 20,000 as Mr Mallon suggests..." - Tony Freudmann, RiverOak

“I firmly believe our plans will prevail because they are so clearly in the public interest. We own the land and can deliver an ambitious development that will answer the desperate need locally for jobs and houses whilst also providing increased public space and leisure facilities and a massive boost to the local economy.”

RiverOak project leader Tony Freudmann said there were a wealth of inaccuracies in Mr Mallon’s comments.

"At no stage has RiverOak suggested Manston would be operated as a ‘low cost’ holiday airport.

"For Manston to deliver on its economic potential for the region its strongest proposition will be as an freight hub with some complementary engineering, passenger and business aviation services.

"We have said in our proposals that we believe this would equate to Manston handling something like 14 return services a day – which is 10,000 air transport movements a year – not 20,000 as Mr Mallon suggests."

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