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Stone Hill Park planning application submitted on former Manston airport

By Chris Price

The developers of a new town and offices on the former Manston airport site have submitted a planning application to councillors.

The final masterplan for Stone Hill Park will keep the old airfield’s runway intact, which closed in May 2014 after losing £100 million during 16 years of private ownership.

The outline application seeks outline permission for up to 2,500 homes on the 800-acre site and includes a series of communities under the names the Taxiways, the Meadow Edge, Heritage Gardens and Airfield Aveneus.

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

It also seeks approval for the first phase of commerical development, which would be employment land to the western end of the runway.

Developers say its total employment land could create 4,000 jobs.

The plans feature two primary schools, a hotel, swimming pool, sports fields and allotments.

It is unclear whether plans for a film studio remain part of the proposals, which will take shape over the next 20 years.

A grassy area to be known as Spitfire Park will allow Second World War and other heritage aircraft to continue to land on the site for tourism purposes.

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 former runway will be used as a recreation space, taking inspiration from other runway parks such as Templehof in Berlin.

Stone Hill Park spokesman Ray Mallon said: “We have carried out extensive consultation with local people and organisations and the feedback has helped shape the scheme that has now been submitted.

“The application outlines a carefully designed, mixed use site which is sympathetic to existing settlements and preserves the heritage of the former Manston airfield.

“The development will bring much needed jobs, homes, leisure and community facilities to east Kent, as well as a multi-million pound boost to the local economy and local public bodies.”

What the Wavegarden lake at Stone Hill Park might look like
What the Wavegarden lake at Stone Hill Park might look like

More than £1.4 million has been invested in preparing the scheme by its owners Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave, the commerical property developers who own Discovery Park in Sandwich.

The project team includes global planning and property consultants Bilfinger GVA and master planners PlanIt.

There is still much controversy about the ownership of the site, which its present owners bought from Scottish businesswoman Ann Gloag, who closed the airport and maintains a 20% shareholding.

The submission of the planning application on Tuesday comes after the US company which tried to buy the airport from Mrs Gloag before it closed reaffirmed its intentions this week.

Trevor Cartner, left, and Chris Musgrave will now focus on their plans to redevelop the Manston airport site
Trevor Cartner, left, and Chris Musgrave will now focus on their plans to redevelop the Manston airport site

RiverOak revealed its team which will try to take control of the site using a development consent order, with the aim of reopening it as a cargo airport.

Alongside London law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, it has hired engineering consultancy Amec Foster Wheeler which has worked on Hinkley Point C nuclear power station and the third runway proposals at Heathrow Airport.

"It’s now time for the council to focus on what is feasible and best for the future of this area...” - Ray Mallon, Stone Hill Park

It is also working with Northpoint Aviation Consultancy, Viscount Aviation, Azimuth Consulting and Osprey.

George Yerrall, of RiverOak Investment Corp, said: “We have had productive initial meetings with the Planning Inspectorate, covering a range of issues relevant to RiverOak’s proposed application.

“We have now put in place a very strong and experienced team of aviation and planning experts to support us as we move further forward through the process.”

Thanet District Council, which will consider the Stone Hill Park application, refused a compulsory purchase order by RiverOak last year.

It announced last month it would not be pursuing negotiations with three other potential partners in a compulsory buyout.

A report said that after assessing the three proposals that followed a “soft marketing” exercise, none of them met its requirements.

Stone Hill Park spokesman Ray Mallon
Stone Hill Park spokesman Ray Mallon

Mr Mallon said: “The debate over the future of this site has caused confusion and, at times, distress for local people – as well as economic uncertainty for the area.

“Repeated studies and market testing exercises have shown that aviation is not feasible on this site. It’s now time for the council to focus on what is feasible and best for the future of this area.”

He added: “For the avoidance of any doubt, Stone Hill Park has been approached by one party who are exploring numerous possible infrastructure projects across the country and assessing which, if any, are feasible.

“I would describe them as credible speculators, exploring, with an open mind, the possibility of aviation use on the site. We have held one meeting with them during which the feasibility of an airport was discussed, along with our plans for mixed development of the site; plans which we have now submitted.

“I have no doubt that if this party commissions a feasibility study on this site it will reach the same conclusion as all the previous reports, studies and market testing exercises – an airport is not a sustainable proposition.”

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