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RiverOak launches new Manston airport bid seeking same powers given to London Paramount resort

By Chris Price

A US company is renewing its attempt to buy the former Manston airport by applying for the same special planning powers allocated to proposals for a Paramount resort in north Kent.

RiverOak said its pursuit of the permission, known as a Development Consent Order, was justified because the runway was a project of national significance.

The developers of London Paramount – the £3.2 billion resort set to open near Swanscombe in 2021 – are preparing an application for the same rights after being designated a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) by the Government.

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

RiverOak would have to persuade ministers to give the same status to the failed airport.

Manston was closed in May last year after wracking up losses of more than £100 million during 16 years of private ownership.

RiverOak has appointed Bircham Dyson Bell to act as its solicitors in the process.

Sir Roger Gale, the North Thanet MP who has long campaigned to reopen the airport, said the move could see the runway reopened in early 2017.

He said: “If the application is granted, as it properly must be, then this will remove the future of Manston from the control of Thanet District Council while facilitating the full public consultation process and examination of the company`s credentials and resources that they have been seeking for so long.

Thanet North MP Sir Roger Gale
Thanet North MP Sir Roger Gale

“RiverOak have secured the services of Messrs Bircham Dyson Bell, one of the country`s leading practitioners in this field, to take the application and hearings through to a positive conclusion.

“The procedure will take time but, in competent hands and given a fair wind, there is the real possibility of planes flying from Manston again by the early part of 2017.”

In November, Thanet District Council decided against reviewing its decision to reject an offer by RiverOak to team up with it to force a buyout of Manston airport.

A cross-party committee of backbench councillors voted to accept the Ukip-led council’s decision not to go forward with the US firm as an indemnity partner and try to pursue a compulsory purchase order (CPO) for the former airfield.

In the 18 months since it close, the site has been stripped of its equipment and left derelict.

Many campaigners still want Manston to reopen as an airport
Many campaigners still want Manston to reopen as an airport

Sir Roger added: “RiverOak have sought, over very many months, to work with Thanet District Council, to enter into an indemnity agreement and to allow Thanet District Council to initiate a compulsory purchase order.

“The recent and final rejection of this course of action by the leader of the council, Cllr Chris Wells, has released the company from any implied sense of obligation and left the field free for the DCO application to be lodged and processed.

“Has it cost time? Yes, of course, but I applaud RiverOak`s integrity and determination to stick with the project in spite of the council`s intransigence and I believe that the company does have the resources and the willpower and now the expertise to deliver.

“I hope that RiverOak will be allowed to succeed where Thanet council has failed.”

This month, the owners of the airport held a public consultation on their £1 billion plans to turn the site into 2,500 homes and commercial property under the name Stone Hill Park.

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