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Manston Airport: Planning chiefs agree to look at RiverOak Strategic Partners bid to reopen site

By Katie Davis

Government planning chiefs have agreed to take a look at plans to reopen Manston airport four years after it closed.

Hopes to reopen the runway have been given a boost after the decision to accept an application for a development consent order (DCO) submitted by RiverOak Strategic Partners, the consortium which wants to turn the site into a cargo hub.

The Planning Inspectorate today announced it would consider the bid after a previous application was withdrawn by RiverOak.

Manston airport has been shut for years (3588233)
Manston airport has been shut for years (3588233)

North Thanet`s MP Sir Roger Gale has welcomed the Planning Inspectorate`s decision to accept the application for a DCO for Manston Airport, saying it is “a first but very significant step in the right direction".

“This means that Manston has been accepted as a site of nationally important infrastructure," he said.

"That is what those of us who have recognised the post-Brexit strategic value of Manston have been saying for some time: we are desperately short of runway capacity in the South East and Manston offers a literally unique opportunity to provide freight and passenger capacity.

"I would like to immediately pay tribute to those, the RiverOak Strategic Partnership, the new administration of Thanet Council and those overwhelming numbers of local people who have, in the teeth of ridicule and vilification, held to the long-term vision for Manston Airport and recognised the national rather than the short-term commercial interest in using this essential national asset for its proper purpose.

"We have a long way to go: the pubic examination will, rightly, be rigorous and significant investment will be required to restore and expand the airport to meet the national demand and to make the airfield commercially viable but we are on our way.

"Now the real work begins.”

The DCO application makes the consortium's case to compulsorily acquire the site on the basis that its plan for a cargo hub facility is a nationally important infrastructure project.

The consortium resubmitted its application to the Planning Inspectorate last month after being told it needed to give more details on where the funding for the scheme would come from.

The application will to go through an inquiry before a final decision is made.

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay says he is "very pleased" with this update.

"This is a very positive move forward," he said.

"Most of these DCOs do get through so I am optimistic.

"There will have to be an examination inquiry which could be protracted because of environmental issues and the issue of a valuation of the site."

He said the application would have to be considered in the context of the recently-adopted Local Plan which recognised the site for aviation use, which would improve the prospects of success.

Campaigners from the group Save Manston Airport say they are "delighted".

A spokesman said: "Today we heard the exciting and welcome news that the proposal to reopen and develop Manston Airport in Kent has now been accepted for examination by the Government's Planning Inspectorate (PINS).

"The UK company behind the bid, RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP), have spent four years and over £7million (by March 2018) in preparing their plans, which have the potential to bring a vast array of high-quality career jobs for local people and others in east Kent as well as hundreds of millions of pounds in new investment to east Kent.

"Save Manston Airport association are delighted to see RSP's application moving forward.

"There is still further to go in the DCO process but the remaining stages have a legally defined maximum duration – once the application moves on to phase 4 (examination) there is a maximum of 12 months for the Secretary of State to make a decision on whether to approve the DCO to reopen Manston Airport.

"We look forward to an announcement in 2019 and once we have the necessary information we will be publishing guidance on how to register with PINS in order to have your say."

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