A bid challenging the legality of the government’s decision to reopen Manston Airport has been thrown out by a High Court judge.
The latest effort to block the development consent order (DCO) granting approval for the site near Ramsgate was quashed today following a two-day hearing in July.
It means the planning permission allowing owners RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) to run the airport as a cargo hub – and with potential for commercial flights in the future – can now go ahead.
The judicial review application, launched by Ramsgate resident Jenny Dawes, was rejected by Mr Justice Dove after questions were raised whether the need for the airport was correctly assessed and if due consideration was given to what impact the scheme might have on the government’s ability to meet its future carbon reduction targets.
In a 41-page judgement report published today, he says: “It is solely the decision-making process in respect of the questions of need and climate change which need to be highlighted for the purposes of this judgment.
“I am not persuaded that either of the claimant’s grounds are made out in substance and therefore this application for judicial review must be dismissed.”
It is the second time Ms Dawes and fellow opponents to the plans have failed in attempts to get the decision overturned after initially calling in the original DCO approval in 2020.
That first challenge saw the DCO turned down by the High Court on grounds the approval letter issued by the Secretary of State for Transport did not contain enough detail.
But when the current plans were resubmitted and approved in August last year, Ms Dawes launched another challenge and has crowdfunded more than £75,000 to pay for it.
Her challenge against the 2022 permission was dismissed in January but then partially accepted on appeal in March by another judge who then suggested limited grounds on which a judicial review could be considered after Ms Dawes challenged the first bid being rejected.
Now though Mr Justice Dove has determined the airport’s redevelopment plans can go ahead – although Ms Dawes has already stated her intention to appeal the ruling.
The judge heard representations from opponents, the government and RSP into the whether the question of need and climate change have been properly assessed as part of the Secretary of State granting the DCO last summer.
A statement from the airport’s owners RSP reacting to the news says: “This is a highly significant and positive development towards our aim of turning Manston into a state of-the-art air freight hub underway and working to support the long-term economic development of east Kent.
“We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the people, businesses, education bodies and other stakeholders across Thanet and East Kent – for whom Manston’s reopening represents a vital lifeline for their communities – for their continued and devoted support.”
Ms Dawes issued a statement through CARMA (Campaign Against Reopening Manston Airport) on X – the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
She said: “While I am disappointed in the judge’s decision today, this is not the end of the process.
“Judicial review proceedings are seldom straightforward and this one particularly so given it is thought to be the first redetermined DCO considered by the courts.
“Having already succeeded once against the Secretary of State’s first decision, we always knew it would be more difficult to succeed a second time around.
“That is not because the economic case for Manston has improved or because the climate change issues have been resolved – quite the opposite in fact.
“The government was more careful second time around to immunise its decision from judicial review. So far, that approach has worked.
‘I firmly remain of the view the government’s decision to proceed with Manston Airport… was deeply flawed’ – Manston opponent Jenny Dawes
“I firmly remain of the view the government’s decision to proceed with Manston Airport, in the face of expert evidence to the contrary and in the context of the worsening climate crisis, is nonsensical and the procedure followed by the Secretary of State was deeply flawed.
“The case raises significant issues relating to DCO redetermination processes, which will have an impact on how those cases are conducted in the future.
“I will therefore be appealing today’s ruling.”
Sir Roger Gale, MP for Thanet North, said: “I am naturally pleased that after an inordinate amount of delay Manston Airport can now prepare for take off.
“There is a vast sum of money waiting to be invested in east Kent and I would like to thank all of those, RiverOak, financial backers and the majority of the public who have kept the faith and got us to where we are today.
“I know that RiverOak intend to commence work as swiftly as practically possible, and I look forward to the day when the next chapter of Manston’s proud aviation history will commence.”
Thanet South MP Craig Mackinlay echoed his fellow Conservative’s sentiments bemoaning the “many years wasted” on the Manston project.
He added: “We can now support RiverOak in bringing the investment and jobs to east Kent.”
RSP wants to create aviation hub at the former RAF base and airport by introducing a cargo freight centre and associated business as well as promising the return of passenger flights, saying an investment of up to £500m will be made.
Construction is planned to be phased over 15 years and include 19 freight stands and four passenger stands for aircraft as well as warehousing and fuel storage.
Campaigners against the development raise issues including noise, need, climate harm and damage to Ramsgate’s tourism industry, but the outcome could still result in more court hearings if yet another review in light of the ruling is issued.