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Manston Airport: Deadline day sees no decision made about reopening of Thanet site by RiverOak Strategic Partners

The future of Manston Airport remains hanging in the balance as its decision day has passed without news.

Today marked the date by which the Secretary of State for Transport was due to make his long-awaited decision over whether the site near Ramsgate may be used as a cargo air hub once again.

Manston Airport has been shut for years
Manston Airport has been shut for years

The Planning Inspectorate sent its recommendations on the proposal to transport secretary Grant Shapps, to have a final say on the move.

Earlier this month, the Department for Transport confirmed it was still on track for today's deadline, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

But both those keen to see the site restored to its former purpose, and those campaigning against the plans have been left hanging tonight, as no news has yet been announced.

Kent county councillor Karen Constantine claims the decision - which was originally due to take place in January but was pushed back - has "again been kicked into the long grass".

Owner of the airport, RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP), says it too is unaware of any decision, and is now hoping for news to be announced in the morning.

The site of Manston Airport. Picture credit: James Stewart
The site of Manston Airport. Picture credit: James Stewart

RSP hopes to reopen Manston Airport as an air freight cargo hub. Fronted by Tony Freudmann, the firm hopes the move will create hundreds of jobs at the site and potentially thousands within the supply chain.

But the proposal has been met with fierce opposition from some quarters, with opponents voicing fears about its viability, air pollution and noisy night flights, among a host of other concerns.

Manston closed for business in 2014 and has since found itself at the centre of a tug-of-war over its future.

The airport had been bought in 2013 by Ann Gloag, co-founder of the Stagecoach travel company. But she shut it a year later - putting 144 staff out of a job - saying the site had been losing thousands of pounds a day.

The land was later sold to property entrepreneurs before being acquired by RSP, which was determined to see it reopened for aviation use.

RSP hopes cargo flights will resume at the site, if its plans are given the go-ahead. But the possibility of passenger flights operating from Manston is less sure, with RSP saying it is not ruling out the idea, but reiterating that its focus is initially on developing Manston for freight.

Prior to the delay of the decision in January, it had hoped, if approved, it could reopen by 2022.

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