Published: 13:41, 18 October 2019
| Updated: 14:34, 18 October 2019
Government planners have decided whether a bid to reopen Manston Airport as a cargo hub should be backed - but their views have yet to be made public.
The Planning Inspectorate has sent its recommendations on the controversial proposal to transport secretary Grant Shapps, who will make the final decision on the move.
Mr Shapps now has three months to decide whether to grant planning permission to site owners RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) in the form of a Development Consent Order (DCO).
The decision rests with him as the airport bid is considered a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project.
If approved, RSP will push forward with its plans to reopen Manston as an airport primarily focusing on cargo freight.
The Planning Inspectorate examined the DCO application during a lengthy enquiry over the summer, with a number of public hearings held.
Initially it also had to consider whether to allow RSP to compulsory purchase the site from former owners Stone Hill Park, which wanted to build up to 3,700 homes on the site.
But in July Stone Hill agreed to sell the land to RSP for £16.5m, leaving the Inspectorate only to decide whether to back the airport bid.
Its recommendations were given to the transport secretary today, but will only be published at the same time as the final decision.
RSP director Tony Freudman says there has been continuing growth in the air freight cargo market, driven chiefly by the increase in e-commerce and what is known as e-fulfillment - the growing demand for warehousing and storage.
He believes there is therefore a need for a cargo aviation hub.
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.