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What next for Manston Airport? RiverOak agrees deal to buy Thanet airfield from Stone Hill Park

The fight to reopen Manston Airport is set to continue for several more months despite new owners hoping to turn the land into a hub for cargo flights.

RiverOak Strategic Partners exchanged contracts with Stone Hill Park yesterday, reaching a deal for the Thanet site after months of negotiations which started at the beginning of the year.

But the company still needs to convince the government to grant permission to develop and reopen the site as a cargo aviation hub after buying the land.

The last flight took off from Manston in April 2014
The last flight took off from Manston in April 2014

The company applied for a Development Consent Order last year seeking compulsory purchase powers and granting the go-ahead to rebuild the airport.

So what happens next for Manston Airport?

The ongoing examination by government appointed inspectors will continue as planned, the Planning Inspectorate confirmed to KentOnline.

It means RiverOak Strategic Partners will not be able to build the airport unless the Secretary of State for Transport approves the application.

But that will come after planning inspectors decide whether to recommend the Development Consent Order application should get the go ahead.

Inspectors have spent the past six months examining evidence in 13 categories and hearing proposals and testimonies about whether to grant permission for the airport to reopen.

The examination period for the Planning Inspectorate ends at 11.59pm next Tuesday when inspectors will then consider the evidence put before them since January.

Artists impressions released by Stone Hill Park revealed their vision for housing and business at Manston
Artists impressions released by Stone Hill Park revealed their vision for housing and business at Manston

What will RiverOak Strategic Partners do next and what does this mean for Stone Hill Park's housing plans?

A spokesman for RiverOak Strategic Partners says they will now be able to carry out "vital" surveys immediately to conclude the examination process.

Once the sale is completed, Stone Hill Park will withdraw its objection to the Development Consent Order and two planning applications submitted to Thanet District Council (TDC) for 4,000 homes and business development on the site.

Housing proposals for the airport proposed by Stone Hill Park will be cut from the draft Thanet Local Plan - the housing blueprint currently being drawn up by Thanet District Council.

The RiverOak Strategic Partners spokesman added: "This means that the Examining Authority will no longer be asked to consider compulsory acquisition powers over 98% of the site and will instead be able to focus on the benefits of the project and the management of environmental impacts."

Around 150 people attended the outline hearing setting out the future of Manston Airport on January 9 at the Margate Winter Gardens
Around 150 people attended the outline hearing setting out the future of Manston Airport on January 9 at the Margate Winter Gardens

Do RiverOak Strategic Partners have permission to reopen the airport now?

A decision is not expected on the Development Consent Order for another six months.

Examiners have three months to prepare their report and the Secretary of State will then spend another three months before deciding whether to approve or reject the application.

A spokesman for the Planning Inspectorate told KentOnline: "In order to construct and operate a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, development consent is required in the form of a Development Consent Order.

"The compulsory acquisition case [to allow the airport to reopen] is one of 13 principal issues identified by the Examining Authority at the beginning of the examination.

"There are no further hearings scheduled. Written submissions may be accepted by the Examining Authority up until the examination closes."

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