Published: 14:32, 16 January 2020
| Updated: 15:42, 16 January 2020
The decision on whether to use Manston as an airport again has been delayed for four months.
An announcement on the plans was expected over the next few days, with some hoping the site near Ramsgate would be able to be used as a cargo air hub again.
However, today it has been announced the deadline has been extended.
RiverOak Strategic Partners, the consortium behind the scheme, had applied for the airport to be considered as a nationally significant infrastructure project.
The airport closed in 2014, with owner Ann Gloag deciding to pull down the shutters in a move that seemed to sound the death knell for Manston.
A service to Amsterdam run by Dutch airline KLM, looked as though it would earn a footnote in Manston’s history as the last to operate out of the airport.
It was then sold to developers Stone Hill Park, who set out ambitious plans to redevelop the huge site for thousands of homes and businesses.
But in a late twist to the long-running saga, the two partners in Stone Hill Park announced they had sold the site to RSP - just days before the inquiry was due to end.
The former owners formally withdrew their opposition to the DCO application being made by what had been their rivals.
As a result, the planning inspectorate was no longer required to consider the case for a Compulsory Purchase Order. However, under the process they were required to consider other representations from other parties and have had to take into account the financial viability of RSP’s plans.
RSP had argued the site could sustain a cargo hub, saying the air freight market is "ripe for an alternative to the overcrowded London airports system".
KMTV reporting on the announcement made last year that Manston could once again be used as a hub for cargo flights
It described how a revived Manston Airport could provide air freight operators with "a realistic alternative to the overcrowded London airports, ease the considerable road congestion caused by lorries carrying freight through the channel tunnel to European airports".
It also said it could boost economic growth and jobs in Kent.
But the possibility of passenger flights operating from Manston is less sure, with RSP saying it is not ruling out the idea but that its focus is initially on developing Manston for cargo freight. The controversy over the government's aid for the struggling passenger company Flybe is an indication of the vulnerability of smaller operators.
The fate of Manston has split opinion, with campaigners on both sides arguing over the merits of the case.
It also divided political parties and arguably cost the former Ukip leader of the council, Chris Wells, his job after he ruled out joining forces with RSP to pursue a Compulsory Purchase Order.
The Secretary of State received the Examining Authority’s report on the Manston Airport Development Consent Order application on October18 and the deadline for a decision had been Saturday.
But today the DfT said: "The deadline for the decision is to be extended to May 18 to enable further information on a range of issues to be provided.
"The decision to set a new deadline is without prejudice to the decision on whether to give development consent."
A statement from RiverOak said: "While frustrating, the delay is not unexpected - the last five decisions on DCO applications have all been delayed and none have yet been made. Undoubtedly, the recent General Election, ongoing Brexit process and significant infrastructure workload for which the government is responsible have also played a part.
"RSP has not received any additional questions from the minister, as part of the deliberation process, to date - but stand ready to respond, should there be any requests for additional information needed to reach a final decision. The delay does not affect the current CAA airspace change consultation process, which is entirely separate from the DCO."