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Manston Airport judicial review hearing cancelled as Government concedes point over transport secretary's approval letter

A court hearing on reopening Manston as an airport has been cancelled - after the Government admitted the transport secretary failed to give adequate reasons for approving the plans.

Campaigners had managed to secure a judicial review to examine the decision to allow the Thanet site to reopen as a freight air hub.

Manston airport site. Picture: Alan Langley
Manston airport site. Picture: Alan Langley

The case was due to be heard on February 16 and 17 at the High Court in London, with evidence put forward against Secretary of State Grant Shapps' approval of a development consent order (DCO) for airport owners RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP).

But campaigner Jenny Dawes says her solicitors yesterday received a letter from a Treasury lawyer, acting on behalf of Mr Shapps - whose decision on Manston went against the recommendation of the Planning Inspectorate.

It said: "My client has agreed to concede this claim on the basis of ground 1(b), namely that the Secretary of State did not give adequate reasons in his decision letter to enable the reader to understand why he disagreed with the Examining Authority Report on the issue of need for the development of Manston Airport".

Ms Dawes, chair of Ramsgate Coastal Community Team, added: "We subsequently learned that the Interested Party, RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd, will not be defending their claim."

KentOnline understands the Government’s concession means the Secretary of State will now have to issue a more detailed letter of determination on the DCO.

The former Manston Airport. Picture: Chris Davey
The former Manston Airport. Picture: Chris Davey

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale, a firm supporter of plans for Manston to reopen as an airport, said: “The future of Manston Airport has been subjected to further delay in the light of the application for judicial review.

“The Department of Transport has acknowledged that the Minister of State's decision letter could have contained more information as to reasons.

“That being so the Department has conceded these grounds and will no doubt wish to afford all parties the opportunity to make further submissions before re-visiting the DCO and issuing a further and more detailed letter of determination in due course.

"With the endgame of Brexit fast approachin,g the need for the airport is stronger not weaker: the airfield is contracted for use as a lorry park for 12 months so the effects of the delay, while tiresome, ought to be minimal, and I remain confident that the right decisions will be taken in the interests of Thanet, Kent and the United Kingdom, and that planes will be flying again from Manston in a couple of years' time."

Ms Dawes's legal bid has been backed by many airport critics, who have now pledged more than £88,000 to her crowdfunder to pay for costs.

A RiverOak spokesman says the decision is "disappointing" - but it believes it could save time.

He added: "We remain confident in our proposals and of the increasing need for Manston to support the UK’s freight handling capabilities post-Brexit and to aid the economic recovery from Covid-19.

"We look forward to publication of the Secretary of State’s comprehensive assessment of the basis for granting the DCO, early in 2021, so that we may begin works to restore the airport to operational use.

"In the meantime, we continue to determine the future flight paths for Manston and we have, this week, also reached agreement for it to be used as a temporary customs outpost, until July 2021."

Read more: All the latest news from Thanet

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