Planning inspectorate corrects Sir Roger on national significance claim

Stone Hill Park has welcomed official confirmation that Sir Roger Gale is mistaken to suggest RiverOak’s cargo hub plans for Manston have been recognised as nationally significant.

Recently the Planning Inspectorate laid out strict terms under which RiverOak will be allowed to access the former airport to carry out various surveys. The US-based investment corporation hopes the Inspectorate will grant a Development Consent Order to force the site owners, Stone Hill Park, to sell to them and the surveys are required for this.

In a column circulated online and in the media Sir Roger claimed the granting of access denoted recognition that the project was of National significance, but in a rebuke to the MP, the Planning Inspectorate has made clear on its website* that Sir Roger is wrong.

The Planning Inspectorate state that access: ‘does not also determine whether any future application would be an NSIP, this decision can only be made at the time a formal application is submitted.’

RiverOak have not yet submitted any such application.

Stone Hill Park spokesman, Ray Mallon, said: “Misleading the public in this way is not befitting of an MP but sadly Sir Roger’s latest article is littered with such inaccuracies.

“His slavish devotion to a US-based investment corporation purportedly looking to turn Manston into a 24-hour cargo hub, is concerning to say the least.

“Of equal concern is the inability to date to provide any evidence of the finance required to develop a cargo hub of this size and volume.

“RiverOak has now twice failed to meet their own timetable for statutory consultation. They will have to face the public at some stage before they can submit a DCO and perhaps then they will finally come clean on important issues such as night flights, pollution and finance – issues which, for some reason, Sir Roger does not seem to have probed them on.

“In contrast to RiverOak, we have consulted widely with the public and our plans for mixed development of the site have now been submitted to the council. It’s important the public have all the facts at hand which is why we have released a detailed document (below) highlighting the many inaccuracies in Sir Roger’s latest article.”

Sir Roger Gale’s View published in Thanet Extra - 8 February 2017

SRG: “The two meetings held at the weekend, at Margate Winter Gardens on Saturday and at the Manston Sports and Social Club on Sunday, should have sent a very clear message to the Leader of Thanet District Council (who attended for part of Saturday’s meeting), to those at present in control of Manston Airport and to what at present passes for ” leadership” at County Hall.

Contrary to the suggestion made recently that Thanet’s second Draft Local Plan, which seeks to zone Manston for housing and industrial use, has ‘killed off hope’ of re- opening Manston as a commercial airfield progress towards the necessary Development Consent Order is moving inexorably forward.

Reality: Following publication of an independent study by AviaSolutions, the Draft Local Plan now recognises that the site has no viable future as an airport; the Council cannot therefore support the site being restricted to aviation use only in the future.

Should anyone come up with a viable plan then an airport could still be considered; to date nobody has and therefore alternative uses of the site will also have to be considered in future.

SRG: The decision by the Planning Inspectorate to dismiss the feeble objections raised on behalf of Messrs Cartner and Musgrave leading to a Ministerial decision to grant RiverOak access to the site to carry out the necessary Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) denote a recognition that the project to re-open Manston is, as I have consistently said, of national significance.

Reality: The owners of Stone Hill Park were not prepared to allow RiverOak unfettered access to the site. They are grateful to the Planning Inspectorate for recognising those concerns and limiting the survey work that can be carried out and allowing access only on strictly laid down terms.

Sir Roger is misleading local people in stating that this access decision denotes Government recognition that RiverOak’s plans are of national significance.

The Government’s Planning Inspectorate has stated in writing: “A request or decision made under s53 of the Planning Act 2008 (which has the effect of allowing RiverOak to access the former airfield site to undertake survey work) does not also determine whether any future application would be an NSIP, this decision can only be made at the time a formal application is submitted.”

SRG: In tandem with the most thorough EIA ever undertaken in East Kent the company seeking to acquire Manston will, having identified every household with a potentially affected interest in the airfield, not only in Thanet but in Herne Bay, Canterbury, Sandwich, Deal and Dover write to them to seek observations.

There will then be a full round of on-the-record public consultations available to each location culminating in the formal submission of the full environmental and business case for consideration by the Planning Inspectorate.

Reality: The EIA falls someway short of the one carried out by Stone Hill Park as part of its plans for the site.

RiverOak have publicly revealed they are looking to expand to 20,000 flights per year, that’s 54 flights every 24-hour period, which equates to 18 flights every night. It doesn’t require an EIA to identify that this will affect every household in East Kent and every resident should be consulted.

RiverOak have repeatedly failed to deliver on their promises of statutory public consultation. Originally it was due to take place in September 2016, then it was moved to January 2017, now it would still appear to be some as yet unspecified time. We note Sir Roger seems unable to provide any dates for public consultation.

SRG: There will then be a full public inquiry and a recommendation made, following consideration of all the evidence, by the Inspector to the Secretary of State for Transport who will take the final decision whether or not to grant the Development Consent Order.

This process will take time and will cost RiverOak a great deal of the money that Cllr. Wells, the present Leader of TDC, claims that the company does not have. When national interest is at stake the effort and expenditure are worth it.

Reality: RiverOak have repeatedly failed to provide proof that they have the funding in place for a project of this size. Examination of the publicly available documents of the US Corporation suggest they have lost investors millions of dollars in the past and the cost of this project, £300-400m, dwarfs their investment in any deal they have previously been involved in.

SRG: Last year air freight traffic grew by nearly seven per cent. With Brexit and the need to compensate for the loss of European business by developing new markets in Asia and the Far East we are going to need much more freight, as well as passenger, capacity in the South East. That capacity, without Manston Airport simply will not be available. The facility is going to be vital to service our Country’s immediate and future needs.

Reality: Sir Roger appears to be quoting worldwide Freight Tonnage Km which grew by 6.8% but has no relevance to Manston. The latest figures issued by the Civil Aviation Authority show that in the UK, on a rolling year basis, total cargo tonnage handled at UK airports was down by 0.5% compared with the year before. ( aviation trends Q1 2016)

The CAA makes the important observation that in the UK 70% of freight is carried in the bellyhold of passenger aircraft. RiverOak have repeatedly stated that passenger aircraft is not planned in their initial development of Manston. In addition, the CAA confirm that, whilst London airports enjoyed a very slight rise in freight business, regional airports have seen a fall.

SRG: For the sake of UK limited, as well as for the prosperity of East Kent, I urge all of those in the area who support this cause to both write in objection to Thanet’s Local Plan proposals for the airport and to respond to a Kent County Council consultation on the proposed Thanet Parkway station from which County Hall has noticeably airbrushed out Manston Airport while concentrating on a ’ Stone Hill Park’ that does not exist on any map known to man. It is the future of our children and our grandchildren that is at stake.”

Reality: Sir Roger and his view on UK Ltd, is clearly out of step with the Government who have made it clear not one penny of public money will be invested in re-opening an airport which was losing money heavily before its closure and which, repeated studies have shown, is not viable. In addition, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has told the Commons that the future of the site is a matter for the local community, the owners and the local authority.

Sir Roger can find a map here at: It is also pinpointed clearly on Google Maps

Children and grandchildren need a future that offers: local, well paid jobs; affordable homes; services such as shops, schools and health and sports facilities; protection of local heritage and green routes. Stone Hill Park offers that. Stagnation or a loss making 24-hour cargo hub does not.

Sir Roger should now make steps towards supporting his call for prosperity in East Kent by undertaking his real duties as an MP; this would include taking the time to better understand the carefully thought out plans by the legal owners of the site, regeneration experts Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner,