Plans for jobs and homes on schedule as freight hub plans falter

Stone Hill Park, the owners of the former Manston airfield site, are progressing plans to bring jobs, homes and an economic boost to Thanet as it emerged the company that sought to seize the land for airport use has quit.

Riveroak Investment Corporation, who have been in talks with the Planning Inspectorate about seizing the land through a Development Consent Order, have now ditched their plans and walked away from the project.

A separate company, Riveroak Strategic Partners (RSP), now claim to have acquired the rights to progress the DCO, and their plans for up to 85 freight and passenger planes a day over Thanet emerged at a planning inquiry.

Opposing an application to allow four existing buildings on the site to have non-aviation use, RSP director George Yerrall said Manston can be re-built as an airport for £320m – though he conceded that no evidence has been produced to say where this funding will come from.

RSP Consultant Dr Sally Dixon told the inquiry her forecast that this investment would see 17,000 freight flights using Manston by 2040 in addition to 1.4m passengers.

At 160 passengers per plane (comparable to Heathrow) this would mean an additional 8,750 passenger flights per year. Averaged out that’s 70 freight and passenger flights over Thanet every 24 hours, 365 days a year.

Achieving the national UK passenger/plane average of 101 would result in a total of 85 flights over Thanet every 24 hour period.

Another RSP witness, Chris Cain of Northpoint Aviation, stated a ‘substantial’ number of current flights that could be ‘usefully’ transferred to Manston because of market pressures including ‘night slots at Stansted.’

Using RSP’s forecasts for Manston and Civil Aviation statistics for 2016 passenger numbers, night flights over Manston would range between 23-28 every night between 10pm and 6am by 2040.

Stone Hill Park spokesman Ray Mallon said:

“We have stated all along that an airport is not viable. That has been backed up by numerous experts and studies so it is not surprising that the Riveroak Investment Corporation has called it a day.

“It is the Investment Corporation that has been holding talks with the Planning Inspectorate and it is the Investment Corporation that has been granted access to our land to carry out tests required for a DCO application. The status of Riveroak Strategic Partners with regard to both these matters is unclear.

“That said, it is important the public realise precisely what it is this new company is suggesting and the devastating effect it will have on life in Thanet.

“It’s not simply the constant overhead noise night and day that 70-85 daily flights would bring, but the enormous number of trucks that would be using local roads leading to and from the site.”

Inquiry Chairman Matthew Nunn will consider the evidence before delivering his ruling on Stone Hill Park’s application to allow non-aviation use of the four buildings.

SHP’s planning application to redevelop the site with homes, leisure and community facilities and a business park will be considered by Thanet District Council later this year.

Thanet District Council has twice looked at obtaining the site through compulsory order but has twice rejected Riveroak as suitable partners due to questions over funding.

The Council withdrew its objection to the change of use of the buildings to non-aviation after an independent report concluded an airport was not viable.

So far, no application has been made to the National Planning Inspectorate for a Development Consent Order to seize the site from Stone Hill Park and build an airport.