RiverOak renege on consultation pledge

Responding to the news that the American investment company RiverOak has failed to meet its September deadline for statutory consultation on its plans to acquire the former Manston Airport site, Ray Mallon, spokesman for Stone Hill Park said:

“In planning terms there is only one type of consultation that matters and that’s formal consultation. RiverOak should have done that in the first place and met the deadline they set instead of wasting people’s time.

The Planning Inspectorate has repeatedly made clear that the ‘informal’ consultation carried out by RiverOak does not meet the standard required for a DCO application and so the results can be dismissed accordingly.

Any organisation seeking to genuinely consult with the public would engage only qualified professionals to carry out this consultation. Instead RiverOak have admitted that they also used activists from a pro-airport group.

It has now emerged that not all feedback provided by local residents at these events has been included in the final assessment, which renders the results about as reliable as an election in North Korea.

RiverOak have stated publicly and to HM Planning Inspectorate that the statutory consultation required before an application for a Development Consent Order can be lodged would take place by the end of September 2016.

That they have now reneged on their word comes as no surprise; they have form:

  • In February their spokesman discussed low cost passenger flights with the Planning Inspectorate then in August told the public they have never suggested such flights.
  • In August they criticised concerned residents for suggesting RiverOak plan at least 18 flights a night, despite their own figures of up to 20,000 flights a year confirming this.
  • In April they tell the Planning Inspectorate that formal consultation with the public will take place by September 2016, In September they reveal this won’t happen.

RiverOak’s failure to process the necessary clearances to access the site is entirely down to their own incompetence. Parts of the site are currently leased to the government and neither RiverOak nor anyone else will be allowed to wander across it, whenever they like, 365 days a year.

Failure to access the site is no excuse for their failure to consult properly. Repeatedly the Planning Inspectorate and our lawyers have discussed site access with RiverOak and RiverOak has continued to state that statutory consultation would take place by September 2016 with formal submission by the end of the year.

Now they are forced to admit this is incorrect. If a company cannot get a simple timetable right how can they be trusted to run an airport?

In reality, even if RiverOak do finally carry out formal consultation there is absolutely no prospect of a Development Consent Order being successful in acquiring this land because it would be against the public interest for this to happen.

Repeated studies have shown an airport is not viable on the site and the actions of RiverOak continue to raise false hope amongst those wishing for an airport and to adversely affect the local economy. In contrast, Stone Hill Park’s regeneration will bring much needed jobs and homes and a massive boost to the local economy. Our plans, currently lodged with Thanet District Council, are economically, socially and environmentally sound.”