Ambitious plans to bring new homes and jobs to Thanet, and a multi-million pound boost to the local economy, are a step closer with the opening of the public consultation period on the area’s proposed local plan.
The draft plan, drawn up by Thanet District Council, sets out policies and proposals that will be used to guide decisions and investment on development and regeneration in the area.
It will help make sure that the district is developed in the right way by indicating where the homes, jobs, community facilities, shops and infrastructure will be delivered and the types of places and environment that will be created in the future.
Wide consultation has already taken place into drawing up the plan and now the public has a further five weeks to view the complete document and make their views known.
The draft plan supports the mixed-use development of the former Kent International Airport site after extensive research concluded commercial aviation is no longer viable.
Mixed-use development would allow the owners, Stone Hill Park, to transform the 800-acre brownfield site with homes, jobs and leisure facilities and permanently recognise the heritage of the site and the leading role it played in the defence of Britain.
The company’s plans for the site have already been lodged with the council and are subject to a separate planning process.
Stone Hill Park spokesman, Ray Mallon, urged people to read the proposed local plan which can now be viewed online on The Thanet District Council website.
“This is an important document, drawn up following extensive research. It outlines not only how the area needs to develop to meet the social and economic challenges it faces but also the detailed reasoning behind these conclusions.
“With regard to Manston the plan makes clear that commercial aviation is no longer a viable option and mixed-use development of the site should now be allowed.
“The evidence is there for all to read. It’s now time for everyone to look to the future and ensure this important site is developed in a way that helps address the pressing needs of the area,” he said.
Consultation on the local plan, and the change of use for Manston, is the latest step in the development of the site which was first unveiled by Stone Hill Park with a press call on the site 19 months ago.
“This site has suffered from a number of false dawns over the last 20 years or so and I can understand why some people may have been sceptical when we first outlined our plans in the Summer of 2015,” said Mr Mallon.
“However, the people behind Stone Hill Park have a proven track record in turning failing sites around. We have been true to our word and have met the deadlines we set.
“We own the land, we have a plan and we have the expertise and money to deliver something substantial and special.”
Whilst the draft local plan must be submitted to the Government for approval after the public consultation period, and will then be subject to a public examination by an independent planning inspector, Stone Hill Park’s planning application could be resolved far sooner.
“We hope to have our outline planning application considered by the TDC Planning Committee in the near future and we believe that the Committee will carefully consider our application and take into account the quality of our proposals and the longer term economic and social benefits that Stone Hill Park will bring to the area” said Mr Mallon.
“In essence we believe that our plans are compelling. We also believe in the integrity of the Planning system and we are convinced that we will receive a fair hearing from the Planning Committee.
“If we are successful in convincing the Committee of the merits of our plans, then we will start building on the site by the end of the year. “
Respect for the history of the area lies at the heart of Stone Hill Park’s plans for Manston. A heritage sector will safeguard the future of the RAF Manston History Museum and the Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum and provide the option of retaining a grass runway and light aviation.
One third of the site will be given over to leisure with sporting facilities and a network of footpaths, cycleways, green routes and woodland linking the various parts of the development.
As with many other areas, there is mounting concern in Thanet that local people, especially young people and low income families, are being priced off the housing ladder.
Stone Hill Park will address that need by meeting the national requirement for affordable housing. There will also be family dwellings, detached and executive homes and also self-build plots in a housing portfolio that would bring a £75m boost in council tax and new homes bonus over the first decade.
The new settlement will include shops, schools, health and other community and sporting facilities.
To the west of the site an advanced manufacturing park will answer the desperate local need for offices and business premises with the focus being on clean, digital and growth industries.
The thousands of jobs created on the business park, in supply industries and construction will provide an enormous boost to the local economy.
Mr Mallon said: “Thanet has many economic and social challenges, which have grown over a long period, due in the main to a lack of strong political leadership and an absence of private sector investment. Invariably, the former is the prerequisite to the latter.
“Thanet District Council have over the past two to three years shown a real sense of leadership and social responsibility with regard to the former Manston airport site, by accepting that aviation is unlikely to return, due to numerous reasons.
“I accept that a change of use from aviation to mixed use does not prevent aviation from being placed on the agenda if things change, but the AVIA report together with other independent studies have all indicated that aviation is not viable.
“We are entirely focused towards the Outline Planning Application. Too much time has been wasted, the people of Thanet need jobs, homes and new opportunities now and that’s exactly what we intend to give them.
“We are more focused now than ever and, come what may, we are convinced that we will see our vision and plans for the site realised.”