Stone Hill Park has asked Thanet North MP Sir Roger Gale to set the record straight over the company behind plans to re-open Manston as a major cargo hub admitted night flights could be required.
RiverOak Strategic Partners is currently holding public consultation events across Thanet as part of efforts to seize land earmarked for a major mixed-use development by Stone Hill Park. These include Ramsgate ( The Comfort Inn,10am-2pm Sat, 24 June) , which will bear the brunt of any resumption of 24/7 aviation activity.
Last week, the company confirmed night flights were being considered, with up to eight freight flights between 11pm and 7am, as well as some passenger flights before 7am. If included in its final proposals, these would have a significant impact on Ramsgate and Herne Bay, which both lie directly under the flight path.
This confirmation was made within days of Sir Roger Gale being returned as MP for Thanet North on a ticket of re-opening Manston Airport and an election campaign in which he was questioned publicly on the issue of night flights.
In the past year Sir Roger, a vocal supporter of both RSP and the US-based RiverOak Investment Corporation, has stated repeatedly that night flights would not happen, including an interview with BBC Radio Kent, broadcast five days into the 2017 General Election campaign.
Questioned by presenter Maggie Doyle as part of a focus on latest developments involving the former Manston Airport, he was asked directly if freight would be flown in during the night. He answered:
“No, there is no proposal and no need to fly freight in at night.”
In the same interview, that went out on the station’s breakfast show on 25 April, he added:
“The RiverOak Strategic Partnership has made it absolutely plain that they have no desire to fly planes in in anti-social hours, I am content with that.”
In an email to a prospective voter on May 5, 2017 he repeated the claim:
“RiverOak…has no plan or requirement to engage in night flights.”
On his Facebook page, in a post, dated August 9 2016, Sir Roger, also stated:
“To set the record straight RiverOak has confirmed that they have no plans to operate scheduled night flights…”
“…I for one would not countenance, and would not expect the Conservative Group on Thanet District Council to support, any proposal that involved scheduled night flying.”
The site of the former Manston airport is owned by Stone Hill Park which intends to regenerate it through sympathetic development based on homes, jobs, leisure and heritage.
Their development of an advanced manufacturing site and mixed range of housing, together with retention of a grass runway and museums and protection of one third of the site for leisure would create thousands of jobs, answer the area’s chronic need for homes and produce a multi-million-pound boost to the local economy.
Stone Hill Park spokesman, Ray Mallon, said:
“Sir Roger has consistently sought to reassure residents over plans for night flights, but his assertion that they would not be needed has clearly been proved false.
“It is important that the public are given accurate information, particularly from their elected officials.
“I therefore hope that Sir Roger will now put the record straight. Personally, I do not believe he deliberately misled the public. It would be very serious, if that has been the case.
“It is more likely that he has either not been supplied with accurate information by RSP or the previous backers of this project, RiverOak Investment Corporation - or he has not been briefed at all and stated what he believed to be fact.
“RSP has admitted their aviation plans for Manston will include at least eight flights during the night, so it is not in question that Sir Roger is wrong. If anything, it is an underestimate. Our own research puts this figure much closer to 17.
“I would be grateful if Sir Roger will accept his error and ensure he checks his facts with RSP in the future and with Stone Hill Park on the real benefits we will bring Thanet from 2,500 homes and a high tech advanced manufacturing business park to open space, heritage and leisure.”