Stone Hill Park will continue its legal battle to allow the non-aviation use of buildings on the site of the former Manston airfield when the appeal goes before a planning inspector next month.
The company has previously applied to Thanet District Council to allow non-aviation use at four existing buildings on the site.
In February 2016, the Council refused the application and the matter was due to be decided by a Planning Appeal Public Inquiry on 24 January 2017.
In September 2016, an independent report, commissioned by the Council, concluded that airport operations at Manston are ‘almost certainly’ not possible in the period up to 2031.
In light of this and other evidence, the council has indicated it will not contest the change of use appeal when it goes before the planning inspector next month.
Stone Hill Park spokesman Ray Mallon said:
“I can confirm that at the hearing in January we will be pursuing this appeal to allow non-aviation use of these buildings. Thanet District Council has taken the right decision in withdrawing their objection to the change in use of these buildings.
“As the officer’s report, rightly states: ‘there is no reasonable prospect of an airport recommencing on the site within a reasonable timescale.’
Had the council contested the matter at the hearing in January it would have lost, costing the taxpayer totally unnecessary legal fees.
“This decision is further evidence that an airport is unviable and it is therefore right to look at alternative, non-aviation uses for the site.
“Our submitted planning application, which respects the heritage of Manston whilst offering a mixed development of jobs, houses, leisure and community facilities, offers the best way forward for the area.”
Mr Mallon also confirmed that, subject to the conditions outlined by the Planning Inspectorate, RiverOak will now be allowed access to the site to carry out various environmental surveys.
The US company aims to acquire the site against the wishes of the current owners using a Development Consent Order.
Mr Mallon said: “The DCO process requires various surveys to be carried out on the land. As part of that process, Stone Hill Park were approached about allowing access, but were concerned at the scope of the entry to our land that RiverOak sought in pursuing this.
“We felt RiverOak’s effective request for entry to our land 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, went beyond the realm of reasonable requests and sought to ensure that if access was granted, it was under strict conditions.
“We are pleased with the conditions the Planning Inspectorate has placed on this access and as a result we will accept the decision rather than appeal.
“We are satisfied the Planning Inspectorate has performed the process with integrity and to a very high standard and now intend to assist RiverOak in accessing our site to carry out these environmental tests.
“Regardless of this decision, our view remains that an airport on this site is unviable and attempts to obtain the land by way of a Development Consent Order will fail – just as attempts to obtain it through a Compulsory Purchase Order failed.”