Meeting: Manston’s aviation future

russ timpson

Manston airport campaigners plan to prove that the site has a viable aviation future at a public meeting next month.

Thanet Liberal Democrats have organised the event for February 4 at Margate’s Winter Gardens from 10am until 2pm.

Lib Dem member Russ Timpson says there are various “ambitious activities” that could take place at the former airfield and is keen to discuss the options while the consultation period for Thanet’s draft local plan is running.

The local plan – a blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure up to 2031 – suggests designating Manston airport for mixed use development – ending a caveat for aviation only.

A report to council Cabinet members last month said: “The site has the capacity to deliver at least 2,500 new dwellings, and up to 85,000sqm employment and leisure floorspace.”

An application for mixed use development of the site has been submitted by current owners Stone Hill Park. The proposal includes a business park focused on advanced manufacturing – including digital and emerging energy firms – up to 2,500 new homes, plus national sports and leisure facilities with about one-third of the site reserved for parkland and open space.

American firm RiverOak has alternative plans to retain aviation – including cargo business – and is in the process of submitting a Development Consent Order to the Government.

The homes would be part of 17,140 needed by 2031, although some 1555 dwellings have already been delivered.

Mr Timpson is hoping to persuade the public, and the council, the remove the mixed use plan for the site and concentrate on the aviation possibilities.

He said: “This technical meeting, supported by groups fighting to save the airport, will take place in the Winter Gardens (Queens Hall) Margate, from 10 am till 2 pm on Saturday 4 February 2017. It will be a platform for relevant subject experts to explain how Manston Aviation Hub could generate a viable business and revenue streams for Manston from cargo handling, aircraft recycling, pilot training and private flying, and a spaceport.

“Overall it will amount to a clear statement of the case for accepting that Manston can be a sustainable, viable aviation services hub, bringing employment and innovation to Thanet for many years, and making full use of a valuable existing asset.

The meeting has been organised by Thanet Liberal Democrats – but is in no way a political platform and there will not be any political speeches.”

Anyone who would like to attend can book a free ticket here.

Article taken from Kent Live (

Happy New Year 2017!

Concorde at Manston Airport

On behalf of the committee of the Save Manston Airport association, I would like to wish you a very Happy New Year 2017!

2017 is definitely going to be an exciting year!

First up we’ll have Riveroak’s statutory consultation events, which will help inform their application for the Development Consent Order later in the year.

With s.53 access now granted, we’ll see a lot more movement.  2017 could really be our year!

Enjoy yourself, keep calm and #savemanston

SHP Accounts Filed

Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave, former owners of Discovery Park
Accounts filed

The 2015-16 accounts for Stone Hill Park Ltd, also known as Lothian Shelf (718) Ltd have been filed with Companies House.

The accounts can be viewed in full here.

Abbreviated balance sheet (at 31 Mar 2016)
 2016 2015 
Fixed assets
Current assets
Cash at bank and in hand
Creditors: amounts falling due within one year(£1,108,329)(£2,598,085)
Net current assets£7,917,565£4,834,816
Total assets less current liabilities£7,917,865£4,834,816
Creditors: amounts falling due after more than one year(£7,000,000)(£5,000,000)
Provisions for liabilities-(£500,000)
Capital and reserves
Called up share capital
Profit and loss account
Shareholders' funds£917,865(£665,184)
Changes this year
  • The investment in the three holding name companies (Manston Park Ltd, Barnes Wallis Park Ltd and East Kent Sports Village Ltd) now represent a £300 investment and fixed asset cost for the accounting period
  • The accounts again confirm 100% ownership of the holding name companies
  • There is increased cashflow into the company this accounting period – mainly due to the income from the Department for Transport
  • Total assets less current liabilities have increased by £3,083,049 this accounting period
  • Net worth is now £917,865 (up £252,681)

RiverOak Granted Access to Site

riveroak featured header

On Monday 19 December the Planning Inspectorate confirmed to Bircham Dyson Bell, lawyers for RiverOak, that Section 53 authorisation (permission to access the Manston Airport site), has now been granted.

Whilst a considerable amount of environmental analysis has already been completed, access to the site has always been preferable to provide the necessary level of detail for a Development Consent Order application. RiverOak’s environmental consulting team, led by Amec Foster Wheeler, will now make arrangements to visit the site as soon as possible in order to assess the site for the production of the Environmental Statement that will accompany the application.  As much data as possible will also be used for the Preliminary Environmental Information Report.

This report, together with other work already well underway, will be made available during the process of statutory consultation, which will take place as soon as possible in 2017.

SMAa Analysis

Despite SHP’s constant excuses for obstructing the process, the Secretary of State has at last granted RiverOak legal access to Manston Airport through an Order under section 53 of the Planning Act 2008 (an “s53”). SHP or their agents will now be committing an offence if they wilfully obstruct RiverOak’s team in their activities.

Since “some previous s53 authorisations have been the subject of judicial review”, PINS have had to make sure to dot every i and cross every t, hence the length of time taken. This means, amongst other things, that RiverOak have satisfied PINS they have tried every means possible to negotiate access directly with SHP, but without success.  Since PINS have recommended the s53 and the Secretary of State has granted it under these circumstances, we can be confident that the Secretary of State feels the request by RiverOak is “lawful and proportionate”.

It should be noted that the Secretary of State will only authorise entry in relation to a proposed DCO application if it appears to the Secretary of State that RiverOak ‘is considering a distinct project of real substance genuinely requiring entry onto the land’.

Sir Roger’s Opinion

North Thanet’s MP, Sir Roger Gale, has welcomed the confirmation, now formally issued by RiverOak that the Secretary of State has accepted an application, recommended by the Planning Inspectorate, by RiverOak for access to Manston Airport to complete environmental survey work prior to the Company’s submission of a Development Consent Order.

Speaking following the announcement (The SoS decision was made known to interested parties yesterday) Sir Roger has said:

“It is significant that the Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State have accepted the arguments put forward by RiverOak and has rejected the arguments put forward by those currently in control of the site and who have consistently sought to deny access.

The Secretary of State has, through this decision, recognised RiverOak as a player in the future of Manston and has also acknowledged the importance and significance of the campaign to retain Manston as an operational airfield.

The decision was, of course, also taken in the knowledge of the existence of the now widely-discredited Avia Solution report upon which Cllr. Wells and his councillors have sought to hang their volte-face upon the future of Manston.

There is still a great deal of work still to be done before a DCO submission is made and that submission, which will contain not only the Environmental Impact Assessment but a full Business Case, will then have to be the subject of a public inquiry, Inspector’s report and ultimately a decision by the Secretary of State for Transport.

Nevertheless, I am comfortable that this administration, as did David Cameron’s, understands the importance of preserving structural assets in the national interest.

It is time, I think, that those at present in control of the site and of Thanet District Council took that on board.”

TDC to allow Change of Use

tdc office

In a dramatic but predictable turn of events, Thanet District Council has voted to essentially allow the change of use of buildings on Manston Airport.

Tensions were raised going in to the meeting of the Planning Committee last night, because the Council had initially banned the Public and Press from the entire meeting, owing to a proposed secretive discussion on Agenda Item 7, regarding the Change of Use appeals for Manston Airport.  After RiverOak’s lawyers wrote to TDC, the public were admitted, although they were still asked to leave the Chamber for the discussion.

Agenda item 7 is restricted as the information contained within it is exempt under paragraphs 3 and 5 of Part 1 to Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended). Whilst the Council will always try to keep exempt information to a minimum, in this case disclosure of the information contained within the report would certainly prejudice the Council’s case and increase the risk of costs being awarded against the Council in respect of the planning appeal to which the information relates.

tdc planning change of use vote


Councillors at the planning meeting (pictured above) voted to reverse the decision to refuse planning permission for change of use, and also not to object to planning permission for the other three buildings.

Technically, this means that the buildings are not designated for aviation-use only.  However, this vote does not overrule the role of the Planning Inspectorate, who are overseeing the original appeal against the refusal.  A public inquiry is planned for January 2017.

Beau Webber, Chairman, said: “TDC Chief Legal Officer Tim Howes originally recommended excluding the public and press from the vital meeting on “Change of Use” on 4 crucial airside aircraft hangars /warehouses at Manston.

“Over last winter, Save Manston Airport association successfully, with the aid of pro-airport councillors at TDC, showed that these building were vital for Manston to remain a cargo airport, and had the change of use rejected.

“During this meeting Mr Howes proposed 3 options re how to proceed – option 1 exclude public and press from all the meeting; option 2, exclude press and public from just a key financial section of the meeting; option 3, have all the meeting open.

“Option 2 was chosen by the members. A white pages document was handed out, but there was of course no time to properly read and consider it, and prepare statements.

“So some discussion was in public, with a spirited defence of Manston as an airport by a number of Conservative councillors. Then the public and press were ejected.

“When we returned, a recorded vote was held, in which all the UKIP and Labour councillors voted for change of use of the Manston airside hangars /warehouses at Manston.”

Special measures

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale voiced disgust at the decision and said it is time for Thanet council to be placed in special measures.

He said: “This grubby vote, designed to head off the planning inquiry due to be held in January, flew in the face of what the people voted for overwhelmingly at the council and general elections.

“Every major political party – and most certainly UKIP and its then parliamentary candidate and Leader Nigel Farage, together with Cllr Chris Wells -stood on a platform, promise to re-open Manston as an operating airport and last night’s decision, although not binding, has demonstrated the degree of contempt in which their party holds the electorate when in office.

“Nevertheless, little has changed and the battle to save Manston as an airport serving Kent and the nation continues.I am advised that RiverOak’s investment partners – those seeking to invest hundreds millions of pounds in Manston’s long-term future- remain as strong and as committed as ever and the process for securing a development consent order continues.

“Thanet cannot pursue its desire to smother this national asset in housing without a change to the local plan which will be the subject of a full public inquiry and which will be challenged every inch of the way. This is just another Battle for Britain that Manston has to win.”

Sir Roger added: “It is time for local government ministers to intervene and fully consider the possibility of special measures. Thanet is out of control.”

News: Anger about private meeting

tdc office

From Kent Live:

Private Meeting

Campaigners who want the Manston airport site to be returned to aviation use intend to rally at a Thanet council meeting tonight.

Members of the planning committee are due to discuss an appeal against a council decision to refuse change of use permission for one building and non-determination on applications for a further three buildings at the airport site.

Lothian Shelf (718) Ltd has launched the appeal for:

  • Non-determination of an application for temporary change of use of Building 1 (referred to by the LPA as Building South of Terminal 1 (Hanger 1)
  • Refusal of an application for the proposed change of use of Building 2 (referred to by the LPA as Building 870)
  • Non-determination of an application for change of use of Building 3 (referred to by the LPA as Manston Airport Cargo Centre & Responding Vehicle Point)
  • Non-determination of an application for change of use Building 4
No press or public

Members of the Save Manston Airport association (SMAa) are angry that the committee is being advised to vote to exclude the press and public from the discussion.

Chairman Beau Webber said: “The suspicion is that the committee is going to be asked to reverse its previous decision, at which a large proportion of the Councillors spoke in favour of retaining Manston Airport for Aviation, and at which the gallery was packed with Save Manston Airport association members, as well as other groups supporting Manston Airport for Aviation.

“Placing a meeting as significant as this beyond public scrutiny raises significant questions re the constitution of TDC, and the stated openness and transparentness that UKIP claimed would be the hallmark of their administration.”

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale has also expressed his concern and told Conservative Party leader at TDC, Bob Bayford, that he would back a party vote against the exclusion.


American firm RiverOak, which hopes to gain the site through a Development Consent Order which is currently in the process of being applied for through the Government, has also written to TDC to ask for the meeting to be postponed and for the papers on the item to be made available.

The firm has sent a pre-action letter through lawyers Bircham Dyson Bell challenging the recommendation to withhold the report and planned discussion.

But Thanet council says the issue needs to be held in closed session because of ” Information relating to the financial or business affairs of a particular person and Information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained in legal proceedings”.

Planning Inspectorate

An appeal hearing with the Planning Inspectorate was cancelled earlier this year.

The Planning Inspectorate has decided that the appeal will now proceed as a Public Inquiry with a date pencilled in for at 10:00 on 24 January 2017 for 4 days.

RiverOak: TDC Not Transparent

riveroak featured header

TDC Not Transparent: RiverOak have released a press statement regarding Thanet District Council’s proposed banning of press and the public from an upcoming planning meeting.

A pre-action letter from RiverOak lawyers Bircham Dyson Bell challenging Thanet Council’s recommendation to withhold its report and planned discussion in relation to “Change of Use appeals – Manston Airport” from the press and general public has been rebutted by the council. A copy of the letter by Bircham Dyson Bell can be viewed here.

Planning Committee agenda papers for Wednesday 14 December show a recommendation, on an unknown date and by an unnamed Thanet council officer, to withhold from the public and the press copies of the report or reports relating to item 7 in the committee agenda, identified on the relevant agenda as “change of use appeals – Manston Airport” in relation to the Stone Hill Park planning application (formerly Lothian Shelf (718) Limited). Firmly believing that these matters are of significant public interest and in light of RiverOak’s openly stated intention to submit a Development Consent Order which would see the site returned to operational aviation use, Bircham Dyson Bell wrote to Thanet District Council on Friday 9 December to request that the council releases its report and ensures the item is considered in public.

A response, from Director of Corporate Governance and Monitoring at the council Tim Howes, dismissed RiverOak’s concerns, although did acknowledge that, as a recommendation, the decision to exclude the press and public from Item 7 could be reversed. A copy of the response can be viewed here.

Given the requirement for council papers to be published well in advance of any meeting, RiverOak has encouraged Thanet to postpone the Planning Committee meeting and publish Item 7 papers in full to allow them to be properly scrutinised ahead of their consideration.

George Yerrall of RiverOak said: “We remain concerned at the lack of transparency in Thanet Council’s scrutiny and decision making processes in relation to the Manston Airport site. The future of the Manston Airport site, no matter what your view, is of significant importance to not only Thanet but to the wider Kent region and beyond. The public interest is therefore not being served by the withholding of relevant information and we are not satisfied with reasons for doing so that were provided in the council’s response.

“We note, however, Mr Howes’ comment that the recommendation could be reversed and urge the council to fulfil its proper obligations to its electorate by postponing the meeting, publishing the papers in full and ensuring these discussions are held in public.”

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