Riveroak: Initial response to Avia

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From the Riveroak website:

RiverOak is working on a comprehensive rebuttal of the Avia Solutions report, which it plans to release early next week, highlighting how basic factual errors and questionable methodology, together with a decision to ignore six respected and publicly available air freight studies, has led to a set of conclusions about Manston Airport that are unsafe for Thanet Council to rely on and therefore render the report unusable.

The rebuttal will include:

  • Details of how RiverOak offered Avia consultants open access to the full business plan but couldn’t get agreement that Avia would treat this in confidence.
  • How RiverOak also offered open access to the business plan to Edmund Truell during a meeting earlier this year. RiverOak sent him a non-disclosure agreement for signature as the business plan contains commercially confidential information. He never signed it, nor has Mr. Truell responded to multiple attempts to communicate directly with him by RiverOak.
  • Evidence that RiverOak sent details of six published freight studies to Dr Chris Smith on 11 August. None were used in the report.
  • An absence of any peer review in the report to confirm its accuracy.
  • Evidence of published criticism of the author, Dr Chris Smith, for poor methodology in the production of a previous report, including ‘confusing’ ‘inaccurate’ and ‘misleading’ information, for Luton Borough Council, the owners of Luton Airport.

Why was it necessary for the leader of Thanet Council to effectively commit the council to adoption of the Avia report last week, ahead the proper process taking place and before many of the elected members had even read it? For the Avia Solutions report to be properly adopted as council policy it needs to go through the normal local authority scrutiny procedures, with elected members, in the coming weeks.

RiverOak is confident that, when exposed to this proper and thorough scrutiny, the considerable shortcomings in the report will ultimately inform how much weight the council is able to attribute to it for Local Plan purposes.

Riveroak responds to SHP comments

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From Riveroak website:

RiverOak Investments is disappointed by the inaccurate and misleading comments made yesterday (21 September) by a Stone Hill Park spokesperson on our exciting plans for Manston airport project. We felt we had no option but to respond to their deliberate misinterpretation of our approach to community engagement, which is one of the largest and most comprehensive seen in this part of the country.

We recently held a non-statutory consultation so that we could get feedback from all interested parties to help inform the development of our plans.  Several supporters of our project provided voluntary services during the events allowing us to engage with members of the local community.

We received more than 800 responses, with the vast majority supporting our proposals.   We are, however, taking all the feedback into account as our plans progress and take it all, supportive or otherwise, very seriously.

For the avoidance of any doubt, all consultation responses submitted at the consultation events were passed to Bircham Dyson Bell, who are providing all legal support to the project.   Stone Hill Park’s assertion that not all responses were included in the feedback figures is completely without foundation.

We are aware of one resident who informed Bircham Dyson Bell that a response was submitted following attendance at an informal consultation event.  However, as we have explained to them directly, Bircham Dyson Bell cannot trace this submission.  To ensure this resident’s views are included, we offered to accept a further response from them and treat it as if it was submitted during the consultation period, and we await this.

We believe that is one of strengths of holding a non-statutory consultation first – it allows us to get our process right and be flexible around the needs of the community.

It was always the case that a statutory consultation would follow completion of the bulk of the environmental assessment of the project.   We gave 5 September as the closing date for the non-statutory consultation, not the start of a statutory one.  This followed advice from the Planning Inspectorate at a meeting in April that we should avoid overlap in the timing of the non-statutory, statutory and scoping report consultation activities and so help make it clear to the community what was happening and when.

Our original intention was to hold a formal consultation in autumn 2016. However, repeated requests for our professional team to be allowed onto the site for testing and data gathering have been continually rejected by the current owners, Stone Hill Park.  This meant that we were left with no option but to apply to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for compulsory access powers, under section 53 of the Planning Act 2008.  We are waiting a decision on this.

Any suggestion that access isn’t possible due to government contracts or other activities on the site is inaccurate.  This was clearly demonstrated when Avia Solutions, commissioned by Thanet District Council to assess airport viability, were permitted access within a week of their request.

This refusal to allow us onto the site is the sole reason for the delay in holding the statutory consultation.

It is also inaccurate to say that we could and should have undertaken statutory consultation prior to any environmental survey of the site.  The Development Consent Order process for us to gain permission to go ahead with the project requires that Preliminary Environmental Information (PEI), which includes information about the planned mitigation of environmental impacts and which will rely on environmental surveys undertaken on the site, must be made available as part of statutory consultation.   We simply cannot hold the statutory consultation without sufficient information for it to be meaningful.

We have kept the Planning Inspectorate informed of our concerns regarding the delay and the impact it is having on the planned timetable. We publicly communicated the likelihood of a delay to the initial timetable and the reasons for the delay in a statement on our website on 12 July.

RiverOak remains committed to reviving Manston Airport and to preparing a comprehensive set of proposals which we will consult fully on.  We are confident that the statutory consultation will confirm the public support for our proposals. We will then submit a pragmatic, well-evidenced and well-supported DCO application to the Planning Inspectorate for an air cargo hub at Manston Airport. The proposals for the reopening of Manston will serve as a catalyst for economic growth locally and throughout Kent and its hinterland.

Consultation: Overwhelming support for DCO proposals

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From RiverOak website:

90% of local people who took part in the recent informal consultation by RiverOak Investments support proposals for reviving Manston Airport as an airfreight hub with complementary passenger and engineering services. A further 8% of respondents said they opposed the plans and 2% are not yet sure.

More than 800 responses were received by Bircham Dyson Bell, lawyers for RiverOak Investments, following the informal consultation events held in July. Of these, 332 were handed in during the six consultation events, 268 were emailed and a further 222 hard copies were posted.

Support amongst consultees from Margate and Broadstairs was the highest at 98% and 94% respectively. However, support was also high amongst those from Ramsgate and Herne Bay with 82% and 86% of respondents, respectively, in favour of the proposals.

High on the wish list for Manston were the inclusion of passenger services, a flying school, viewing area and a requirement for employment at the airport to be drawn from the local community. Of concern, quite naturally, are environmental issues such as night flights (although only amongst 9% of respondents), noise (8%) and air pollution and the flight path, both raised by 2% of respondents.

All of this feedback is being factored into the development of RiverOak’s detailed proposals for Manston which will be published for formal consultation along with preliminary environmental information (PEI). The environmental matters raised, in particular, will be subject to rigorous examination as part of the field work for this.

George Yerrall of RiverOak Investments said: “We are really encouraged to see so much support for the airport and to get a sense of the issues of most importance to local people. Before the statutory consultation exercise starts, we will respond directly to everyone who has taken the time to submit a response and has provided contact details, although all responses will be taken into account.  We will also publish the information we provide to respondents on our website.

“However, we need the preliminary environmental information (PEI) work to be completed before we are able to respond on many of the matters raised. We have applied to the Planning Inspectorate for powers to enter the site for environmental surveying purposes, as the owners have not yet agreed to let us do so voluntarily.

“Given the delays we have experienced in accessing the site it looks increasingly as though this second, statutory consultation will now take place early in the new year, with our full application to PINS likely to follow in the second quarter of 2017.

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