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.