SMAa DCO Statement

The SMAa Committee are proud to announce that after almost 3 years of hard work and dedication from all its members, and especially RSP, the Development Consent Order (DCO) has been GRANTED by the Secretary of State for Transport.

This go-ahead from the government now enables RSP to invest over £300m into rebuilding a state-of-the-art 21st century airport at Manston, which includes an air freight hub and proposals to develop aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities and end-of-life recycling facilities; a flight training school; a fixed base operation for executive travel and business facilities for aviation related organisations. We hope for the airport to re-open late 2023.

This will create many much needed jobs for the Thanet and east Kent area, and will enable rejuvenation of the local economy. As well as jobs, SMAa and RSP have worked closely with local schools, colleges and universities to promote and advertise STEM and aviation-related studies, in the form of apprenticeships, the construction of an onsite-aviation college and collaboration with local educational establishments to create opportunity and experience.

We would like to thank our many thousands of members and all local people that took part in the examination for the DCO, and would like to pay a very special thanks to RSP, who have been in the fight with us from the very beginning, well over 6 years.

A special thanks goes out to our excellent MP Sir Roger Gale, for his tireless and relentless hard work during the campaign – keeping the government, all 3 administrations since this fight began, on its toes and informed as to the latest in our campaign.

Once this current climate is all over, no doubt there will be a big party!

Thanks.   SMAa Committee.

DCO application approved for examination

The DCO (development consent order) application submitted by RiverOak Strategic Partners has been accepted for examination by the Planning Inspectorate, on behalf of the Secretary of State.

Onwards and upwards

Today we heard the exciting and welcome news that the proposal to reopen and develop Manston Airport in Kent has now been accepted for examination by the Government’s Planning Inspectorate (PINS). The UK company behind the bid, RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP), have spent four years and over £7million (by March 2018) in preparing their plans, which have the potential to bring a vast array of high-quality career jobs for local people and others in East Kent as well as hundreds of millions of pounds in new investment to East Kent.

By accepting the application for examination PINS have agreed that the project is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) AND that RSP have demonstrated that they have sufficient funds available for the eventual Compulsory Purchase of the site.

The planning application process, known as a Development Consent Order (DCO), now enters its third phase, the ‘Pre-examination period’.  A great deal of research, including environmental assessments and extensive public consultation has resulted in a comprehensive DCO application with over 11,000 pages of detailed documentation.  During the next stage of the process interested parties can for the first time submit views and representations directly for consideration by PINS, as opposed to RSP.  There is no fixed timetable for this, it’s up to the developer, but is subject to a minimum of 28 days.  On average this pre-examination phase lasts about 3 months.

Save Manston Airport association are delighted to see RSP’s application moving forward.  There is still further to go in the DCO process but the remaining stages have a legally defined maximum duration – once the application moves on to Phase 4 (Examination) there is a maximum of 12 months for the Secretary of State to make a decision on whether to approve the DCO to reopen Manston Airport.  We look forward to an announcement in 2019 and once we have the necessary information we will be publishing guidance on how to register with PINS in order to have your say.

What YOU can do to help!

In not much more than a fortnight, the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) will be announcing whether or not to accept RiverOak Strategic Partners’ (RSP) DCO application for examination.

If they accept the application – and we are optimistic that they will – we enter a phase of the process known as Pre-Examination, where our supporters can relaly make their views known to PINS, and show their support for the DCO application by registering as an Interested Party and submitting Representations.

  • Once the Planning Inspectorate has accepted an application for Examination, it is RSP’s duty to advertise the Relevant Representation period and provide details about how to register to become an Interested Party.
  • The Relevant Representation period is the time you have to register to become an Interested Party.  The registration period must be at least 28 days and the publicity notice will tell you when the deadline is.
  • Representations submitted during this phased will be used by the appointed Examining Inspector(s) to carry out an initial assessment of the principal issues, so keep your representations concise.  Remember that the Examining Authority may only have a short period of time to read all the Relevant Representations before the Preliminary Meeting.  As such, you should make sure your main points are clearly set out.  PINS recommend the use of bullet points and headings to highlight your main points.
  • A Relevant Representation should relate to the application.  It must include a summary of points which you agree and/or disagree with about the application, highlighting what you consider to be the main issues and impacts.  Focus on the positives of the airport, not the negatives of the proposed “garden village”.  SHP’s plans are not being examined here, and are therefore irrelevant.
  • You will have a further opportunity to expand on your Relevant Representation during Phase 4, the Examination phase.  This can be a written submission – you do not need to appear in person.

There is nothing to stop supporters preparing their own representations, ready to submit when they register.

In fact it would be helpful if representations were prepared beforehand using a word processing programme such as Word or OpenOffice Writer.  If you register online the PINS form includes a section at the end for your representation so it will be much easier if you prepare it beforehand and copy-and-paste it on to the PINS form.

Take your time and do your research – there will be a defined deadline and you will have at least 28 days to put your representation together.  Why do YOU want Manston back?  Why is it special to you?

You can find out about the registration period from any of the following:
•    An applicant’s newspapers advert;
•    An applicant’s site notice;
•    Information on the relevant project page of the National Infrastructure Planning website:
•    Via Twitter or email alert if you have signed up for this service on the relevant project page of the National Infrastructure Planning website. If you wish to sign up here then follow this link:

Of course, RSP will undoubtedly publicise details on their social media outlets, as well as their website.


We also strongly advise that supporters take the time to read PINS Advice Note 8.2, which contains much valuable information on this phase of the process. It can be found at:

Supporters may also find this short 6-minute video, produced by PINS, to be useful in helping them understand the whole process:

DCO Application Submitted!

dco application

RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd (RSP) have today submitted their application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) for Manston Airport to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS).

There are now 28 days for PINS to decide whether or not to accept the application for examination – this is known as the acceptance period.

Save Manston Airport association are pleased that RSP’s application has moved to the second phase of the process.  We don’t anticipate any further information until PINS announce their decision, which we hope will be to accept the application for examination.  Consequently, we do not expect to be making any further statements until the decision is announced.

There is still a long way to go in the process, but most stages from hereon have a legally-defined maximum duration.  We know that once the application has cleared this hurdle, a decision on whether or not to grant a DCO is expected in 2019.

In the Press

The Isle of Thanet News – “Development Consent Order for Manston airport site sent to Planning Inspectorate”

Kent Online – “Manston airport: RiverOak submits planning application to reopen runway”

Planning Resource – “Rival plan submitted to reopen Kent airfield and block 2,500-home scheme” (registration required)

The Planner – “DCO application submitted for Manston Airport” (registration required)

CAPA Centre for Aviation – “RiverOak submits development consent order application to reopen Manston Airport as freight hub” (registration required)

Statutory Consultation Events Start

riveroak rsp manston overview

RSP’s Statutory Consultation Events, in order to inform their application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) for Manston Airport start this week!

For more details, and to see the in-depth consultation documents, visit their website:

Please make sure you use this opportunity to let RSP know you support their proposed plans for returning aviation to Manston Airport!

Consultation Events

You can find out more about RSP’s proposals by visiting one of their consultation events which are being held as follows:

  • The King’s Hall, Herne Bay, Wednesday 14 June: 2pm – 8pm
  • The Pavilion, Broadstairs, Thursday 15 June: 2pm – 8pm
  • Cliffsend Village Hall, Friday 16 June: 2pm – 8pm
  • The Sands Hotel, Margate, Saturday 17 June: 10am – 2pm
  • The Guildhall, Sandwich, Tuesday 20 June: 2pm – 8pm
  • Abode Hotel, Canterbury, Thursday 22 June: 2pm – 8pm
  • The Comfort Inn, Ramsgate, Saturday 24 June: 10am – 2pm

Throughout the consultation, documents will also be available for inspection at the consultation events as well as in the following libraries, during their normal opening hours:

  • Birchington Library
  • Broadstairs Library
  • Cliftonville Library
  • Deal Library (full copy of Preliminary Environmental Information report available here)
  • Herne Bay Library (full copy of Preliminary Environmental Information report available here)
  • Margate Library (full copy of Preliminary Environmental Information report available here)
  • Minster-in-Thanet Library
  • Newington Library
  • Ramsgate Library
  • Sandwich Library
  • Westgate Library

Sending your feedback

There are various ways that you can respond to RSP’s consultation.  All consultation responses must be received by 11.59pm on the last day of the consultation, 23 July 2017, or they may not be able to take them into account.

  • by post: Feedback Forms and any other consultation responses can be posted to PO Box 3297, Bristol, BS1 9LL;
  • online by clicking here;
  • by email: Consultation responses can be emailed to; and
  • at the consultation events: Feedback Forms will be available at the consultation events and can be left at the event or returned by post.

RSP will provide an acknowledgement for consultation responses that include a valid email address or postal address.

How to contact RSP

If you need any further information or you have questions about the consultation process or events, please contact RSP on 0800 030 4137 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5.30pm) or by emailing:

Why did Manston Airport close?

manston airport aerial

Nearly three years after Manston Airport closed, campaigners believe its future could be decided within the next twelve months.  This handy guide will help inform you what has happened so far and what we hope will happen next.

Why was Manston Airport closed?

klm cityhopper at manston airport

The airport was bought from previous owners Infratil by Stagecoach tycoon Ann Gloag in November 2013 for £1.  Infratil said it was being sold for a “cash consideration of £1, plus an adjustment for working capital variances and cash injected by Infratil”.  This was expected to be around £350,000 in real terms.

Ms Gloag said: “I am delighted to have purchased Manston Airport from Infratil as I believe there is real potential for growth that has not been fully captured.”

However, in March 2014, a 45-day consultation on the “orderly closure” of Manston Airport was announced.  The airport officially ceased operations on 15th May 2014, with the loss of around 144 jobs.

Both KLM and Newmarket Holidays pulled out of Manston following the news of the planned closure.

It was reported that the airport was “losing £10,000 a day”.

What happened next?

number 10 downing street

RiverOak tried to purchase the site, with an offer of the full asking price made on the day of its closure.  This was later discovered to be £7m.  The same day, former Eastenders actor Cliff Parisi was involved in an emergency landing at Manston.  He stated that had the airport not been open, he would have “ended up in the drink”.

The Save Manston Airport association was formed in its first guise, in order to protest the closure.

A petition with about 7,700 signatures was handed to Thanet District Council (TDC) in June 2016.  It asked the council to compulsorily purchase (CPO) the airport and return it to aviation use.  The TDC administration of the time held full support for the airport’s return.

An additional petition was handed in to 10 Downing Street in July 2014 with at least 26,000 signatures.

The TDC administration changed, and two attempts were made to find indemnity partners for a potential CPO on the site.  RiverOak responded on both occasions, but were not successful.  There were also other interested parties who submitted valid applications.

What about housing?

Plans for housing on the site were mooted ever since the 45-day consultation started, with a representative from Quinn Estates stating in local media that the site would be best used for houses.  Quinn Estates stated in a document that they had secured one third of the site for housing.  This was later found to be untrue.

The airport was “sold” in September 2014 to developers who stated that they were “not airport people”.  They renamed the shelf company Stone Hill Park Ltd (SHP) and set to work planning a “mixed-use development” which included a large portion of housing.

A planning application for change of use of buildings was submitted in 2015, which was rejected by the Council, as the airport was protected for aviation use in the draft Local Plan.  This has gone to appeal and is due to be heard in a public inquiry in 2017.  TDC backed down on their rejection of the application, meaning that RiverOak are the only party fighting against the application.

An outline planning application was also submitted for the overall “mixed-use development”, which is being considered by TDC.

What about RiverOak?

riveroak in westminster

RiverOak are the only company that have stuck with Manston Airport throughout.  Their attempts to purchase the site and their co-operation with TDC shows that they are dedicated to the airport and genuinely feel that aviation there can be profitable.

They are now going through the process of applying for a Development Consent Order (DCO).  This is like a CPO, but taken out of the control of the local authority and undertaken instead by the Planning Inspectorate.  It is used for large projects, with examples including London Paramount and the Thames Tideway Tunnel.  They are normally backed with funding from private companies.

RiverOak have held a number of non-statutory consultation events to gauge local opinion, but before they can make their full application, they will complete statutory consultation events in affected areas (and further afield).  They have also now been granted access to Manston Airport through statute, meaning they can access the site to conduct surveys and testing as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment.

What happens next?

Thanet District Council’s new draft People Plan will go to the public for consultation in January, and their proposal is to remove the protection for aviation at Manston from the Plan, as well as recommending a development of at least 2,500 houses on the site.

We urge you, wherever you live, to engage in this consultation, and state that you do not agree with the proposed Local Plan.  State that Manston Airport must remain protected for aviation use only.  State that you disagree with any proposals for housing or mixed-use development of the Manston Airport site.

Details of how to engage will be shared soon – watch this site.

Thankfully, SHP’s proposal for the site to be used as a lorry park during Operation Stack has protected the site from any development until at least December 2017.  Statute requires them to return the airport to its original state, which includes removing the painted parking spaces on the runway.  Unfortunately, SHP have been paid at least £3.5m of taxpayers’ money to do this.

When could aviation return to Manston?

riveroak manston plan

As campaigners, we are under no illusions – we know it will take time.  The biggest deciding factor is how long the Development Consent Order will take.

In addition, RiverOak will need to purchase a lot of expensive equipment, including runway lighting, RADAR and SMR systems and vehicles, most of which were auctioned off by Peaker Pattison in 2014.  Whilst this means that Manston Airport would be better equipped, these items take time to procure and install.

If you’re planning on flying from Manston yourself, you may have to wait a little longer.  RiverOak’s plans for Manston are based around a cargo freight hub initially.  But they have said they will expand into general aviation and passenger services on the back of successful freight operations.