News: Millions paid for Op Stack lorry park

We can announce an investigation by KM Group paper, the Thanet Extra, has discovered that Stone Hill Park have been paid at least £3.5 million of taxpayers’ money by the Department of Transport for the planned use of Manston Airport as a lorry park during Operation Stack.

Since September 2015, payments amounting to £3.539 million were made to Stone Hill Park, care of their Discovery Park address.

To date, not a single lorry has been parked at Manston Airport, apart from those that located and then collected the portaloos.

Full details can be found on Kent Online:


Letters: Cargo for Manston

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From The Telegraph:

SIR – Theresa May has very sensibly delayed the decision on a third runway at Heathrow for a year. Let us hope that a workable alternative can now be found.

I lived under Heathrow’s flight path for many years and saw the airport grow as an employer, making that part of the world very successful. I have been in Ramsgate in Kent for over 24 years now and seen the opposite, as a developer bought and then closed down Manston Airport.

Campaigners for the expansion of Heathrow or Gatwick emphasise the importance of air cargo. Re-routing the majority of cargo flights to Manston would help to revitalise the local economy. As the RAF, which still occupies part of Manston, will not allow redevelopment of the airfield, I see no reason why it could not reopen for business.

Michael Wheatley-Ward
Ramsgate, Kent

Letters: “Cheaper trade links”

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From The Telegraph:

SIR – Heathrow has plans to increase air freight at the airport.

However, if air cargo at Heathrow and Gatwick were transferred to Manston Airport in Kent, this would allow passenger flights to be increased at these airports without requiring an extra runway at either.

An improved rail and road network, able to take the increase in freight traffic from Manston, might be cheaper (and more environmentally friendly) than an extra runway at Heathrow or Gatwick. Rail and road links already go to the adjacent port of Ramsgate.

Chris Barmby
Tonbridge, Kent

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.

Thanet Lib Dems Speak Out About Avia Report

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Press Release by Liberal Democrats:

Thanet Lib Dems Say that Manston Airport Report is Narrow and Blinkered

The recently released viability report on Manston Airport by Avia Consulting, commissioned by UKIP-led Thanet Council, completely ignores several potential revenue streams in its calculations.

The Thanet Liberal Democrats are therefore calling for a public meeting to allow for questions and challenges to be aired.


1. Why were significant potential aviation-related revenue streams not considered such as Aircraft Salvage?
Footnote 1 of the report states: The scope of this report does not extend to a consideration of other uses for the airport (other than passenger and cargo), and Avia Solutions is therefore not able to comment on the reasonableness or otherwise of the alternative use proposals.
Why Not?

2. Avia Consulting has strong credentials with regards to the operation of commercial airports focused on passenger traffic, not Aviation support services (see 1. above). So why were they chosen to do this important report?

3. Whilst stating that financial models are focused on ‘upper bounds’ of predicted traffic, this is misleading without considering other sources of income, i.e. Aircraft Maintenance.

4. The report assumes that a third runway will be built at Heathrow Airport – this is a significant assumption and could lead to a massive under-capacity issue if there were delays and challenges to the scheme. Manston is good to go now.

We disagree with the conclusion that Manston Airport cannot be financially viable, and fully support any commercial venture that is willing to stake money and reputation to realise a high-tech, high -skilled jobs future for Manston Airport.

The Thanet Liberal Democrats call for consideration of the following uses for Manston Airport as an Aviation Ancillary Services Hub within any viability calculations:

1. Cargo/Freight handling;
2. Aircraft salvage and recycling;
3. Aircraft Maintenance;
4. Aviation Training (i.e. ATC, Engineering, Cabin Crew, Aviation Firefighting, Ground Handling);
5. Establishment of a New Aviation College for apprentices;
6. Development as a new ‘Space Port’ to support existing Government scheme;
7. Private flying training and recreation;
8. An Expanded Battle of Britain Heritage Museum and tourist attractions;
9. A Specialist Europe Emergency facility for Aircraft crisis events;
10. A Specialist Europe Emergency facility for Humanitarian response flights;
11. Ship Emergency, SAR and Ship firefighting cover for the Channel Straits.

This report is simply “too narrow and blinkered” comments Thanet Liberal Democrat Spokesperson, Russ Timpson. “This issue must be properly addressed at Government level, and fast,” he concludes.

Russ Timpson
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Thanet

SMAa Website Revamp

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The Save Manston Airport association website has undergone a revamp.

All the documentation and features of the previous site remain, we’ve just started to make it more user friendly and tech savvy.

Your comments and suggestions are always gratefully received.

Letters: “Jet traffic jam”

From The Daily Telegraph (October 6, 2016):

SIR – Governments of all colours have shown cowardice on an epic scale over airport policy, ignoring both economic and safety considerations.

As a pilot of a jet airliner, I know that London’s airspace is operating at capacity. Each day I enter the holding pattern south of Gatwick, then hear on the radio that those going to Heathrow are subject to delays two or three times as long. When I make an approach, it is likely that, due to departing traffic, I won’t get cleared to land until I am about half a mile away from the runway. It is likely that we will be told to abort the landing at less than 300ft if the departing traffic is slow to move.

New runways are needed at both Heathrow and Gatwick, but these won’t solve the capacity problem if an incident happens. After receiving permission to build, Heathrow and Gatwick should share the cost of reopening and maintaining Manston airport in Kent. With its massive runway, it is the ideal place to send aircraft in trouble (be it a technical problem or terrorism) to keep them from built-up areas of the South East.

This move would not only be in the wider public interest but would also help the economy of east Kent.

Keith Jones
Hinton, Wiltshire

This letter can be found on the Telegraph website:

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.

SMAa Analysis: RiverOak pre-Consultation Results

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Save Manston Airport association Analysis

RiverOak release the results of their pre-Consultation with Thanet and Kent about Manston Airport.

RiverOak are working with the National Planners to prepare a Development Consent Order (DCO), so as to present a plan to raise Manston Airport to be an airport of national stature.

In July RiverOak held a (non-statutory) pre-consultation exercise with the people of Thanet and Kent to find their views about re-opening Manston Airport and developing it to be a Nationally Significant airport.

As well as holding six roadshow events, across Thanet and East Kent (Broadstairs, Margate, Herne Bay, Canterbury, Sandwich and Ramsgate), to enable local people to learn more about their preliminary proposals, RiverOak distributed, and their lawyers collected and analysed  booklets with questionnaires. “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.”

With a closing date of 5th September, all these documents have now been analysed by RiverOak’s DCO lawyers Bircham Dyson Bell, and a summary released on their web-site :

Kent and Thanet want Manston Airport back open

The most significant conclusion is that 90% of respondents approve of RiverOaks proposals, and want Manston Airport to re-open for aviation use.

Now this is completely in line with previous polls, district elections, local plan responses and TDC Council votes, that have been collated by Save Manston Airport association, where the figures have ranged from over 80% to over 90% in favour of Manston Airport reopening :

Evidence of mass support” – Letter to the Editor, Isle of Thanet Gazette, Friday May 20th, 2016. : ▼ Polling & Membership

However the number of respondents in this RiverOak pre-Consultation and the directness of these questions asked makes this pre-Consultation a far more definitive exercise.

Specific requests by the people of Kent and Thanet

The really important point of the exercise, however, was to go to the people of Kent and Thanet, so as to find out what they actually wanted with regard to Manston Airport, rather than just present them with a take-it or leave-it plan at the Autumn statutory DCO Consultation. A number of important conclusion are noted in this report, many on subjects raised by SMAa and their members, including :

  • Preservation and location of Manston RAF, Spitfire &Hurricane Museums.
  • Placement and orientation of new hangars so as to preserve views from RAF Manston and Spitfire & Hurricane Museums to the runway.
  • Discussions regarding number, orientation and timings of flights.
  • Importance and number of new jobs for local people as a result of Manston Airport opening.
  • Impact of Manston Airport on education, training, and apprenticeships.

RiverOak say :  “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.”

Main Conclusion

It is fascinating to hear the true voice of the people of Kent and Thanet, to hear what they really do want for Manston Airport. SMAa asked: are they asking for many thousands of new houses in addition to those required for Thanet by the Government? No, overwhelmingly they are asking for a working airport of national stature, with high grade jobs.

Dr. Beau Webber (Chairman)
Save Manston Airport association

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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