Change of Use plans rejected

tdc office

Plans to change the use of four buildings at Manston Airport have been formally thrown out by the Planning Inspectorate.

Stone Hill Park had originally applied to Thanet District Council for permission to change the use of these buildings from aviation to general industrial, but TDC originally rejected permission.  SHP appealed the decision, which went to PINS.

Shortly before the public inquiry earlier this year, TDC announced that they were not going to provide any evidence to uphold their decision, which left the battle between SHP and RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP), and their respective legal teams.

Inspector Matthew Nunn said, “the proposals would conflict with the council’s current approach to the location of new development within the airport, which is consistent with national policy”, adding, “The benefits of the scheme put forward by the appellants do not justify departure from Policy EC4 of the Local Plan.”

The site owners maintain that this will not affect their proposals for 2,500 houses on Manston Airport, and their outline plan for permission is due to be considered by TDC later this year.

Spokesman Ray Mallon was quoted as saying, “We believed the case put forward at the planning inquiry was compelling”, which those who actually attended the inquiry would dispute.

A spokesman from RSP said:

“RiverOak Strategic Partners is delighted that the inspector has dismissed Stone Hill Park’s appeals for the change of use of four airport buildings.”


“We presented a compelling case for Manston airport, to the inspector, which emphasised the flawed nature of Stone Hill Park’s assertions that Manston had no prospect of returning to airport use and the equally flawed assumptions behind the Avia Solutions report commissioned by Thanet Council.”


“RiverOak remains certain that Manston has a vibrant future as an airport and we intend to make sure it delivers on its full economic and employment potential for the east Kent region, by securing a DCO to reopen it as a vibrant hub for air freight, passenger and general aviation use.”

You can read more on this story at Isle of Thanet News and Kent News

RSP confirm seven consultation events

rsp header

Seven public consultation events will be held between Wednesday 14 June and Saturday 24 June, as part of a six-week consultation period on RiverOak Strategic Partners’ proposals to reopen Manston Airport as an air freight hub, creating thousands of jobs for Thanet and the wider regional economy.

RiverOak has published details of the consultation in a Statement of Community Consultation. The 2017 consultation will include seven consultation events 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

These events are open to any member of the public that would like to attend and further details of the locations, local public transport services and other information can be found in the Statement of Community Consultation which can be downloaded from

George Yerrall, Director of RiverOak Strategic Partners, said: “The consultation is very important to us as it allows the local community to scrutinise our proposals and share their views and thoughts with us. This, in turn, will enable us to refine our proposals further before submitting the Development Consent Order application to the Planning Inspectorate, later this year.

“At the events visitors will be able to view consultation documents, talk to members of our professional team and give their feedback. Feedback forms can also be emailed or sent to us, right up until the closing date of the consultation on Sunday 23 July.”

Copies of consultation documents will be available from 12 June at and at these public libraries during their normal opening hours: Birchington, Broadstairs, Cliftonville, Deal, Herne Bay, Margate, Minster-in-Thanet, Newington, Ramsgate, Sandwich and Westgate. As the full Preliminary Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) is a very large document, it will only be available in full at Deal, Herne Bay and Margate libraries. A non-technical summary will be available at all libraries, at the seven consultation events and on the RSP website, as part of an Overview Report.

In addition to the public events there will be two business-only briefings, at The King’s Hall in Herne Bay, on Wednesday 14 and at the Pavilion in Broadstairs, on Thursday 15 June. Businesses interested in attending should email for further information and to secure a place.

The full consultation period will run from Monday 12 June 2017 to Sunday 23 July 2017.

RSP threaten legal action

rsp header

BBC South East Today yesterday (11th April 2017) revealed that RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd is threatening Thanet District Council leader Chris Wells with legal action, over potentially libellous comments he made regarding the location of one of their key investors.

A transcript of the report is below.

Rob Smith (Anchor):

Lawyers acting for RiverOak, the company that’s hoping to re-open Manston Airport in East Kent are threatening legal action against the leader of Thanet District Council, Chris Wells.

Juliette Parkin (Anchor):

It follows an email he sent to fellow councillors, claiming that Belize, where one of RiverOak’s key investors is based, is a major money-laundering country, linked to the illegal drugs trade and human trafficking.  Peter Whittlesea has our exclusive story.

Peter Whittlesea (narrating):

It may have closed, but the company RiverOak that plans to reopen Manston Airport is threatening to sue the leader of Thanet District Council following comments he made regarding the company’s financial interests in Central America.  In an email to a local resident and copied to thirty five members of Thanet Council, Chris Wells wrote: “Belize is one of fourteen Caribbean nations named by the US as a ‘major money-laundering country'”, adding, “whose currency transactions involve proceeds from international narcotics trafficking, and Belize is a shipment point for marijuana and cocaine, human trafficking is also a concern.”

Save the airport campaigners say they’re shocked a reputable company, trying to create employment in Thanet, has been written about in this way.

Nicholas Reed (Manston Airport campaigner):

The allegations are something about RiverOak’s, got something to do with some obscure country in South America which is a most extraordinary implication to make about a perfectly respectable organisation which has been trying very hard for several years to get a fair hearing.

Peter Whittlesea (narrating):

RiverOak’s legal team have written to Chris Wells demanding “an unqualified withdrawal of the allegations, and an apology.  Confirmation that you will recuse yourself from the involvement of any decision of Thanet District Council relating to the Manston Airport site.  And payment of a significant sum in damages for the damage caused to RiverOak’s reputation”.

Chris Wells (UKIP Leader, Thanet District Council):

I’m not sure that’s even a relevant statement for anybody to make, so no, no comment at all.

Peter Whittlesea (narrating):

That was Chris Wells’ response today, but when elected as UKIP’s first council leader, he promised to keep Thanet District Council out of the headlines.

Chris Wells (in 2015):

We’ll see whether or not by adopting a very different approach, a very sort of more calm approach in doing things, that we can actually find that Thanet Council becomes less the object of people’s attention, and more the object of admiration because they simply get on with getting the job done.

Peter Whittlesea (narrating):

But critics say when it comes to Manston Airport, that the council has failed to get the job done.

Juliette Parkin (Anchor):

Ok, well er, we can cross live to Peter Whittlesea who’s in Manston for us now.  So Peter, what more have RiverOak had to say today?

Peter Whittlesea (Reporter):

Well RiverOak said they gave Chris Wells a deadline of 5pm this evening to meet their demands or he’d face legal action.  They said that he hasn’t tonight correct his libellous allegations, and, but, he has asked for extra time.  Now the interesting this is what happens next.  If Chris Wells does not defend this, then what his political opponents are saying, he’ll become a lame duck council leader because he won’t be able to make crucial decisions when it comes to Manston Airport.  But if he does defend it, I understand these are claims against him personally, not the council, so the big question is, does he have enough cash to fight a legal, er, er, legal battle against a big company?  Because we all know that legal battles can be expensive.

Juliette Parkin (Anchor):

Okay Peter, thanks very much.

RSP at Parliamentary Briefing

rsp parliamentary briefing

From RSP:

Louise Ellman MP, Chair of the Transport Select Committee and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Trade and Investment amongst MPs briefed by RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) yesterday on their plans for Manston Airport.

Also in attendance at the briefing, which was hosted by Sir Roger Gale MP, was the member for Canterbury and Whitstable – Sir Julian Brazier MP, together with Robert Flello MP – Member of the Transport Select Committee and Sir Gerald Howarth – President of the All Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation. Also in attendance were Richard Dilks of London First, Heidi Skinner of the Freight Transport Association and Henk van Klaveren of the Airport Operators Association.

George Yerrall, director of RSP said: “Every year the UK economy loses more than £2 billion due to air cargo capacity constraints in the south east airports system. This is set to rise to £3.9 billion by 2050, even with a third runway at Heathrow. Manston can provide the answer and this was a valuable opportunity to brief Ms Ellman, Mr Clifton Brown and the others MPs that attended on why we are confident that, with RSP’s strategy and commitment, and the long term support of our investors, Manston has a promising future as a vibrant hub for international airfreight – one which delivers much needed runway capacity in the south east, boosts economic prosperity and employment across Kent and protects a strategic aviation resource for the nation.”

This article can also be found on the RSP website.

RSP provide evidence to enquiry

tony freudmann at agm

From RSP:

In evidence to the Lothian Shelf planning appeal Chris Cain, a director of Northpoint Aviation and the former Regional Airports Policy Manager for the Department of Transport, has highlighted how the passenger-focused business model, set out in the Avia Solutions report, fails to fully explore the huge potential that Manston presents to stem the £2 Billion lost to the UK economy each year due to cargo capacity constraints in the London airports system – a figure set to rise to £3.9 Billion by 2050, even with an additional runway at Heathrow.

Mr Cain’s evidence sought to illustrate how RSP’s proposals for Manston Airport will depart from the unsuccessful business models of previous owners of the airport, by placing an explicit emphasis on the need for diversified income streams, underpinned by a state-of-the-art cargo operation serving dedicated freighters importing and exporting a range of perishable, high-value and time-critical goods rather than rely principally on passenger services as in the past. Other activities will include aircraft servicing, teardown and recycling facilities, business and general aviation, pilot training and commercial acceptance flights providing a broader and therefore more robust base to drive the airport’s future revenues.

The evidence shows how RSP’s proposals are consistent with York Aviation’s Report for the Freight Transport Association and Transport for London in 2015 and the Department for Transport 2009 prediction of increasing cross-channel displacement of air cargo, bound for the UK, to airports in near Europe.

It also points to the lessons that can be learnt from other benchmark airports, which have already successfully developed the mixed-activity business model of the kind RSP is proposing to implement at Manston. These include Alliance Fort Worth in Texas, Hamilton Airport in Ontario, Bergamo in Italy, Liege in Belgium and Leipzig-Halle in Germany.

Said Mr Cain: “Avia’s report demonstrates a failure to grasp how strategically significant infrastructure assets such as Manston can play an important niche role within a congested system of airports such as those serving London and the South East. RSP’s carefully tailored proposals demonstrate that Manston can be successfully developed as a mixed-use airport, underpinned by a substantive and much-needed cargo operation, that will contribute materially to the local, regional and national economy.”

Gale’s View – 8th Feb 2017

sir roger gale header

The two meetings held at the weekend, at Margate Winter Gardens on Saturday and at the Manston Sports and Social Club on Sunday, should have sent a very clear message to the Leader of Thanet District Council (who attended for part of Saturday’s meeting), to those at present in control of Manston Airport and to what at present passes for “leadership” at County Hall.  Contrary to the suggestion made recently that Thanet’s second Draft Local Plan, which seeks to zone Manston for housing and industrial use, has “killed off hope” of re-opening Manston as a commercial airfield progress towards the necessary Development Consent Order is moving inexorably forward.

The decision by the Planning Inspectorate to dismiss the feeble objections raised on behalf of Messrs Cartner and Musgrave leading to a Ministerial decision to grant RiverOak access to the site to carry out the necessary Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) denote a recognition that the project to re-open Manston is, as I have consistently said, of National significance.

In tandem with the most thorough EIA ever undertaken in East Kent the company seeking to acquire Manston will, having identified every household with a potentially affected interest in the airfield, not only in Thanet but in Herne Bay, Canterbury, Sandwich, Deal and Dover write to them to seek observations.  There will then be a full round of on-the-record public consultations available to each location culminating in the formal submission of the full environmental and business case for consideration by the Planning Inspectorate.  There will then be a full public inquiry and a recommendation made, following consideration of all the evidence, by the Inspector to the Secretary of State for Transport who will take the final decision whether or not to grant the Development Consent Order.  This process will take time and will cost RiverOak a great deal of the money that Cllr. Wells, the present Leader of TDC, claims that the company does not have.  When national interest is at stake the effort and expenditure are worth it.

Last year air freight traffic grew by nearly seven per cent.  With Brexit and the need to compensate for the loss of European business by developing new markets in Asia and the Far East we are going to need much more freight, as well as passenger, capacity in the South East.  That capacity, without Manston Airport simply will not be available. The facility is going to be vital to service our Country’s immediate and future needs.

For the sake of UK limited, as well as for the prosperity of East Kent, I urge all of those in the area who support this cause to both write in objection to Thanet’s Local Plan proposals for the airport and to respond to a Kent County Council consultation on the proposed Thanet Parkway station from which County Hall has noticeably airbrushed out Manston Airport while concentrating on a ‘Stone Hill Park’ that does not exist on any map known to man.  It is the future of our children and our grandchildren that is at stake.

You can find our own guide and link to the Local Plan consultation process here

Annual General Meeting 2017

tony freudmann at agm

Today’s Annual General Meeting of the Save Manston Airport association was a resounding success, attended by well over 100 supporters.

Manston is Coming Back!

By Bryan Girdler (edited for clarity):

Riveroak believe KLM will return.  They are also talking to Ryanair who they believe will also come to Manston if they can create the right upgraded terminal.

Riveroak are aiming to submit the Development Consent Order by end of July for a £300M Manston Airport.

Speaking today at a meeting of the Save Manston Airport association, Riveroak said: “We are there on Manston, ‘as long as it takes'”.  Working on the detail for instance of how to move earth around to build a hugely upgraded Manston, with many more aprons to turn around planes fast, new buildings for freight forwarders, with many new office jobs. They are aiming for 1 plane an hour, every plane brings money into Thanet, money brings jobs.

New directors have joined RiverOak bringing with them access to significant new funding.  Environmental studies underway this week will create a PEIR – Preliminary Environmental Impact Report which will detail, flights, drainage, truck movements etc for the next 20 years.

Lack of London freight slots is causing freight to go via Tunnel to Frankfurt and Amsterdam – this can switch to Manston. Freight is full in the UK, except Stansted which wants to use it’s room to it’s limit to increase passengers not cargo.

RiverOak spoke on the plans to build housing and about the planning application for change of use by the current owners, this has been referred to a public enquiry (in March).  This will be run by the Planning Inspectorate which have just authorised the section 53 order to allow RiverOak to start work on Manston.

RiverOak explained that the DCO gives them the right to object to the planning application and they will defend Manston Airport at the public inquiry.  They spoke on night flights and they confirm they do not need night flights to make their plan work and they do not plan to have night flights.

Sir Roger Gale spoke after RiverOak and he said the fact that the minister for local government was able to grant RiverOak access to Manston is very important indeed, the Government recognises this is a project of national importance.  It’s not about Kent, or local employment, though those are important, it’s now important for the whole country.

S53 Documents published by PINS

riveroak featured header

The Planning Inspectorate have today made public the s53 documents granting RiverOak access to the Manston Airport site for vital surveys, in order that they can make their full application later this year.

These documents can be found below.

Authorisation Annex 2 Plan Identifying the Land

Authorisation Annex 4 Schedule of Surveys

Section 53 Statement of Reasons

S53 Authorisation


Of note are the reasons that Stone Hill Park gave for refusing RiverOak access to the site, which include:

  • Prematurity of the original s.53 application
  • Challenging that entry should not be permitted as RiverOak’s project has not yet been designated a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP)
  • Asking whether RiverOak’s project is of real substance
  • Challenging whether or not RiverOak genuinely require access to the land.

The Secretary of State did not consider that any of these arguments provided grounds to refuse RiverOak access to Manston Airport.

RiverOak continues to be completely transparent in their procedures, as it will do so throughout the Development Consent Order process.

Further details of the DCO can be found on the PINS website.

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.

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.”

1 2 3