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.
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.”