Local Plan Rejected

local plan rejected

Councillors at Thanet District Council have voted against the proposed Local Plan which suggested building at least 2,500 houses on Manston Airport.

Despite a ‘Project Fear’ operated by leader Chris Wells and CEO Madeline Homer, 35 councillors (including 12 UKIP councillors) rejected the plan.  Twenty voted in favour.

The scaremongering threatened the involvement of Sajid Javid MP if the plan was not voted through, which would see “an extra 3,000 homes” needed if MHCLG got involved in Thanet’s local plan.

After the vote, Chris Wells said, “This was the most stupid decision councillors can make if they really want an airport”.  That’s coming from the man who was elected solely on the promise to re-open Manston Airport.

A report commissioned by RiverOak Strategic Partners shows that TDC can meet its housing quote without building on Manston Airport.

Why is your councillor denied the facts?

Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Why is your Councillor denied the facts about Manston Airport?

Thousands of people in Thanet and East Kent have flocked to see the RiverOak presentations of their plans for aviation at Manston Airport.

Dover District Council and Kent County Council have both scheduled meetings of their full Councils for all Councillors to participate in the statutory consultation process.

Why will Thanet District Council not allow full Council to see a RiverOak presentation on their plans for Manston Airport?  TDC are insisting that RiverOak give a presentation to a closed cabinet meeting.

If you think this should be an open meeting to the full council, then please write to the TDC leader:

Cllr Chris Wells
Thanet District Council
PO Box 9
Cecil Street

Also write to your Ward councillors (details available here) and ask that they demand the right to hear a RiverOak presentation, so they can fully represent your views.

Save Manston Airport association

RiverOak’s lawyers Bircham Dyson Bell have now commented on this matter :

Consultation with Thanet District Council regarding Manston Airport proposals

On or around 7 July 2017, Thanet District Council (TDC) issued this statement about the statutory consultation on RiverOak Strategic Partners’ (RSP’s) proposals to reopen Manston Airport. The statement contains a number of inaccuracies and misunderstandings that we are happy to set straight.  [Read More]

Click on graphic to enlarge or select PDF below.


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.

Time is running out!


local plan header time is running out

Time is running out!

As we speak, Thanet District Council has an open consultation on a proposed Local Plan which seeks to remove the aviation protection on Manston Airport.  In the same breath, the Plan proposed the building of at least 2,500 houses on our Airport site.

Don’t rest on your laurels.

In order to overturn this plan, and keep our aviation protection, we need to submit good quality and well-reasoned personal objections to the proposals.  Whilst having thousands of objections doesn’t necessarily mean TDC will immediately abandon their proposals, they must read and take into account each individual submission.  This is a brilliant way to let TDC gauge public feeling toward Manston Airport.

Get involved.  We have produced guidance on how to object, as well as a link to the consultation website here.

Please don’t think that someone else will object for you.  If you want it, you need to fight for it!

TDC to allow Change of Use

tdc office

In a dramatic but predictable turn of events, Thanet District Council has voted to essentially allow the change of use of buildings on Manston Airport.

Tensions were raised going in to the meeting of the Planning Committee last night, because the Council had initially banned the Public and Press from the entire meeting, owing to a proposed secretive discussion on Agenda Item 7, regarding the Change of Use appeals for Manston Airport.  After RiverOak’s lawyers wrote to TDC, the public were admitted, although they were still asked to leave the Chamber for the discussion.

Agenda item 7 is restricted as the information contained within it is exempt under paragraphs 3 and 5 of Part 1 to Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended). Whilst the Council will always try to keep exempt information to a minimum, in this case disclosure of the information contained within the report would certainly prejudice the Council’s case and increase the risk of costs being awarded against the Council in respect of the planning appeal to which the information relates.

tdc planning change of use vote


Councillors at the planning meeting (pictured above) voted to reverse the decision to refuse planning permission for change of use, and also not to object to planning permission for the other three buildings.

Technically, this means that the buildings are not designated for aviation-use only.  However, this vote does not overrule the role of the Planning Inspectorate, who are overseeing the original appeal against the refusal.  A public inquiry is planned for January 2017.

Beau Webber, Chairman, said: “TDC Chief Legal Officer Tim Howes originally recommended excluding the public and press from the vital meeting on “Change of Use” on 4 crucial airside aircraft hangars /warehouses at Manston.

“Over last winter, Save Manston Airport association successfully, with the aid of pro-airport councillors at TDC, showed that these building were vital for Manston to remain a cargo airport, and had the change of use rejected.

“During this meeting Mr Howes proposed 3 options re how to proceed – option 1 exclude public and press from all the meeting; option 2, exclude press and public from just a key financial section of the meeting; option 3, have all the meeting open.

“Option 2 was chosen by the members. A white pages document was handed out, but there was of course no time to properly read and consider it, and prepare statements.

“So some discussion was in public, with a spirited defence of Manston as an airport by a number of Conservative councillors. Then the public and press were ejected.

“When we returned, a recorded vote was held, in which all the UKIP and Labour councillors voted for change of use of the Manston airside hangars /warehouses at Manston.”

Special measures

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale voiced disgust at the decision and said it is time for Thanet council to be placed in special measures.

He said: “This grubby vote, designed to head off the planning inquiry due to be held in January, flew in the face of what the people voted for overwhelmingly at the council and general elections.

“Every major political party – and most certainly UKIP and its then parliamentary candidate and Leader Nigel Farage, together with Cllr Chris Wells -stood on a platform, promise to re-open Manston as an operating airport and last night’s decision, although not binding, has demonstrated the degree of contempt in which their party holds the electorate when in office.

“Nevertheless, little has changed and the battle to save Manston as an airport serving Kent and the nation continues.I am advised that RiverOak’s investment partners – those seeking to invest hundreds millions of pounds in Manston’s long-term future- remain as strong and as committed as ever and the process for securing a development consent order continues.

“Thanet cannot pursue its desire to smother this national asset in housing without a change to the local plan which will be the subject of a full public inquiry and which will be challenged every inch of the way. This is just another Battle for Britain that Manston has to win.”

Sir Roger added: “It is time for local government ministers to intervene and fully consider the possibility of special measures. Thanet is out of control.”

News: Anger about private meeting

tdc office

From Kent Live:

Private Meeting

Campaigners who want the Manston airport site to be returned to aviation use intend to rally at a Thanet council meeting tonight.

Members of the planning committee are due to discuss an appeal against a council decision to refuse change of use permission for one building and non-determination on applications for a further three buildings at the airport site.

Lothian Shelf (718) Ltd has launched the appeal for:

  • Non-determination of an application for temporary change of use of Building 1 (referred to by the LPA as Building South of Terminal 1 (Hanger 1)
  • Refusal of an application for the proposed change of use of Building 2 (referred to by the LPA as Building 870)
  • Non-determination of an application for change of use of Building 3 (referred to by the LPA as Manston Airport Cargo Centre & Responding Vehicle Point)
  • Non-determination of an application for change of use Building 4
No press or public

Members of the Save Manston Airport association (SMAa) are angry that the committee is being advised to vote to exclude the press and public from the discussion.

Chairman Beau Webber said: “The suspicion is that the committee is going to be asked to reverse its previous decision, at which a large proportion of the Councillors spoke in favour of retaining Manston Airport for Aviation, and at which the gallery was packed with Save Manston Airport association members, as well as other groups supporting Manston Airport for Aviation.

“Placing a meeting as significant as this beyond public scrutiny raises significant questions re the constitution of TDC, and the stated openness and transparentness that UKIP claimed would be the hallmark of their administration.”

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale has also expressed his concern and told Conservative Party leader at TDC, Bob Bayford, that he would back a party vote against the exclusion.


American firm RiverOak, which hopes to gain the site through a Development Consent Order which is currently in the process of being applied for through the Government, has also written to TDC to ask for the meeting to be postponed and for the papers on the item to be made available.

The firm has sent a pre-action letter through lawyers Bircham Dyson Bell challenging the recommendation to withhold the report and planned discussion.

But Thanet council says the issue needs to be held in closed session because of ” Information relating to the financial or business affairs of a particular person and Information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained in legal proceedings”.

Planning Inspectorate

An appeal hearing with the Planning Inspectorate was cancelled earlier this year.

The Planning Inspectorate has decided that the appeal will now proceed as a Public Inquiry with a date pencilled in for at 10:00 on 24 January 2017 for 4 days.


RiverOak: TDC Not Transparent

riveroak featured header

TDC Not Transparent: RiverOak have released a press statement regarding Thanet District Council’s proposed banning of press and the public from an upcoming planning meeting.

A pre-action letter from RiverOak lawyers Bircham Dyson Bell challenging Thanet Council’s recommendation to withhold its report and planned discussion in relation to “Change of Use appeals – Manston Airport” from the press and general public has been rebutted by the council. A copy of the letter by Bircham Dyson Bell can be viewed here.

Planning Committee agenda papers for Wednesday 14 December show a recommendation, on an unknown date and by an unnamed Thanet council officer, to withhold from the public and the press copies of the report or reports relating to item 7 in the committee agenda, identified on the relevant agenda as “change of use appeals – Manston Airport” in relation to the Stone Hill Park planning application (formerly Lothian Shelf (718) Limited). Firmly believing that these matters are of significant public interest and in light of RiverOak’s openly stated intention to submit a Development Consent Order which would see the site returned to operational aviation use, Bircham Dyson Bell wrote to Thanet District Council on Friday 9 December to request that the council releases its report and ensures the item is considered in public.

A response, from Director of Corporate Governance and Monitoring at the council Tim Howes, dismissed RiverOak’s concerns, although did acknowledge that, as a recommendation, the decision to exclude the press and public from Item 7 could be reversed. A copy of the response can be viewed here.

Given the requirement for council papers to be published well in advance of any meeting, RiverOak has encouraged Thanet to postpone the Planning Committee meeting and publish Item 7 papers in full to allow them to be properly scrutinised ahead of their consideration.

George Yerrall of RiverOak said: “We remain concerned at the lack of transparency in Thanet Council’s scrutiny and decision making processes in relation to the Manston Airport site. The future of the Manston Airport site, no matter what your view, is of significant importance to not only Thanet but to the wider Kent region and beyond. The public interest is therefore not being served by the withholding of relevant information and we are not satisfied with reasons for doing so that were provided in the council’s response.

“We note, however, Mr Howes’ comment that the recommendation could be reversed and urge the council to fulfil its proper obligations to its electorate by postponing the meeting, publishing the papers in full and ensuring these discussions are held in public.”

TDC: Overview & Scrutiny

Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Thanet District Council’s Overview & Scrutiny Panel met on Monday 21st November, and one of the agenda items to discuss was a proposal to amend the Local Plan draft to remove the protection of aviation at Manston Airport.

SMAa member David Stevens was given the opportunity to speak to the meeting (as an interested member of the public) for three minutes, and his speech was recorded.

Videos of the meeting can be watched below.



More videos can be found on the Save Manston Airport association Youtube Channel.

SMAa Writes to TDC Chief Exec

sma header

SMAa writes again – the following letter was sent by Dr. Beau Webber to Madeline Homer, all TDC Councillors and the Isle of Thanet Gazette:

Madeline Homer
Chief Executive,
Thanet District Council.

Dear Madeline Homer,
In your letter dated 2nd November 2016, addressed to Mr. A Walker, of Bircham Dyson Bell, LLP, you write :

“RiverOak chose to provide only limited information to AviaSolutions when they were contacted by them during the preparation of their report. This is described at paragraph 3.5 in the report …”

This section 3.5 in the AviaSolutions Report is 16 lines long, of which you quote 8 lines.

However that is NOT where the bulk of the information that was provided by RiverOak and their team to AviaSolutions is quoted, this is given in Section 9 / Appendix A of the report, where there is a 63 line summary. For some reason much of this provided information, which is far from limited, including the figure of intended investment, of £300 million, fails to make it into the body of the report, or into your letter. However this information is stated clearly in appendix A, and we feel that this additional information, including this intended level of investment, should have been brought to the attention of the TDC Councillors. We trust that you will correct this omission.

On another matter, near the end of your letter, you write “I can also confirm that the Local Plan Working Group is not a decision making body either, so your concerns over the Group deciding to make any changes to the draft Local Plan are ill-founded.” In that case, can you please tell us by whom, and when, was the text prepared, that forms the draft Local Plan to be discussed at the Overview and Scrutiny Panel, on Monday 21st November 2016.

We note that there is minimal mention of the ongoing Development Consent Order (DCO) process in this draft Local Plan. Given the fact that this is a 6 stage progress, which began on 5th January 2016, and is now part-way through the first and longest stage, and in view of the fact that TDC is a Statutory Consultee of RiverOak’s DCO, surely this omission should be corrected ?

Dr. Beau Webber
Chairman, Save Manston Airport association

The section of the Avia report where they speak to RiverOak can be found here.

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