Mission Aviation Fellowship

Manston airport airfreight redevelopment appeal granted

The ongoing redevelopment saga surrounding Manston Airport in Kent has received another setback after yet another appeal against the project was granted.

The project has now been stalled for around six years, after RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) first proposed to redevelop the mothballed airport as hub for international air freight and was granted a Development Consent Order (DCO) by UK Government.

Local resident Ms Jenny Dawes had previously unsuccessfully attempted to mount legal challenges against redevelopment permissions, with the last bid for a Judicial Review dismissed last September. Now, however, an appeal has ruled that her request to a Court of Appeal hearing will be upheld on ‘need’ grounds.

In a recent statement, RSP said that the delays to the project had served to highlight “serious frailties” in the UK planning system, which are “making a mockery of planning laws”. RSP says that it is calling upon the Government to reform the planning laws, “to provide a more efficient and defined process for the interrogation of major infrastructure planning applications”.

Designed to deliver carbon neutral ground operations from day one, RSP says that the proposed airfreight hub at Manston would help the UK trade across the globe – importing vital and time-sensitive goods, including fresh fruit and medical supplies, providing air freight operators with a realistic alternative to the overcrowded London airports, and easing road congestion caused by lorries carrying freight through the channel tunnel to European airports.

The project is expected to generate around 650 construction jobs, and 2,000 permanent jobs once the airport is fully operational. RSP adds that the project requires no government funding and has attracted several international investors who are prepared to invest up to £800 million.

The Manston project was originally accepted by the Secretary of State for Transport as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) on 17 July 2018. Following a public inquiry lasting six months from January 2019 it was granted a Development Consent Order (DCO) on 09 July 2020.

A judicial review (JR) challenge to the decision was subsequently launched by Jenny Dawes, a resident of the town of Ramsgate, some 3.5 miles from the airport. In December 2020, the Secretary of State decided not to defend the challenge and the decision was formally quashed in February 2021.

After three rounds of consultation the DCO was then granted for a second time on 18 August 2022. A JR challenge was again made by Jenny Dawes, on similar grounds to her first challenge, which was subsequently rejected. The claimant then renewed her application for permission to be heard in open court, which took place on 23 March 2023 and granted in part by Mrs Justice Lieven, which meant that the claim advanced to a full JR review hearing.

The full JR hearing took place on 05 and 06 July 2023 and was dismissed in full by Mr Justice Dove on 22 September 2023. The claimant then sought leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal and this was refused on 09 October 2023. In a final bid, the claimant then sought leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal from the Court of Appeal itself and Lord Justice Warby granted permission to appeal on 07 February 2024, meaning it will now go forward to a hearing.

Meantime, RSP says that its international investors cannot understand how the same issues can be litigated again and again, and why there are so many stages to litigation in the UK and why each one takes so long.

“Although the integrity of the judicial system in the UK remains highly respected, the multitude of stages, the lengthy delays taken and the ability to challenge the same issues repeatedly have resulted in a significant loss of faith in the UK’s ability to support infrastructure development and inward investment effectively,” said RSP.

Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay added his disappointment to the latest appeal approval, describing it as “simply another delaying tactic to frustrate the shared desire of RiverOak Strategic Partners and the Government, together with local supporters, to see Manston return to operational use as an international freight hub and create employment opportunities in Thanet and beyond.”

image accredited to Google Earth

Author: FTN Editor

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