ABOVE: Manston airport closed in 2014

Manston airport owners RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) have received another blow to their intentions to open the facility as a cargo hub, with an appeal against the project now granted.

RSP first submitted a Development Consent Order in 2018, with the Secretary of State initially granting permission for the project in July 2020. Redevelopment of the Kent site is provisionally set to start in 2025, with the airport set to reopen towards the end of 2026; becoming what owners describe as a ‘state-of-the-art freight hub’.

However, although local Ramsgate resident Ms Jenny Dawes has previously (unsuccessfully) attempted to mount legal challenges against redevelopment permissions – with a bid for a Judicial Review dismissed last September – an appeal has now ruled that her request to a Court of Appeal hearing will be upheld on ‘need’ grounds (although refused permission to appeal on climate change grounds).

Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay expressed his disappointment in the outcome, describing this latest development 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”.

Adding that it is “unacceptable” to have an original decision reversed by “another Judge whose expertise is not in planning,” Mackinlay added that local Manston MP Sir Roger Gale – who is “bringing the legal absurdities of this case to the attention of the Lord Chancellor” – has his “unalloyed support in doing so”.

RSP and its investors have already collectively spent more than £42 million on the project (which requires no government funding) and are calling on the UK government to ‘provide a more efficient and defined process for the interrogation of major infrastructure planning applications’. In a statement, they added that ‘it is vitally important that the determination of nationally significant infrastructure projects should not be delayed for years through endless litigation and uncertainty, to the detriment of all involved’.