ABOVE: When fully built, Manston is projected to handle over a million tonnes of freight a year. 

Manston Airport in Kent, closed in 2014, is on track to reopen after a second legal challenge to the government’s development permission was thrown out by a High Court judge; paving the way for the facility to reopen as a cargo hub.

Opponents of the development plans had attempted to block the Development Consent Order (DCO), granting approval for the site near Ramsgate, on the grounds that the government’s decision to grant planning permission was illegal. However, following a two-day hearing in the High Court, Mr Justice Dove formally rejected the judicial review application; noting that “neither of the claimant’s grounds” (namely, the “questions of need and climate change”) were “made out in substance”.

The challenge marked the second time since the original 2020 DCO approval that Ramsgate resident Ms Jenny Dawes and other opponents had attempted to overturn the decision to re-open the airport. Although her challenge against the 2022 permission was dismissed in January, a subsequent crowdfunding campaign raised more than £75,000, enabling a further legal fight.

Describing the latest ruling as ‘a highly significant and positive development,’ airport owners RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) can now continue with their plans of ‘turning Manston into a state-of-the-art air freight hub… to support the long-term economic development of East Kent’.

The Policy Advisor for Logistics UK, Ellis Shelton, explained in August that “the reopening of Manston Airport for air cargo transportation is vital to support the UK economy and its trading ambitions post-Brexit”. Although opponents plan to appeal the judgement, with Ms Dawes describing the procedure followed by the Secretary of State as “deeply flawed,” Roger Gale MP extended his thanks to “RiverOak, financial backers and the majority of the public who have kept the faith”.

Redevelopment work is estimated to create over 600 local construction jobs, and building work will start in 2025. The airport is scheduled to reopen towards the end of 2026 with the first of up to 17,000 flights a year due to take off in three years’ time. There are also plans to return passenger flights to the terminal.