US firm RiverOak renews bid to reopen Manston Airport

Manston Airport
Image caption Manston Airport closed in May 2014 with the loss of 150 jobs.

The government could decide the future of Manston Airport after a bid was launched to bypass the local council.

US investment firm RiverOak is applying for a Development Consent Order (DCO) on the basis that the airport is "a project of national significance".

It is seeking a "comprehensive DCO encompassing the compulsory purchase and the planning permissions required".

The site's owners have always maintained they will fight any attempt at compulsory purchase.

In October, after legal advice, Thanet council rejected plans for it to buy out Manston Airport. Critics said the decision broke a key UKIP election pledge.

Conservative MP Roger Gale described RiverOak's latest move as an "alternative route... one I believe may deliver Manston back as a working airport".

He added: "There is the real possibility of planes flying again by the early part of 2017."

What is a Development Consent Order?

It is a fast means of getting permission for infrastructure developments of national significance

These could include transport, water, waste or energy projects

It was introduced in 2008 as a means of speeding up the planning process

For Manston, it would mean bypassing the involvement of Thanet council in the planning process

In a statement, RiverOak said: "The reinstatement and development of Manston is a project of national significance as envisaged in the legislation and guidelines.

"It is therefore RiverOak's intention to apply for a comprehensive DCO encompassing the compulsory purchase of the airport and the planning permissions required."

The firm wants to turn Manston into a major international centre for air freight and a "reliever" for major London airports.

'Environmental disaster'

New owners Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner have different plans for the site, which they have named Stone Hill Park.

Their 20-year plan includes 2,500 homes, a sports village, 200 acres of manufacturing units with 4,000 jobs, and a film production studio.

Under the proposals, a 200-acre park would be created with the former runway as a centrepiece.

Local resident Simon Crow, who wants the development to go ahead, said: "The centre of Ramsgate is right in line with the airport.

"RiverOak's proposal is for a freight hub with many, many more flights coming in and out with the possibility of night flights as well.

"I think it would be an environmental disaster for Ramsgate and surrounding areas."

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