Draft Thanet Local Plan - 2031 - Pre-Submission Publication, Regulation 19

Manston Airport

Following the closure of Manston Airport in May 2014, the Council has made significant efforts to support a functioning aviation use on the site and has explored its CPO powers in seeking an indemnity partner and carried out extensive soft market testing to seek an airport operator to run the airport.

In order to satisfy the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the Council commissioned an airport viability study by Avia Solutions. This was to look at whether an airport was a viable option for the site within the plan period to 2031. This report took into account national and international air travel and transport and the way in which it is likely to develop over the next 15-20 years and looked at previous reports and developments in national aviation. 

The report concluded that airport operations at Manston are very unlikely to be financially viable in the longer term, and almost certainly not possible in the period to 2031.

However, the Council recognises the proposals being put forward by RiverOak Strategic Partners for an air cargo operation at the site, and the fact that an application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) is to be submitted imminently/has been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) for consideration. A DCO is a consent by a Secretary of State for a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP). A DCO not only provides planning consent for a project, but may also incorporate other consents and include authorisation for the compulsory acquisition of land. To ensure that the NSIP-DCO process is not prejudiced, the Council is proposing not to allocate the Airport site for any specific purpose in the draft Local Plan.

This also provides the opportunity for any other interested parties to pursue the operational use of the airport through agreement with the landowners or through becoming an indemnity partner as part of a potential CPO process with the Council.

In the meantime, the site has an existing use for aviation, subject to other relevant legislation.

If a DCO for aviation use at the site is granted, this would require a partial review of the Local Plan in relation to housing land supply provisions, aviation and environmental policies and other related matters.

In the event that a DCO or CPO process is not accepted or granted, or does not proceed, the Council will need to consider the best use for this site, in the next Local Plan review after a minimum of two years.