RiverOak Strategic Partners has submitted an application for a Development Consent Order (DCO), which if approved could lead to the reopening of the airport.
However, to use Winston Churchill’s words: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” The DCO process is not a quick one.
RiverOak’s 11,000-page submission outlines its proposal to reopen Manston as an air freight hub with complementary passenger and general aviation services, but it could still be the best part of a year until a decision is made, and that could still be open to challenge.
Within 28 days the Planning Inspectorate will decide whether the application meets the standards required to be accepted for examination by the Secretary of State, however, that’s far from the end of the issue.
Having successfully navigated the pre-application phase of the DCO, RiverOak started the clock on the acceptance stage with the submission of an application. During the following pre-examination stage, the public will be able to register with the Planning Inspectorate to become an interested party by making a relevant representation – and this is inevitably where the team at Stone Hill Park will oppose the application.
The Stone Hill Park team is expected to submit its own revised planning application for about 4,000 homes, commercial space and an aviation heritage area by the end of May.
Manston was closed in 2014 by previous owner Ann Gloag, having decided the airport was no longer viable. Less than six months later it was sold to Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner, owners of nearby Discovery Park, who renamed it Stone Hill Park.
During the pre-examination stage all interested parties are invited to attend a preliminary meeting, run and chaired by an examining authority. There’s no statutory timescale for this stage of the process, but it usually takes approximately three months from the applicant’s formal notification and publicity of an accepted application.
Then comes the big event – the examination – with the Planning Inspectorate having up to six months to carry this out. Interested parties will then have the opportunity to make relevant representation in writing.
Careful consideration is given by the examining authority to all the important and relevant matters, including the representations of all interested parties; any supporting evidence submitted; and answers provided to the examining authority’s questions set out in writing or posed at hearings.
After all this work, the Planning Inspectorate must then prepare a report on the application to the Secretary of State, including a recommendation, within three months of the close of the six-month examination stage. The Secretary of State then has a further three months to make the decision on whether to grant or refuse development consent.
Once the decision has been issued by the Secretary of State, there is a further six-week period in which the decision may be challenged in the High Court, under a Judicial Review.
It looks like Winston Churchill was right, this is not the end.