Brokenshire Needs to Make Swift Decision Over Future of RAF Manston and the Thanet Local Plan

The documents for the DCO application.

The MHLG has taken over the Thanet Local Plan after the former UKIP minority council failed to agree a submission local plan with RAF Manston going for housing as proposed by the sites owners.

Now we have an epic stand off between:

River Oak who propose an Air Hub via the DCO process.  (temporary withdrawn yesterday over validity issues after discussion with the Planning Inspectorate),the first airport DCO application to have been made under the Planning Act 2008,

and the SIte Owner Stone Hill who yesterday submitted plans for 3,700 homes on the site. 

At the same time consultants have been appointed to further the local plan, with the SoS still hoping the County council might bite the bullet and take over.

Notwithstanding the applications – which need to be determined on their merits – the DCO process not subject to the presumption in favour of the plan and the planning application against the presumption in favour of development – the policy decision on the preferred land use stands above this.  It need not and should not wait the outcome of either process.

Of course if the DCO were approved it would require CPO, and Thanet DC have sought and found an indemnity partner, which River Oak now are proposing to guarantee (with CPO automatically available via the DCO process),  and if the planning application were approved the alternative use value of the land would rule out the CPO on viability grounds.  hence the parallel competitive nature of both applications.

The DCO would be determined by the Airports NPS, out for consultation since June, however this doesn’t answer at at the strategic question – how to handle the shortfall in airfreight capacity that would exist by 2030 even if an extra runway were built at Gatwick or Heathrow.

In one sense the consultants for the local plan are caught in the middle as it depends on ministerial decisions by the SoS transport and SoS MHLG that stand above the local plan process.

In one sense it shows the conflicts that can exist with the DCO regime, in the absence of proper strategic planning, as we have found with Ebbsfleet.

There are broadly two options to the SOS:

The first is to go with the submission local plan draft with minor amendments.  Which would be backed by the County who switched sides to the ‘plan b’ after the commercial failure of the previous airport operation.  The land use options were debated ad-nausem through the local plan process.  This need not be done again it needs a decision.  A startegic decision need not be delayed by the details of either consent process, which in any event would be guided by the decided policy.

The second is to accept that the site is rather good as a airfreight hub being close to the channel ports, especially if it had rail access, and this could increase capacity at passenger airports, and crucially that River Oak are finally the big boys with the specialist freight knowledge to make this happen.  However this would require another major housing site AND housing for the urbanisation effect of the new airport.  River Oak suggest it could be 30,000 jobs.

If the airfreight hub was viable another large site would have to be found in Thanet, with the coastal location, heavy urbanisation and flood risk the options are limited, though the village of Minster, just south of RAF Marston,  which has a  rail station could be expanded into a garden community.  Critically Stone Hill would need some kind of return and the area around the proposed Manston Parkway station could take 500 houses even with the airport.

The decision on this needs to be taken jointly by the two SoSs after a rapid review over the viability of the Freight proposal.  This should be announced prior to finalisation of the sumbission plan.   Then once the plan is announced the losing proposal would naturally withdraw.

2 thoughts on “Brokenshire Needs to Make Swift Decision Over Future of RAF Manston and the Thanet Local Plan

  1. You state “if the DCO were approved it would require CPO, and Thanet DC have always required an indemnity partner, which River Oak now are proposing to guarentee”. However, the key thing about a DCO is that (if granted) it would include a CPO within it, authorising the promoter (Riveroak) to simply take the land from the current owner (Stone Hill) subject to compensation – so it simply bypasses the need for Riveroak to persuade TDC (or another authority with CPO powers such as KCC) to make any CPO at all (indemnity or not).
    A DCO thus trumps the Local Plan, because whatever the Plan says will not be implemented if the land is taken by a new owner committed to doing something else on it. Therefore the DCO needs to be determined by the SST first. As the Local Plan’s Housing Land Supply will be fundamentally affected by the availability (or not) of Manston as a strategic housing site, whoever has the job of imposing a Local Plan on the Thanetians would be well-advised not to finalise a Local Plan until that is known.

  2. You are right about the first part I put it poorly. I Thanet’s initially searched for an indemnity partner. however that flushed out a partner proposing now to use the DCO procedure which can include a CPO as the applicant holds the indemnity.. However the timing is critical, if the site already had planning permission for housing the CPO would be at alternative land use value, and even if not it would be set by the local plan, so in a CPO sense it does not ‘trump’ the local plan. This is why im sure the owners are pursuing rapidly the planning application angle. Im sure both sides are lawyered to the hilt. What is interesting is whether Thanet could refuse on grounds it would prejudice a forthcoming DCO decision and CPO for a site not expressly mentioned in an NPS, they would be on dodgy grounds if they do there is no mention of the interrelationship with the national infrastructure regime in the NPPF and this case highglights the weakness of this. It also highlights the problems that happens when a local planning authority for plan making is not backed up by the LPA for DM. Which is why I disagree the DCO needs to be determined first, rather it would be simpler and clearer if the SoS+SoS determined first the preferred national interest of the land use on the site in strategic terms before the massive expense of the DCO and S78 processes for the rival sides.

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