Airport reopening approved against panel advice

Development consent has been granted to reopen Kent’s Manston Airport for international freight and passenger traffic, against the recommendations of an examination panel.

The 300 million scheme included 65,500 square metres of cargo facilities, a new air traffic control tower, extended terminal buildings and related developments. The examiners concluded that the development, which would handle around two flights per hour, offered no obvious advantages to outweigh strong competition from other airports and that sufficient need for the development over and above that met by existing airports had not been demonstrated.

The examiners advised that the modest levels of freight traffic the development could be expected to handle could be catered for at existing airports. They concluded that the socio-economic benefits of the development were overstated and that it would have an adverse effect on tourism in a nearby seaside town.

In overruling their recommendation, the secretary of state for transport saw a clear need for the development that could not be met by existing freight-handling airports. In his opinion, the scheme’s socio-economic benefits in terms of employment creation, education and training, leisure and tourism and regeneration significantly outweighed the harm caused by noise and vibration impacts.

In reaching this view, he took into account proposed restrictions on night flights and the fact that the airport had operated lawfully without restrictions until its closure in 2014. He gave no weight to the national policy statement on airport capacity in the South East, following February’s Court of Appeal ruling that it had no legal effect because it did not take into account the Paris Agreement on carbon emissions.

Examiners: Kelvin MacDonald, Martin Broderick, Jonathan Hockley, Jonathan Manning; Hearing

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