There have been many twists and turns in the tale of the bid by RSP to reopen Manston Airport as an air freight cargo hub. To follow the plot demands close attention, as an observer, and even more as a player. The Society has contributed as a member of the cast since 2017.
The Planning Inspectorate submitted its report in July 2019 recommending refusal of the DCO (Development Consent Order). The Secretary of State for Transport went against the recommendation and approved the DCO. So where are we now in 2021? Those Members monitoring these matters will be aware that, following legal challenge, on 15th February 2021 the High Court quashed the Decision of the Secretary of State to grant planning consent for the RSP proposals to re-open the former Manston Airport on the grounds that:
" In his decision letter dated 9th July 2020 the defendant (the SoS) did not give adequate and intelligible reasons to enable the reader to understand why he disagreed with the Examining Authority Report on the issue of need for the development of Manston Airport. The lack of adequate reasons in the Decision letter rendered the Secretary of States decision unlawful"
In fact, SoS chose not to offer any evidence to the Court. The Secretary of State is now required to think again, to re-determine the DCO, and to provide reasoned justification for that decision. Before doing so the SoS is required to consult the Interested Parties (IPs), which means those individuals and organisations that took part in the Examination in Public (EIP). The Ramsgate Society, as one of many IPs, was notified of this stage on 11th June. The deadline for submission was 9th July. The Secretary of State now has until 9th October to review the consultation responses and issue a new reasoned and intelligible decision.
IPs were asked to consider changes that have taken place since the Inspectors ceased taking evidence in 2019. From the outset we have maintained that ‘need’ lies at the heart of the matter, and we have continued to do so in this 20-page latest submission.
In our submission we make the fundamental distinction between ‘want’ and ‘need’ that lies at the heart of the debate. ‘Want’ is about desire and aspiration. ‘Need’ is something required, where a deficiency causes a clear adverse outcome. ‘Need’ is also a function of the gap between ‘demand’ and ‘supply’. We examine major changes and events since July 2019. including Brexit, the Covid pandemic, as well as climate change emissions policies and actions. We consider what impact these have on the short and long term demand for types of air freight. We look at the competition: the current leading UK freight handling airports and assess their current and planned scale of operations and their impact on the airfreight sector.
Our submission to the EIP in 2019 was that there was no justification for Manston to be re-opened as a cargo hub fundamentally because there was no evidence of current or forecast shortage of airfreight capacity in the UK . In this new submission we assess the situation in the light of the latest evidence and remain firmly of the same opinion.