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Deciding Manston’s future

I’m sure many of you have seen this over on Manston Pickle, but, in case it has passed you by, here’s a little task that you can do that will help Stone Hill Park…

OK, here’s a chance for you lovely people to help rational argument to triumph over hysteria, flannel, misrepresentation and a desire to disinter that carcase of an airport.

You’ll remember that TDC, in its infinite wisdom, refused to approve SHP’s application to change the use of an airport building so that a business tenant could move in, bringing jobs. TDC also failed to make any decision about three other buildings that SHP want to use for tenants who would bring jobs (thanks TDC). SHP has now appealed to the Planning Inspectorate to overturn these daft decisions and non-decisions by TDC.

We know that SMA and SuMA are whipping up their tens of supporters to write to the Planning Inspector saying that these buildings must be kept empty for their future pipe dream of an airport on that site, sometime in the misty future. If you fancy adding a bit of rational debate to the stuff that the Inspectorate will receive from the plane lovers, could you please go on to the Planning Inspectorate site and add your own two penn’orth in support of SHP’s appeal.

Here’s how:

1. Go to the Planning Inspectorate website and register. It’s relatively painless – https://acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/Account/Register.aspx

2. We’re interested in four cases. If you search for 3140995 you’ll get a summary that gives you all the others (3140990, 3140992, 3140994). https://acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/ViewCase.aspx?Caseid=3140995&CoID=0

3. Comments need to be in by 10th February (sorry for the short notice!)

There are a number of legitimate points that you could make as to why the change of use applications should be approved. We’ve given some ideas below. Don’t be put off by the long list. Do feel free just to choose one! Here goes:

  • There is no airport at Manston, so there’s no point in saving buildings for aviation use
  • There is no prospect of an airport at Manston. TDC cannot afford to CPO the land and it has decided twice (December 2014 and October 2015) that there is no credible indemnity partner who can cover all the costs of acquisition and development in TDC’s place
  • It is extremely unlikely that a CPO would be granted anyway as SHP’s plan for the site (jobs and houses and open space, etc, etc) is a more “compelling case in the public interest” than the idea of reinstating a serial failure of an airport that lost £100m in 15 years
  • TDC’s officers recommended to TDC’s Planning Committee that the change of use for 3140990 be approved. The Members ignored that planning advice. Now, that’s important, ‘cos the officers are the planning experts and they could see no obstacles to approval
  • TDC is saying that “saved” policies from the out-of-date 2006 Local Plan protect the site for airport use. Those policies were written before the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) came into being. The NPPF says that Local Plans must be up-to-date. If they are out-of-date (and TDC’s clearly is, and the Secretary of State has told them that) then TDC should grant planning permission unless the downsides of doing so would outweigh the benefit. And they don’t. No downsides have been identified and the upsides are hundreds of jobs
  • The 2006 “saved” policies are obviously based on evidence collated before 2006. At that time, TDC thought that the then airport would be central to the Thanet economy, handling 1m passengers by 2011. Self-evidently, that prediction was wrong as the airport never handled more than about 20% of that and the airport is now closed. It also delivered just a small % of TDC’s hopes and predictions about freight. TDC’s 2006 policies that it is using to support its refusal in 2016 are therefore based on old and inaccurate predictions. Slam dunk
  • The NPPF says that TDC should be driving and supporting sustainable economic development. SHP’s applications would bring 320 jobs to the site in a short period (more than twice the number that the airport ever produced). Some are existing jobs and some are jobs that would be created as a result of expansion by the prospective tenants. It is TDC’s responsibility to support this via the planning system
  • TDC’s officers told Members that there is a need for bigger employment premises in Thanet, like the ones that will be created by these change of use applications. TDC knows that, if the prospective tenants can’t find bigger premises here, Thanet will lose them and their jobs. TDC should be making it possible for these employers to stay
  • The NPPF says that Councils should be looking at a lower carbon future and reducing pollution. The change of use applications support this. A cargo airport on that site (unlikely though this is) would be a high carbon, high pollution use
    In the TDC Planning Committee meeting, Members took their decision to reject the change of use application on grounds that are not relevant to a planning decision. Despite the officers’ advice to approve it, members said that the application should be dismissed because it was “spurious”; because people wanted an airport; and because there was an “agenda”. Sorry, but these aren’t legitimate grounds for rejection.

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