That’s what the future could hold for Herne Bay if American property developers RiverOak have their way. RiverOak, an American company that has never run or owned an airport (or anything else in Britain, come to that), wants the Government to let it open a cargo airport at Manston.
RiverOak don’t own the site, so this would mean taking it from the British owners who want to develop it to provide jobs, housing and lots of leisure facilities that would be available to us all.
RiverOak is coming to the King’s Hall on Monday 18th July between 2pm and 8pm to answer any questions that we may have.
Here are a few questions that you might want to consider asking RiverOak’s representatives:
- You’ve told the Planning Inspectorate that you might need night flights, and that you’ll assess the possible impact of these. But you also say that you think there’s only a “significant effect” on us if there are more than EIGHTEEN 90 decibel flights in a night, on average1. Do you really think that residents and tourists will sleep through 18 cargo flights in a night, and only be bothered by the 19th? Really?
- You’re planning on 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes of cargo annually.2 In its last full year of business, Manston attracted less than 5% of that (29,306 tonnes).3 Stansted already has spare freight capacity4 and Heathrow is planning a massive expansion of its freight operation5. So, where’s all the extra cargo going to come from?
- Your Managing Director and front man is Tony Freudmann. He ran Manston from 1999 to 2005. The airport lost a significant amount of money every year under his leadership.6 In that period Mr Freudmann also led investment in seven other airports. Every deal ended badly and his employer had to go into liquidation. What makes you think he’ll do any better this time round?
On the other hand, the people who do actually own the site – Stone Hill Park – have just submitted a planning application for the old airport site7. Here are some highlights:
- 85,000 sq. metres of advanced manufacturing space which can support over 2,000 jobs. They’ve already made a success creating jobs like this on the old Pfizer site that they took over a few years ago when Pfizer pulled out
- A third of the site will be open space and, for the first time, we’ll all be able to use it for walking and other pastimes
- They’ll create an East Kent Sports Village (what a great partner that could be for the sports hub planned for our golf course!) which will include a wave garden (i.e. an all year round surfing lake), an indoor swimming pool and lots of smaller play and leisure areas
- They’ll honour the site’s wartime history by expanding the two existing museums into a heritage area together with the old fire station and control towers
- The site will also support 2,500 homes together with land and money to build two schools; land for a GP surgery; a higher education/FE campus; a community centre; local shops and 120 hotel bedrooms.
- So, on top of the 2,000 advanced manufacturing jobs, there’ll be additional jobs created in the two schools, the hotel(s), the East Kent Sports Village, the GP surgery, the heritage area, the shops, and in construction.
The biggest question that we should be asking RiverOak has to be:
Why on earth would we want noisy, polluting cargo planes flying day and night over our tourism-dependent seaside town, when we could have thousands of new jobs, new homes and a new site for sports and leisure just down the road?
1 The applicant’s Scoping Report for Manston Airport. Submitted to the Planning Inspectorate on 30 June 2016, para 11.7.23 – https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/projects/south-east/manston-airport/?ipcsection=docs
2 Ibid – para 2.5.2
3 CAA data for 2013
4 Stansted still has 120,000 spare operating slots – http://www.magworld.co.uk/stncargo.nsf/Content/keyfacts
6 Kent County Council Position Statement, March 2015, page 4 – https://www.kent.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/29541/Manston-Airport-position-statement.pdf