As mentioned before, TDC wasted their (our) money in asking Parsons Brinckerhoff’s (PB’s) opinion on planning, given that PB conclude “Dunno, ask a pro”. However, they do describe the shambolic background to Manton’s current planning status, and mention in passing some interesting omissions on TDC’s part.
The airfield at Manston does not have “proper” planning permission – it has Certificates of Lawfulness (once known as Lawful Development Certificates or LDCs). These were obtained :
[p13] … by the Ministry of Defence the Ministry of Defence, in anticipation of the transfer of the site from the MoD to new owners who would operate it wholly as a civilian airport. The purpose of the LDCs sought by the MoD was to confirm that the anticipated use of the whole of the land as a civilian airport would be lawful and that it would not require planning permission to undertake the use.
The PB report says that two LDCs were issued in 1998, and another two in 1999, and that all four related to the use of land and buildings, but have no other specified details or conditions/restrictions relating to the operation of the Airport. Mind you, they haven’t actually seen the certificates, so nobody can be sure.
The S106 agreement was negotiated in September 2000, and is what my grandfather would have called “a right royal cock-up”.
It specifies that there will be:
[p14] … no night flying until such time as a night time flying policy has been prepared and lodged with the Council.
Note the wording – “prepared and lodged” – there’s no suggestion that anyone needs to agree to it…
[p14] The schedule sets out that the owners will consult with the Council, who in turn will be allowed time to consult on the proposed policy. It is important to note that the wording of the S106 makes it clear that whilst the Council will be consulted and their views will be assessed, if the airport decides not to adhere to any views or suggestions as to changes to the policy, they are under no obligation to do so.
The PB report spells out the shocking implications:
[p14] In simple terms if the airport owners issue a policy and consult with the Council on it, they can choose to ignore any views set out by the Council and begin carrying out night time flying in accordance with the policy. There is nothing in the S106 of itself that would enable the Council to prevent night time flying in this instance.
This is a demonstration of breath-taking stupidity and negligence on the part of the Council’s negotiators.
Another cause for concern is that TDC did not provide PB with several key documents:
[p13] It should be notes [sic] that in preparing this Report we have not seen copies of the original Certificates, although the Court judgements provided did make extensive reference to them. We have also sought clarification of any other planning permissions or Agreements issued post the Certificates by Thanet Council to confirm whether any such permissions or Agreements place any restrictions or conditions on the activities of the Airport. This clarification is awaited at the time of drafting this Report.
Thus blindfolded by the Council, it is perhaps less surprising that PB couldn’t reach a clear conclusion on the planning status of the airfield and its application for night flights.
Nonetheless, PB do seem to be surprisingly certain about the contents of the LDCs that they haven’t seen:
[p14] The LDCs issued in relation to the airport contain no restrictions on night time flying, so no planning application or variation of condition etc is required to fly at night. Similarly the S106 is written in such a way that the airport is not required to apply through the planning process to undertake night time flying.
In fact, the LDCs do restrict night-time use of the airport, but all this will come out when this goes to the High Court.
TDC have been seeking legal advice – hopefully their barrister will be fully informed of the background. If not, TDC lays itself open to accusations of incompetence and worse.
Next installment: back to the Introduction