The council has published a 15-year strategic blueprint for the area, setting out key policies on issues such as housing development, economic regeneration and the environment. A section devoted to Manston says there is a “fresh opportunity to review the viability of an operational airport and to consider future options for the vast area of land around airport… It is considered a successful airport has the potential to be a significant catalyst for economic growth.”
The 260-page draft Local Plan is out for consultation until early March. Council planners say adopting a specific policy around Manston will safeguard it against opportunistic attempts by developers to use it for other purposes, notably housing. It says Thanet will take account of new feasibility studies for its future as an airport as well as any attempt to develop the site in any way that could prejudice development as an airport.
Cllr Richard Nicholson (Lab), deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for planning, said:
We have identified spaces for 12,000 homes over the area but there is no space whatsoever for [houses] at Manston. It is still identified as an airport. However, we have to recognise the site has been bought and sold several times and is privately owned.
The one reason we don’t want to delay the local plan is because once it has been submitted, it gives a level of protection to the whole area. Without it, any space – no matter what it is – could come under threat from potential development.
The site was recently acquired by regeneration specialists Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave after it was sold by previous owner Ann Gloag. They say they want to redevelop it as a business park. Consultation on the draft plan continues until March 6. Once a final version is adopted, it will have to be submitted to the government for approval.