Thursday, 24 March 2016

Manston DCO CPO update

The Planning Inspectorate have published their account of their latest meeting with Riveroak (the company that want to use the government as an agent to compulsorily purchase the Manston site so the can build an airfreight hub there)

The RiverOak remit as published on the Planning Inspectorate website is:-

About this project. The upgrade and reopening of Manston Airport primarily as a cargo airport, with some passenger services, with a capacity of at least 12,000 air cargo movements per year.   

Two aspects of RiverOak’s intentions that are new to me are.

1 The compulsory purchase and demolition of the two aviation museums at Manston.

2 The intention that the airfreight hub will have night flights.

The last of the Big Pistons at Manston, from left Keith Sissons, Margaret Norton, Brian Dunlop, Pat Travers

I have put the account of the meeting below in blue and underlined the two relevant parts. You can also access on the Planning inspectorate website at

I would say the two new issues would be the removal of the memorial garden and trees and exactly what the new facilities provided for the two museums would be and the amount of proposed night flights.   

Planning Inspectorate 

Meeting note File reference TR020002 

Status Final Author Rachel Gaffney 

Date 23/02/16 

Meeting with RiverOak 

Venue Temple Quay House, Bristol 


The Developer: 

Tony Freudmann (RiverOak) 

Niall Lawlor (RiverOak) 

George Yerrall (RiverOak) 

Chris Cain (Northpoint Aviation) 

Tom Henderson (Bircham Dyson Bell) 

Alexander Hallatt (Bircham Dyson Bell) 

The Planning Inspectorate:

 Susannah Guest (Infrastructure Planning Lead) 

Rachel Gaffney (Assistant Case Officer) 

Richard Hunt (Senior EIA Advisor) 

Meeting objectives 

Project update meeting 

Circulation All Attendees 

Summary of key points discussed and advice given: 

The Planning Inspectorate (the Inspectorate) explained its openness policy and its statutory duty to publish any advice issued under section 51 of the Planning Act 2008 (PA2008) on its website. Any advice issued under s51 does not constitute legal advice upon which the attendees, or others, can rely. Introductions were made by everyone present and individual roles were explained. 

RiverOak provided an overview of activity since the last meeting and confirmed that various consultants have been appointed to the scheme. RiverOak anticipated a meeting of the combined consultancy team imminently with the aim of discussing the preparation of a masterplan. 

RiverOak provided some observations about the air freight industry in the UK and particularly in respect of the South East System. RiverOak believed there to be a current and future undersupply in dedicated freight capacity and highlighted where they considered there to be constraints on existing airports. 

RiverOak indicated some of the working assumptions being considered in supporting their application in respect of, for example, average freight tonnage per aircraft movement. The PA2008 definition and thresholds associated with airport development were discussed. 

RiverOak confirmed that they believed their application would be under s23(1)(b) as an alteration to an airport due to the remaining physical infrastructure on the site and noted in respect of PA2008 s23(5)(b) they were likely to consider that the airport had zero capacity because of its current physical state. 

RiverOak confirmed that letters had been sent to certain landowners in respect of seeking access on to their land to undertake survey work. Timeframes had been identified for response in that correspondence however, it was noted that to date no responses had been received. 

The considerations in respect of a s53 authorisation request were discussed and The Inspectorate noted the importance of evidence to accompany any such request. The Inspectorate’s Advice Note 5 was highlighted. 

RiverOak provided an update on the proposals and confirmed the intention that Manston Airport would be capable of providing over 10,000 additional freight movements by 2024/2025, with further growth beyond that date. There would also be low cost and charter passenger flights. 

RiverOak explained that their current thinking was based on a range of scenarios that would be subject to the masterplanning approach. RiverOak provided some background context in respect of the need and operation of a ‘dismantling and recycling’ facility for decommissioned aircraft. RiverOak also noted plans for the site that could include enhancing the tourism offer and location of an Aerospace Park. 

The Inspectorate were interested to understand what elements would form part of a Development Consent Order (DCO) application for the site and how the development of the site, as controlled through the DCO and associated certified document and plans, was proposed to be phased. The existing accesses for freight and passenger vehicles from the existing road networks were explained. 

RiverOak noted the highway network in the vicinity of the airport and noted one junction in particular that would potentially require improvement. RiverOak also highlighted a public highway that runs through the centre of the site. 

RiverOak noted that the outcome of studies, assessment and masterplanning work would provide more detail about any off site highway mitigation works. 

RiverOak discussed the potential for compulsory acquisition of land currently associated with two operational museums, the land could be required in respect of highways improvement. However, RiverOak noted their intention that the museums would be provided with upgraded facilities as part of its development, whether there is a need for such highways improvements or not. 

The night time curfew was discussed; RiverOak noted that night time landing is permitted if the planes have not been scheduled. RiverOak indicated that it was possible that some night flights would be required. RiverOak confirmed that noise control and mitigation would be a key part of their environmental study and consultation process. RiverOak discussed CAP 168 that sets out the licensing requirements in respect of operational management and the planning of aerodrome development. 

RiverOak confirmed that any considerations flowing from this document in terms of powers/works/land would clearly be reflected in their DCO where relevant. The role of the relevant local authority (Thanet District Council) was noted and discussed. RiverOak outlined their evolving engagement strategy with the Local Authority. Given the timetable to submission, 

The Inspectorate offered to ‘host’ an early meeting between RiverOak and Thanet District Council. 

RiverOak queried the Inspectorate’s approach in relation to transboundary effects. 

The Inspectorate noted that RiverOak should refer to Advice Note 12 on the subject and should also include reference to any likelihood of transboundary effects arising as part of any request for a Scoping Opinion. 

RiverOak noted their intention to achieve a first draft of the masterplanning process by early spring. RiverOak anticipated that a Scoping Request may be submitted to The Inspectorate by late spring and were currently planning their public consultation activities to take place in late summer. 

Specific decisions / follow up required? - Discussion arrangement for future meetings, with a suggestion for a teleconference in early April and a further meeting at the end of April

In considering this issue you may wish to read my previous post about the previous meeting, see

Picture credit, the picture comes from the book I publish the first two chapters of which are here and here and give some useful information on the early days of commercial aviation at Manson. 

Reading through this again, I am having some difficulty with, “RiverOak believed there to be a current and future undersupply in dedicated freight capacity” which seems to be at odds with the situation I have been reading about in the news, for example see


  1. Hahaha, I have to like the idea of them attempting to do a compulsory purchase of the museum sites. That's very good.

    1. Joe, Stop giggling and read what was actually said. "RiverOak discussed the potential for compulsory acquisition of land currently associated with two operational museums, the land could be required in respect of highways improvement. However, RiverOak noted their intention that the museums would be provided with upgraded facilities as part of its development, whether there is a need for such highways improvements or not."

  2. Gifted in perpetuity now under risk. damn good PR NOT!!!

    1. Of course, Barry, of course.

    2. Was that an argument or a dismissive put down?

  3. Michael, I like the way you edited RO's statement on the museums in order to suit your persistently distorted narrative.

  4. Michael I like the way that you included a link to the Economist's article on the falling demand for dedicated air freight. Presumably the Inspectorate will have this data. For those that haven't followed the link I quote " This means the amount of cargo space in the belly of passenger planes has risen sharply. Combined with flat demand for shipping by air, the result is that average capacity utilisation across the air-cargo business has fallen to 43.5%, the lowest since the crisis. So, customers have been able to demand big price cuts."

  5. Dave, John, Barry, Joe, sorry about the delay in responding – been very busy.

    With the reports of the RiverOak meetings, I am mainly highlighting new information and major inconsistencies, which I wouldn’t be concentrating on so much if Riveroak had any verifiable connection with aviation suggesting they had some idea of what they are planning to do as a company.

    To me the they still look like an inactive real estate hedge fund operating from a small rented office, their main US website published its latest press release in October of 2014 and I fear their cpo and dco activity may be something more to do with making a fast buck than of any benefit to Thanet.

    Since they first tried to get hold of the airport site, the Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum and associated memorial gardens have been gifted to the museum by the discovery park owners, to give the museum security in perpetuity. This would mean that if RiverOak were to use the cpo process as part of the dco to get all the Manston site from the current owners, then they wouldn’t get the museum site and if the other museum there, had by the time of the cpo, had land and buildings gifted to it in perpetuity then RiverOak wouldn’t get that either.

    The document doesn’t say that RiverOak would be gifting sites to the museums if they acquired the entire Manston site, which is a further worry.

    Up until this point RiverOak and all of those supporting a freight hub at Manston have said that there would be no scheduled night flights, now in this – the current official document published on the subject – they have said there will.

    Whatever the future of the Manston site and I have considerable reservations that a major airfreight hub or any other significant industrial activity there is suitable without an in depth study into how our water supply, both public and agricultural boreholes, will be maintained economically for the future.

    On the subject of their predictions for an increased demand for air freight being at odds with what I understand to be the actual situation it seems to sit well with not really understanding the nature of an airfreight hub. I think they actually see the spokes of the hub being aircraft flying in and out, when actually the meaning of airfreight means the spokes is lorries driving in and out.

    I assume I don’t have to draw a diagram to show why Manston isn’t an ideal location.

    Here in Ramsgate we had a situation where someone with a few million pounds and no verifiable previous activity in the construction industry impressed some locals and the result was the Pleasurama debacle and the years of blight associated with it. I am always very concerned when any set-up which seems to lack the previous relevant experience and appears to have only been engaged in economic activity which is a small fraction of what they say they will invest in Thanet starts making grandiose promises of what they intend to do here.

    RiverOak’s main American website says:- “For over 15 years we have built both our investment business and our reputation on being able to find, research, winnow-out and invest in the types of assets that typically achieve above-average returns on a risk-adjusted basis. While our real estate investment funds are targeted in the $50 million range, our operating asset investments can range anywhere in size from $1 to $50m.”

    What they are considering at Manston would need investment much more in the $1.500m ballpark. I view this rather in the way I would view a trade customer who normally buys £50 worth of books from me on credit to sell at a local charity event saying they want £1.500 worth of books on credit, the question that pops into my head is. Will they pay up?

    1. Michael,

      Your argument does not stand up to examination. It is nonsense. The prize goes to your final paragraph which is risible.

    2. John your dismissal of Michael's argument contains no verifiable facts.

    3. Barry, My conclusion is self evident.

    4. Richard, My reply does contain the answer you were looking for. However, it is all that I'm prepared to give.

      For what it's worth my overriding concern is that we do no throw our Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories out with the bath water. Family must come first. This is our duty.

  6. Sorry John, but Richard is a spammer with his own agenda and if I didn’t delete his comments out of hand this blog would be almost entirely about his obsessions. Really best not to respond to his comments but to join him on Facebook where he has a page.

    I should point out that self evident appears to mean in this context evident to your self an no one else, is that what you mean?

  7. No, Michael, It means self evident to me and to others.

    Over the years I have grown to realise that discussing anything with you is like trying to nail jelly to the wall. You dissemble. I get the impression that you work from a book on how to spin, written by the likes of an Alistair Campbell. I do not apologise for speaking to you thus bearing in mind that you probably take it as a compliment.


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