Friday, 30 June 2017

Manston DCO RSP Consultation first draft to the first question

I have just started to try to respond to the RSP consultation, this is based on attending both the non statutory and statutory consultations session in Canterbury and having read a lot of the information provided on their website at

I think the main difficulty with these documents is that instead of being published on the internet as conventional websites containing text and illustrations, the website is just a massive collection of pictures of pages of text, making it very difficult to assimilate. Part of the problem is that as such it is impossible to search for phrases you have already read, to find them again.

Were this for instance a website selling me book stock for my bookshop, this method of web publication would make it impossible to generate a stock order economically.    

The first question is.

Q 2 business case.

As you can see there is no linkage between the question and the related documents, the links to which are only published here and have titles like “04 – PEIR Volume 3 (Chapters 12 to 14)”

So very difficult to respond to, an absolute dog’s breakfast in fact.

Anyway here is my first draft at a response to question 2, which is basically. “What do you think of our business case?”  

I think for Manston to work as an airport it would need to be primarily operated as a heritage aviation tourist attraction perhaps based on a HFL grant and funding from aviation enthusiasts and focused around the expansion of the two existing museums.  It is possible that at times this could work in parallel with the limited local aviation demands.

As was the case with many previous business cases for aviation activity at Manston, the main issue is a misunderstanding of the words “hub” and “southeast” hub in this instance should be close to the centre of the area it serves and southeast in the context Southeast England is a roughly triangular area the three corners, which are northwest Oxfordshire, southwest Hampshire and northeast Kent. In terms of forming a hub for the southeast these corners are the worst locations.

I think the main issue here may be thinking of a hub airport as planes flying along the spokes of an imaginary wheel, when in reality it is passengers and freight moving along the spokes to and from the airport by rail and road.

The best, most central location, to the southeast is the Greater London Surrey border, which has the two existing major airports, one at either end of it. As very little of the commercial or industrial activity in the southeast is located in the southeast corner of the southeast this means that virtually none this activity is closer to Manston than the two existing major and competitive airports.

Because of a combination of road layout (particularly the UK motorway layout) and geography of the southeast regions of: - Oxfordshire, Bucks. Berkshire, Hampshire, IOW, Greater London, Surry, Sussex and Kent, travelling to Manston from almost any significant location outside Kent would involve passing close to one or both of the existing major airports. So for example a journey from Brighton to Manston isn’t done by travelling northeast towards Manston, but either by road or rail, it is done by travelling north past Gatwick and then east.

I think part of the most recent problem, which was the failure of Infratil, a major NZ company to succeed with an airport at Manston, was the tendency to think in distances considered negligible in NZ, without properly understanding actual travel habits and infrastructure in the UK.

A further major disadvantage Manston has with its main potential competitors, Gatwick and Heathrow, is that it isn’t, and isn’t likely to be connected to the jet fuel pipeline. This would add both economic and environmental costs of fuel there.

The first attempts to operate commercial flights from Manston started in the late 1950s Silver City (Britavia) which moved to Gatwick in 1962, Air Ferries the first proper airline started flying from Manston in 1963 this went bankrupt in 1968, this was followed by a 60 year history airport operator failure on the Manston site.

This business case appears have been written by some members of the same team that put together the last Manston business case for the Infratil when the airport was still operational and appears to based on similar very optimistic assertions. I think it has to be appreciated that Infratil are a large experienced and profitable company which run Wellington Airport (5.5m passengers a year) at a profit and not only did they reject this case but sold the Manston site suffering a considerable financial loss, because they thought it unviable, both in terms of the real business they were able to attract and the potential business which was forecast.

I suppose the bottom line here is that local residents, like myself are only aware of the applicants website, there doesn’t seem to be a physical RiverOak or RSP company employing non executive staff at normal business premises producing something tangible or some tangible service. When RiverOak first appeared on the scene their website claimed they were experienced airport operators and as their company has evolved during the DCO pre-application stage, moving the Manston project from where it featured as the main project of an experienced aviation company to where it appeared to be the UK branch of an experienced company to which appears to have no physical address and no history.

Obviously a project of this magnitude whether it succeeds or fails would have a significant impact on this area and commenting on the business case related to a business and related businesses without any defined history, similar business assets is very difficult and quite different from a case where I was commenting on say a business case produced by an existing airport operator.

There is also a sense in which this is a choice between RSP and the site owners Stonehill Park where the business owners have a good track record of running a successful business locally that has resulted in a substantial amount of jobs and economic regeneration in this area.


I have now discovered that if you download the page on a pc you get a different version to the version you can see when you first open the page and this version is searchable. I for instance have just downloaded: - “PIER Volume 8 (Appendix 10.1 part2)” all 408 pages of it.

To be honest it isn’t easy to define just what’s wrong with these documents, nearest I can get is, if you asked a firm to design you a new kitchen and send you their plans, sounds reasonable doesn’t it?

However if they then sent you a description of your exiting kitchen, which included the full text of all of the food labels and cookery books in the old kitchen’ whilst omitting important information, like how much your new kitchen would cost or what colour or shape it would be. Then you are on the right lines.

Somehow they have managed to publish several of the maps embedded in pdfs that open as web pages in a way that you only see the corner of the map often omitting Manston.

These are not huge maps, I have just copied one and published it on the internet using ordinary html 

This isn’t really a matter of how you send the thing but trying to make some sense of it prior to submitting it 

Anyway here is an interesting local picture to cheer me up after a near impossible task

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