Photo: James Stewart from Wikimedia Commons.

MIAMI – RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP), owner of Manston International Airport (MSE), has announced today that the Secretary of State for Transport granted permission to reopen the airfield as a cargo hub.

The Development Consent Order (DCO) was submitted in April 2018 and again in July of the same year by RSP.

Thus, the application entered a shared consultation between public, statutory consultees, and other interested parties during six months prior to being approved.

RSP expected the final answer for the development of the airport located in Kent in January 2020. However, the date was delayed until May due to new evidence submitted to the Examining panel.

Kent International Airport, Manston. Photo: Nick Smith from Wikimedia Commons.

Examining Panel Disapproval

The group made a recommendation for the refusal of the DCO, stating that there was “no obvious advantages to outweigh the strong competition that such airports offer.”

The planning inspectorate also said that the project would have an adverse effect on tourism in Ramsgate and substantially lower benefits to Thanet and East Kent than those forecasted by RSP.

Old air traffic Control Tower at Manston Airport.
Photo: James Stewart from Wikimedia Commons.

State Approval

In contrast, the Secretary of State for Transport approved today the DCO, arguing that “there is a clear case of need for the Development which existing airports would not bring about to the same extent or at all.”

The £330m airfield plans include the handling of at least 10,000 air cargo operations annually.

In addition, MSE will offer passenger, business and aircraft engineering services.

Cavok Air Antonov An-12BK at Manston Airport in 2013.
Photo: Richard Vandervord from Wikimedia Commons.

Development History

Prior to 2014, MSE served as Kent International Airport. Then, it was closed and Stone Hill Park bought it. Later, the developers sold the site to RSP.

The company then decided to reopen MSE with a new approach: a focus on the air freight market, saying that it was “ripe for an alternative to the overcrowded London airport system.”

Old aviation hangar at Manston.
Photo: Stephen Williams from Wikimedia Commons

Development Details

The development plan will be phased for 15 years to build 19 freight and four passenger stands for aircraft alongside warehousing and fuel storage.

Additionally, MSE will create over 23,000 direct and supply chain jobs across East Kent and boost the national economy through its operations, said RSP in its DCO application.

The development project is set to begin in 2021 with first cargo services set to commence in 2023.

The old airport already served cargo services (Overnight Cargo Nigeria Boeing 707-351C at Manston runway in 1994).
Photo: JetPix from Wikimedia Commons.

MSE’s Future beyond Freight Operations

Other areas where the airfield will be immerse in include the creation of a flight training school. RSP also agreed to a partnership with Securitas to implement and operate a suite of fire and security services at the airfield.

Regarding today’s approval, director of RSP, Tony Freudmann said that once MSE was built, it would be “one of the most modern, efficient, and environmentally-friendly freight hubs in the world.”

Freudmann added that traditional cargo operations at the airfield would be expanded by taking advantage of the international e-commerce sector, especially during lockdown periods.