On 5th July in the High Court the next episode in the long saga of Manston Airport will be played out when the judicial review of the second decision by the Secretary of State for Transport to grant a Development Consent Order will be heard. The story has not been without its twists and turns which put me in mind of the Court Scene in Alice in Wonderland at which the Knave of Hearts is on trial for stealing the tarts.
The proceedings are a fiasco and eventually the King shows his exasperation:
“Let the jury consider their verdict,” the King said for about the twentieth time that day.
“No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first – verdict afterwards.”
“Stuff and nonsense!” said Alice loudly. “The idea of having the sentence first!”
“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple. “I won’t!” said Alice.
“Off with her head!” the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved. “Who cares for you?” said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!”
Those people who have followed the Manston Airport proceedings closely may well recognise some similarities with the DCO proceedings and the trial in Alice.
The DCO application was allowed to proceed by the Secretary of State despite the fact that it didn’t meet the basic requirements of a National Infrastructure Project. Why would he do that?
A full public inquiry into the application took place over 6 months with four Senior Planning Inspectors hearing evidence from dozens of expert witnesses and the general public.
The Inspectors found that in 8 out of the 10 issues that they investigated the application failed to meet the requirements and recommended that The Secretary of State refuse the application.
However the Secretary of State rejected his own Inspectors recommendation and granted the DCO. Why would he do that?
Following a Judicial Review brought by a local Ramsgate resident, the Court quashed the Secretary of State’s Decision and referred the matter back to the Secretary of State for re-determination.
The Secretary of State appointed a highly regarded international firm of independent consultants, Ove Arup and Partners, to review the evidence and to advise him as to what should be done. They recommended in no uncertain terms that the application be refused in accordance with the original Inspectors Recommendation at the Public Inquiry.
However the Secretary of State rejected the Ove Arup Report and granted the DCO for the second time. Why would he do that?
While all this was going on the Applicants RSP were paid £8.5m of taxpayers’ money by the Department for Transport in “compensation for delays in implementing their scheme to reopen the airport” and this despite the DCO being quashed by the Court.
Local residents await with interest the outcome of the second Judicial Review on 5th July but one can’t help thinking that, like Alice in Wonderland, this has been another case of “Sentence First- Verdict afterwards.”