The Ramsgate Society has responded to the invitation to comment on Thanet District Council’s proposals for a “partial” update of the Local Plan adopted in 2020, specifically those relating to the discussion paper “Development Strategy”. The Society recognises that a great deal of time, effort and indeed expense has gone into the production of this and other related papers concerning Sites, Housing Needs, Retail and Leisure, Employment, Sustainability Appraisal and Habitat Regulations Assessment. The Plan period has been extended from 2031 to 2040.

These documents make scant reference to the enormous ‘elephant in the room’ that goes by the name of ‘Manston’.  The future of the Manston airport is THE issue that has bedevilled serious discussion of the future of Thanet, and of Ramsgate in particular, for close on a decade.  Uncertainty lingers on, while the decision about the outcome of the Development Consent Order (DCO) is pending from the Secretary of State for a second time. The Local Plan includes the designation of the site “for aviation use”, and there are no indications that the proposed Update will review this.

The Ramsgate Society has strongly opposed the proposal for a freight hub airport, and gave evidence to that effect at the Examining Authority’s public hearing. Alongside the Planning Inspectorate, we assert that there is no credible evidence to support the need for a new freight cargo airport, and we are convinced that its development would be seriously detrimental to the well-being of Ramsgate, including the health of the population, the heritage of its built environment, and its economic future as a tourism destination. We have recently reiterated our view in response to another round of consultation following the requirement placed on the Secretary of State to reconsider the DCO, and we were delighted that the distinguished international consultants Arup, appointed to advise the Secretary of State, saw no reason to change the view of the Planning Inspectorate and many other experts that there was no case for approving the RSP development.

There is no deadline by which the Secretary of State is required to make his decision, but that must surely be within the next few months.  The credible evidence from many quarters, plus Arup’s unambiguous dismissal of RSP’s position, mean the likelihood is now that he will refuse the DCO. Our concern is that there appears to be no contingency provision (or in recent political parlance, a “Plan B”) contained in the Update papers to deal with that situation. In terms of producing an updated sound and sustainable Local Plan a great deal hangs on whether or not the Manston site continues to be designated “for aviation use”, particularly the critically important issue of the future of housing provision. Central government dictates the house building targets. The 700 acre, Manston brownfield site, once redesignated, could provide for up to 4000 homes. That would reduce the current unwelcome pressure to develop greenfield sites on the fringes of our villages and urban areas, as well as progress towards our sustainability objectives.

Michael Ashley & Richard Oades

Executive Committee Members