20th May 2020
It is frustrating and a disappointment, for all of those with an interest in the future of Manston Airport, that the eagerly-awaited determination of the Development Consent Order (DCO) application has been postponed yet again.
The rumour-mills will no doubt have been spinning like mad but the harsh reality is that this process, like so many other aspects of life, has been knocked back by the pandemic. Not only is the Minister in charge working from home but so are those civil servants who are not actually off work and self-isolating with sickness. There is still further work on the report from the Planning Inspectorate that has to be done before all of the relevant papers can be published and made available for scrutiny.
It is essential that all of this detail is completed before the final decision is taken and however hard it is I have had to accept that we will be several weeks past midsummer`s night before we receive what will, I believe, be the news that we have all been waiting and working for.
In a post-Covid and post- Brexit world there will be a demand for incoming and exported freight that we have to generate the capacity to handle. That demand is already – even under the present grim circumstances – growing. Virgin Airways and BA are carrying more goods and the Channel Tunnel and P&O ferries are starting to pick up again and are, I am told, running at 75% of their pre-Covid volume and growing.
RiverOak`s plans for a state-of-the-art carbon-neutral airport that will not only rival but better the current title-holder, Helsinki, are now more relevant than ever before. The nation needs Manston Airport for cargo and for future passenger traffic and, with £300 million of job -creating investment on the table so does Kent. Those backing the Manston project financially, together with all of those who have campaigned to get the airfield that was so recklessly closed re-opened, have been staunch and single-minded in their determination to see this through to a satisfactory conclusion.