RiverOak Strategic Partners

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RiverOak Strategic Partners

Consultation with Thanet District Council regarding Manston Airport proposals

Published on July 17th 2017

On or around 7 July 2017, Thanet District Council (TDC) issued this statement about the statutory consultation on RiverOak Strategic Partners’ (RSP’s) proposals to reopen Manston Airport. The statement contains a number of inaccuracies and misunderstandings that we are happy to set straight.

First, the title suggests that TDC is consulting with RSP, when it is the other way round – RSP is undertaking a wide consultation on its proposals to reopen Manston Airport primarily for cargo aircraft, and TDC is one of several hundred consultees.

Secondly, the statement suggests that TDC has been calling for engagement with RSP when it has not; it is in fact RSP that has been calling for engagement with TDC, which it first offered in January 2016 in a letter to the Chief Executive that has been acknowledged but never replied to.

Thirdly, the implication is that TDC is the only ‘host’ authority and thus has a special status at this stage. Although it does have a special role later on, (a) Kent County Council is also a ‘host’ authority and (b) the Planning Act 2008 makes no distinction between ‘host’ and ‘neighbouring’ authorities at this stage, all of whom must be consulted on an equal footing. The full list of local authorities that RSP has consulted is: the London Borough of Bexley, the London Borough of Bromley, Canterbury City Council, Dover District Council, East Sussex County Council, Kent County Council, Medway Council, Surrey County Council, Thanet District Council and Thurrock Council.

Fourthly, the statement suggests that TDC’s approach has the support of the Planning Inspectorate. The statement quotes part of a Planning Inspectorate advice note (paragraph 12.3 of advice note 2) but omits the qualification that that part of the note only applies during the examination of the application and not the statutory consultation stage. In any event, the advice note does not say that the full council cannot be involved, at any stage of the process.

Fifthly, and most importantly, the statement implies that because responding to the consultation is an executive function, the full council cannot have any involvement in the consultation. While it is correct that the finalised consultation response should be submitted by the executive rather than the full council, there is no prohibition on involving all members of the council in its preparation.

Indeed, the response will carry more weight if it has had wide involvement in its preparation, and meetings of the executive should normally be held in public. TDC has invited RSP to address a closed meeting of the executive and senior officers tomorrow, 18 July, but it appears that the public and other members of the council are being excluded by TDC not declaring it an official meeting. While RSP would prefer it to be an open meeting, we would rather engage with the council than not at all. Other members are welcome to consider the consultation material at www.rsp.co.uk independently and submit their own consultation responses to RSP by the 23 July deadline.

 

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