Yesterday (5 October 2022), RSP responded to a press enquiry from Broadstairs-based supply chain news website “The Loadstar.”

Although The Loadstar is a news outlet focused on the global logistics sector, the questions were more about local matters – including specific job roles likely to be created and whether the Manston site wouldn’t be better utilised as commuter housing for London. Unfortunately, Loadstar opted to use very little of what we sent over and the resulting article includes a number of criticisms of the company and our plans for Manston in terms of the needs case (which we were not asked to respond to) and our willingness to share detail on job creation.

We are happy to share this information and so, in the interests of balance, we publish our full responses below:

“We are putting together a news story on the request for a second JR over your plans to redevelop Manston. Would you be happy to provide comment on your reaction to this request? “

RSP: We are aware that an application was submitted at the end of September for Permission for Judicial Review. We remain confident that our plans are in line with Government policy, represent the responsible and necessary use of an existing transport asset and will deliver a positive benefit to the economy of Thanet and East Kent. They are also fully funded at no cost to the taxpayer.

“You mention job creation, are you able provide some specifics on what these jobs are?”

RSP: Manston will deliver sustainable economic growth and opportunity in a UK gateway region, supporting regional regeneration, inward investment and employment targets. By Year 5 we forecast 2,150 jobs on the airport site and 13,100 indirect/catalytic jobs.

 In Kent, higher-level qualifications are in short supply when compared to other areas in the South East. To support the wider economic regeneration of the region, Manston will make a significant contribution to up-skilling not only the Kent workforce but raising the aspirations and potential of businesses, supporting innovation and enabling Kent to match the performance of other parts of the South East.

 It is vital to the workforce pipeline at Manston that RSP works with a full range of local providers, building long-lasting partnerships for the benefit of all local people. To this end,  RSP commissioned a detailed report on the type and number of jobs that will be created with the reopening of Manston Airport. This level of information is already informing RSP’s work with providers across all age levels from schools children, college and university young people, and older adults who may want to up skill or re-skill to be able to take up the careers provided at the airport and in the supply chain. Of particular note to Lodestar, RSP is working with Logistics UK and the CILT where possible to ensure we support their Generation Logistics programme.

 For example, the Manston Skills and Employment Board (MSE-B), which we established in 2019, is working to ensure people from East Kent have the right skills to take the wide range of jobs that will be created by the reopening of Manston. The MSE-B membership currently includes representatives from district and county councils, local businesses and education providers, the Kent and Medway Skills Commission and Jobcentre Plus. Their collective aim is to ensure that Manston and associated businesses will have access to well-trained and experienced potential employees across a diverse range of skillsets, by ensuring a comprehensive range of services are available to young people, job seekers and employers in the area around the airport.

“Is Tony able to say what these jobs will be? At the moment, he’s talking about skills and working with groups but there’s no specifics…”

RSP: As mentioned, RSP has commissioned a detailed skills report to inform the work with local partners on MSE-B to prepare for work needed to develop the skills needed for Manston’s future workforce. Roles (at a variety of levels from entry to senior management) that have been identified, in common with most airports, include administration/airport management, retail, catering, car parking, transport, maintenance, ground operations, air traffic services, rescue and firefighting, engineering, customer services, border inspections, live animal specialists, customs and immigration and many more.

There will also be a range of construction jobs, both ahead of reopening and across the four phases of development. Some of these roles will be necessary from the outset, others will be required as the airport develops. We also expect to see new skills and employment as a result of the airport’s commitment to delivering Carbon Net Zero – such as using hydrogen (firefighting, refuelling etc), operating wind turbines, solar, etc. 

“Your plans to redevelop Manston have overlapped with Peel’s decision to shutter Doncaster and turn it into a park for “high tech” industry. South Yorkshire were willing to subsidise the operating costs of Doncaster to keep it open as an airport. Doncaster had strong road connectivity and infrastructure. Manston is about an hour to the M25 and forwarders and hauliers have both questioned the logic of situating a freight airport somewhere with seemingly poor connectivity. How can you make Manston work with these hurdles, when Peel seemingly couldn’t/didn’t want to make Doncaster work – even with offers of government subsidy?”

RSP: The two propositions are completely different. Doncaster has been primarily a passenger focused airport serving the Yorkshire/North Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire region, and has been hit hard by the long term impacts of the pandemic on consumer demand for air travel. Manston will be an air freight hub in the South East with road, rail and river access – and, importantly, close to the in-demand London airspace but with capacity to grow. Changes in distribution methods and models that occurred during the pandemic, when considerable cargo was switched to air freight, seem set to stay – as The Loadstar itself pointed out on 30 September (DB Schenker CEO: ‘Changes forced on supply chains by the pandemic are here to stay’), emphasising the growing need for air cargo capacity to meet this long term demand.

In terms of Doncaster’s cargo operations, Loadstar reported yesterday on ‘parcelisation’ as one of the key trends that will impact air cargo as business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce grows. Distribution models are already being changed to speed up the movement of cargo from manufacturer to end customer. This means distribution centres, such as in the Midlands, will play less of a role with smaller parcels being sent more frequently and requiring faster delivery using smaller freighters. This is highly likely to focus the industry on non-passenger hubs such as Manston.

 “Is it not true that Manston is better placed to be renovated as housing? New rail station close by offers great connections into London?”

RSP: You seem to suggest that we should consign East Kent to a future as little more than overflow housing for the capital. The Government designated Manston as a nationally significant transport infrastructure asset for a reason. We share the view that Thanet is rich in potential and deserves the opportunity to build economic prosperity through the development local jobs and local enterprise – and provide a valuable, dedicated base for the UK air freight, logistics and supply chain operations.

We are investing hundreds of millions of pounds in the future of Thanet and East Kent, re-invigorating a strategic asset to boost the potential of future generations, rather than stripping it bare for housing developers to reap the benefits from.