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Town council vows to contribute to £50k fund for judicial review of airport reopening

Ramsgate Town Council is to contribute to a fund to take Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to judicial review over his decision to allow the reopening of Manston airport.

Shapps gave permission for Manston to become an air freight hub, overturning the recommendation of the examining inspector appointed under the national infrastructure planning system.

In his decision letter, the minister said that despite the inspector’s conclusion that the airport should not reopen on environmental grounds, he disagreed because “there is a clear case of need for the development which existing airports…able to handle freight would not bring about to the same extent or at all”.

He also said socio-economic benefits would flow from the development to the locality and it would “support the government’s policy objective to make the UK one of the best-connected countries in the world and for the aviation sector to make a significant contribution to economic growth of the UK”.

But opponents have argued on a crowdfunding page that a re-opened Manston would be “highly polluting” and aircraft would damage the local environment through noise and emissions.

Objectors have so far raised £43,915 towards a £50,000 target for legal costs.

The page said solicitors Kate Harrison and Susan Ring of law firm Harrison Grant had agreed to act and to instruct barristers Richard Wald QC and Gethin Thomas.

Ramsgate’s town clerk Richard Styles said: “The council resolved a resolution which called for the council to contribute to a fund which will defray the legal costs of a judicial review following the decision made by the Secretary of State for Transport on granting [permission] for Manston airfield.

"This is an ‘in principle’ decision, which will depend on working out all the issues and legalities of carrying out the decision.”

Thanet District Council has sought to remain neutral. Leader Rick Everitt said: “We understand that Manston is an emotive issue for residents on both sides of the debate and for those in Ramsgate in particular. 

“In terms of the council’s position, we need to address this decision through the review and update of the local plan, in line with the local plan inspectors’ recommendations.”

Manston was a World War 2 airfield but its remote location in the extreme east of Kent has thwarted several previous attempts to use it for passenger flights, none of which proved viable.

It was closed in May 2015 and since then there have been a series of disputes over whether it should reopen for aviation or be used as a science park.

Mark Smulian

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