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Re-opening Manston airport could help UK trade take off again, says Logistics UK

Once the jewel of the air cargo industry, Manston Airport was closed to air traffic in 2015 to enable the space to be used as an temporary lorry park in times of cross-Channel travel disruption.

Plans to now reopen the airport to air freight operations have been delayed by legal setbacks, with a ruling on the reopening now expected in later in the year.  


“The reopening of Manston Airport for air cargo transportation is vital to support the UK economy and its trading ambitions post-Brexit,” begins Ellis Shelton, Policy Advisor at Logistics UK. “Provision for air cargo on flights in the UK does not meet current demand, let alone leave opportunity for future growth.”   

If approved to reopen, the owners of the site, RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP), estimate that the airport would handle approximately 17,000 cargo flights a year, handling in excess of a million tonnes of freight a year. 

“The airport’s Thanet location is ideal for supporting logistics operations. It’s accessible by road, rail, and water links – perfect for importing time-sensitive goods, including fresh fruit and medical supplies, for onward transportation – and is in close proximity to the capital and to Folkestone for access to continental Europe,” continues Shelton.  


The reopening of Manston Airport would deliver significant economic benefits both nationally and locally, too.  

According to RSP, who delivered the proposals for the redevelopment, prior to COVID-19 the regional economies of London and south east England lost more than £2 billion each year thanks to air freight being diverted to Europe due to the UK’s lack of capacity. The company also states that the reopened airport would provide more than 2,150 job opportunities on site.   


“With the UK striving to achieve a net zero economy, any development project must of course place decarbonisation at the heart of its plans,” says Shelton.  

“According to RSP, Manston Airport will be reopened with sustainability at its core, with an aim to achieve carbon net zero airport operations by 2035.” 

This would be achieved through a variety of strategies, including the use of smart and energy-efficient buildings and autonomous vehicles; and by exploring the use of bio/synthetic fuel, hydrogen and charging for electric aircraft. 


Work to reopen the airport cannot progress until RSP is granted a Development Consent Order (DCO). While this was granted in July 2020 initially, the application has since been rejected on two occasions and a Judicial Review was held in July 2023. Courts are in recess during August and September, so the final decision on the reopening of the airport will not be made until after this time. 

“Logistics UK will continue to support RSP in its application to re-open Manston Airport and is urging the government to consider the benefits to the local area, but also the ramifications it will have on the country.  

“If Manston Airport is not permitted to reopen, then cargo freight growth will stall and the UK economy and its international trading ambitions will suffer as a result,” concludes Shelton.  


Published On: 17/08/2023 13:00:00


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