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Lydd And Manston Airport Planning Storm Hits Kent

It's not often that we see a full-blown national controversy hit the world of planning law, and here's one that landed right in our backyard in Kent.

This particular controversy has already made it all the way to Private Eye Magazine, making it practically a full-grown scandal.

So what is the source of the controversy?

Manston Airport And Change Of Use

Change of use is complex. Any change of use is subject to very specific rules and regulations. The purpose of many of these rules is to prevent people from making money by changing a perfectly functional building into something that will make them personally much more profit in the short term.

Effectively, this is the allegation being made by two activist groups against the current owner of Manston airport, well-known Scottish business-owner Ann Gloag. Serious allegations have been made against Ms. Gloag by some, while others are angry that the opportunity to make a profit while maintaining local employment levels was rejected.

It seems most likely that Ms. Gloag will turn the area into houses, specifically a garden city. The government is currently very keen on garden cities, and the change of use may well be easy to effect.

Lydd Airport And Sensitive Areas

As Manston airport closes, Lydd airport – owned by Hani Mutlaq – expands, in a move that seems too tightly linked to be coincidental.

However, Mr Mutlaq has expressed sympathy with the workers of Manston airport and appeared to criticise Ms. Gloag for making "business decisions and [not looking] into anything else. Sometimes business directs [people's] morals."

Lydd airport's expansion is controversial in its own right.

The LAAG, Lydd Airport Action Group, claim that the expansion would be harmful to local wildlife, and also that it would increase the risk of a serious accident or attack on nearby Dungeness nuclear power station.

Winter Grass At Romney Marsh

A haunting photo of winter grass in Romney Marsh by Bob Turner

However, the £25 million development will continue as planned after the claims being made were acknowledged but dismissed as being of any significance by Mr Justice Ousley.

The closing of Manston and opening of Lydd will be difficult for many.

The 140 jobs to be created at Lydd airport may not go to those who worked at Manston, some of whom will be unable to relocate, and it will take twelve years before they are created. The RSPB are concerned at the potential disruption to birdlife that will be caused by Lydd's expansion, while other environmental groups are concerned at the risk to the important population of Great Crested Newts. Locals in both locations are wary at a potential upheaval in their way of life.

There are, though, some who are optimistic at the prospect of a return to Lydd's glory days as a prominent European airport.

Challenges Continue

As activists continue to mobilise, it looks likely that legal challenges will continue to be made to both Lydd and Manston airport's planning for as long as is possible.

The results could be significant, not just for Kent, but for UK planning law in general.

Have any thoughts, facts or figures? Let us know at @planning_lawyer.