The UK’s Department for Transport has granted permission for Manston Airport in Kent to reopen as an international airfreight hub.

Owner RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) said it was “delighted” to have its application for a development consent order (DCO) approved. Construction will begin in in 2021 and first cargo services are expected during the first quarter of 2023.

RSP will invest GBP300 million (USD377.9 million) to rebuild the airport. The company said that it is widely accepted that demand for passenger air travel will take a number of years to return to pre-pandemic levels, if it ever does. Therefore, building the UK’s specialist freight capacity has become even more vital.

Tony Freudmann, director of RSP said: “Once built, Manston will be one of the most modern, efficient and environmentally friendly freight hubs in the world, able to cater for traditional freight as well as the rapidly expanding international e-commerce sector that the UK has so heavily relied upon during the period of lockdown.”

HLPFI reported in July 2019 that RSP completed the acquisition of Manston Airport from Stone Hill Park for GBP16.5 million (USD20.3 million). 

Manston Airport was closed in May 2014 due to ongoing operational losses and lack of profitability in the medium term. It had one of the widest runways in the UK and was capable of handling every type of aircraft, including extremely large commercial and military aircraft.