Last reviewed 16 July 2020

The Department for Transport has granted permission for Manston Airport in Kent to be transformed into an international air freight hub and passenger airfield. Construction will begin in 2021 with the Airport operating its first cargo services in the first quarter of 2023.

RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) have been authorised to carry out the work, having committed to an investment of £300 million.

“The COVID-19 virus has demonstrated the fragility and inflexibility of the UK’s air cargo network, which relies almost exclusively on passenger aircraft to carry freight, as well as the urgent need to keep air freight going,” the company said.

It believes that its investment will enable the airport to fulfil its role in helping the UK trade across the globe and to import vital and time-sensitive goods, including fresh fruit and medical supplies.

As the global economy starts to re-energise and the UK, separated from the EU, negotiates trade deals around the world, Manston will, RIverOak argues, be in a position to address this gap in the UK’s trading infrastructure, providing dedicated air freight capacity adjacent to the London Airports System, free of the uncertainties that face airports reliant solely, or predominantly, on the income from passenger traffic.

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 lock down.”