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High Court quashes Manston Airport DCO in first successful DCO challenge

The High Court has sealed a consent order quashing the Secretary of State’s DCO authorising the reopening of Manston Airport, on the Isle of Thanet in Kent, as a dedicated freight hub.

Harrison Grant, acting on behalf of local resident and campaigner, Jennifer Dawes, challenged the DCO on the basis that the Secretary of State had not properly determined whether there was any need for the airport and had failed to provide adequate reasons for deciding that there was such a need.

The application also maintained that the Secretary of State failed to discharge his duty under the Climate Change Act 2008 to ensure that by 2050 the UK will reach its Net Zero target.

In granting the DCO, the Secretary of State had overturned the recommendation of the Examining Authority, which was composed of four senior Planning Inspectors, who reached their decision after one of the most intensely scrutinised DCO examinations, summarized in a report that exceeded 1,000 pages.

In contrast the Secretary of State explained his reasons for disagreeing with the Examining Authority’s conclusions about need in a single sentence.

Perhaps what was surprising in this case is that the Secretary of State initially sought to contend that Ms Dawes’ claim was unarguable, before accepting that it was not just arguable but indeed well-founded, due to his failure to provide adequate and intelligible reasons.

This was the first airport development application to be granted a DCO and is the first successful challenge to the grant of a DCO.

Kate Harrison, Susan Ring and Alice Goodenough of Harrison Grant represented the applicant, Jennifer Dawes. Kate and Susan instructed Paul Stinchcombe QC, Richard Wald QC and Gethin Thomas of 39 Essex Chambers.

On 1 May 2022, Harrison Grant transferred its practice to Hodge Jones & Allen, with their lawyers joining our Environmental Justice team.