RiverOak’s latest statement in response to the 151officer’s report

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RiverOak Investment Corp responds to Thanet District Council with open letter

RiverOak Investment Corp has studied Thanet District Council’s Report to Cabinet entitled “Manston Airport Exploration of CPO Indemnity Partner” in detail and we have also asked our solicitor, a partner at Wragge, Lawrence Graham & Co. in London, to check the veracity of the recommendations made.

The report is full of factual inaccuracies and objectionable assumptions and does not represent an accurate picture of our submission to the council. In short, we are advised that the report is unsafe for Thanet District Council members to rely upon as evidence.

In our response we have set out our concerns and the corresponding facts, in order that the members of Thanet District Council and the general public of East Kent might be able to judge both RiverOak and the recommendations made against us properly and accurately.

One of our chief concerns is policy guidance against which we have been assessed in the report bears no resemblance to those contained in official Government CPO guidance (Government Circular 06/2004: Compulsory Purchase and the Crichel Down Rules).

Throughout the process we worked with our solicitor and with two Queen’s Counsel to ensure that our submission fully complied with the statutory requirements for identifying a planning-related CPO indemnity partner.

The interpretation of these guidelines by TDC council officers can only be interpreted as extremely unorthodox. The kinds of questions asked are not required by the standard and accepted guidelines nor indeed appropriate for the identification of a planning-related CPO indemnity partner and this fact calls into serious question the qualifications of the two interim council officers to make appropriate judgements on this issue.

Equally we are aggrieved that the authors of the report have chosen to ignore much of the substantive body of evidence we provided them with over the last eight months.

As part of the due diligence process we confirmed RiverOak’s status and capacity; provided a cogent and detailed business plan with five year financial projections and we confirmed the amount of funds (in cash and on call) we have established for the Manston CPO.

No acknowledgement has been given to this detailed information. The officers appear to have relied only on summary documents, despite knowing of the existence of more detailed work which included market testing with airlines, aircraft manufacturers and others with a keen interest in establishing operations at Manston. All of which was shared with TDC officers, but seemingly discarded or ignored.

Instead there is a persistent requirement for an unrealistic 20 year business plan with financial projections. This is not required within official CPO guidance. We have endeavoured to explain the commercial and legal absurdity of such a request but evidently to no avail.

We also find it insulting to suggest that we failed to provide suitable evidence given that our numerous offers to put Thanet’s legal advisors in touch with our own legal counsel, to ensure all questions had been answered (a common practice when two parties are seeking to become commercial partners), were stubbornly rejected or ignored. The audit trail of unreturned emails and calls made by our lawyer to TDC is testament to this.

Having already made three offers to buy the site, including one for the asking price, RiverOak has to date expended more than £600,000 and eight months seeking to prove its suitability as a CPO indemnity partner to Thanet District Council. It is money we have been more than willing to invest because we have a robust, detailed plan for Manston and the financial capability to see it through. Indeed why would we do so if we did not have the funds?

It is therefore galling to discover that the Labour Group at TDC, actually voted “that the Labour Group on Thanet Council should oppose all moves to acquire Manston Airport by compulsory purchase, irrespective of whether a suitable indemnity partner could be found”, by a majority of 11-8, on 14th October. Indeed we wonder if the unorthodox interpretation of the CPO guidelines, including tests that could not reasonably be met such as the production of an unrealistic 20-year business plan, were in fact crafted to ensure an arrival at this particular set of recommendations.

We call upon Thanet District Council members to tear apart this report and assess our suitability as potential CPO partners purely on the basis of facts and the requirements of official CPO guidelines.

 Click here to view a copy of RiverOak Investment Corp’s open letter to Thanet District Council.