MPs asked to investigate where Plymouth City Airport millions has gone
THE group which wants to save Plymouth City Airport has written to MPs and the council asking what has happened to millions of pounds received by Sutton Harbour Group following the sale of airport land.
The Viable group wants to know if cash was spent in line with a 2007 agreement between Plymouth City Council and SHG, with Viable chairman Raoul Witherall saying: "There are pressing questions of public interest that need to be answered."
In 2007 the council gave permission for the sale of 22 acres of surplus land on the basis proceeds would be "invested in improving the remainder airport facilities and in developing air services".
Viable has used the Freedom of Information Act to ask for the agreement but is awaiting a response.
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Meanwhile, the council said it is happy SHG's receipts "have or will be used entirely for the purposes specified in the agreement", although it is still probing the firm.
The commercial development agreement set out how receipts from the proposed land sale could be "applied to the airport business and its infrastructure". SHG will next year receive the final instalment of £11.8million from a developer.
In August this year the Cabinet allowed SHG to shut the airport for passenger flights on December 23.
Some cash from the land sale will therefore arrive in SHG coffers after the airport officially closes.
Mr Witherall has written to council leader Vivien Pengelly and chief executive Barry Keel, saying: "There is no sign of any such investment having been made or account given of how (the money has) been spent. There is also no sign the council is doing anything to recover these funds."
Mr Witherall asked what provisions were made to allow the council to claw back funds not invested as per the agreement, and whether the council is trying to recover funds.
He said: "It seems entirely reasonable that any funds not invested as per the agreement should be recovered by the council and retained for future airport investment."
Viable has also written to Tory MPs Oliver Colvile and Gary Streeter, and Labour's Alison Seabeck.
The council said it and auditors Grant Thornton have received "initial figures" from SHG concerning "the application of net-of-tax funds received from the disposal of the surplus land". A spokesman said: "Those figures show the receipts have or will be used entirely for the purposes specified in the agreement."
But before the council "signs off the expenditure", Grant Thornton will carry out a further "detailed due diligence exercise" to ensure the proceeds "are and have been applied in line" with the agreement.