Revealed: Plan to build on Plymouth City Airport
A PLAN to build houses, shops, offices and student flats on the site of Plymouth City Airport has been revealed.
Sutton Harbour Holdings, which closed the airport last December, has drawn up what it describes as a 'masterplan' for the 113-acre site.
The proposal is to create a new "urban centre" for the north of Plymouth.
The company has stressed the reason the plan has been submitted now is to meet a council deadline. It also underlines it does not constitute a formal planning application.
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The first phase of the proposed development of the site, up to 2016, would create a new gateway to northern Plymouth with a landmark building fronting The George junction.
The masterplan, drawn up by Plymouth architects AWW, calls for a range of commercial, retail and residential units, including an hotel and food retail store, plus the first part of a proposed park and streets leading to a new town square and high street.
The second phase to 2026 would include a new primary school, library and community centre, more retail and residential blocks forming the town square and a new pedestrian link to University College Marjon.
Other proposed uses include a nursing home, office park, higher education buildings, energy centre and a range of formal and informal public open spaces.
The entire development would include new pedestrian and cycle bridges to link with the existing park and ride and surrounding communities, plus a new north-south vehicle link and bus stops.
Sutton Harbour says it has submitted its masterplan now because Plymouth City Council is revising the Derriford and Seaton area action plan as part of its Plymouth Plan.
The draft area action plan, published in June of this year, aims to shape planning policy in the north of the city to 2026. The consultation deadline was August 20.
The council wants to create a sustainable mixed-use new urban centre at the heart of the north of Plymouth to include a new district shopping centre, offices, quality homes and improved transport links, without undermining the role of the city centre.
Sutton Harbour Holdings holds a 150-year lease from Plymouth City Council on the airport. An "Armageddon clause" in it allows it to sell the land if it cannot make a go of running it.
Jason Schofield, chief executive of Sutton Harbour Holdings, said: "We have shown how the former airport site presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create exactly what the Derriford and Seaton area action plan strives to achieve, and more.
"We have looked in detail at other sites in the area and concluded that the former airport site presents the best opportunity to deliver a carefully considered and fit for purpose heart for Derriford that helps meet Plymouth's growth agenda.
"There will be those that will accuse us of jumping the gun by publishing these plans, but we are responding to a planning policy debate that is happening now, and a timetable over which we have no control.
"We believe the draft area action plan must take account of the former airport site.
"Now that the airport has closed we also have an obligation under the terms of our lease to achieve best value for the site. These plans are credible and deliverable and we hope they will be taken on board."
A Sutton Harbour spokesman added: "The plans have been submitted in response to the city council's area action plan consultation and are not a formal planning application."
The final Derriford and Seaton action plan will be submitted to the Secretary of State ahead of a public examination, probably in Spring 2013. If approved by the inspector, it will then be adopted as planning policy.
WHAT THEY SAY: COUNCIL LEADER TUDOR EVANS
COUNCIL leader Tudor Evans poured cold water on the airport development plan.
Sutton Harbour Holdings “haven’t just jumped the gun, they’ve invented a race that doesn’t exist yet”, Mr Evans said.
“My view on this is clear: it’s an airport and those pictures don’t look much like an airport.”
Cllr Evans said: “I wasn’t aware of Sutton Harbour’s submission to the consultation exercise until officers brought it to my attention.
“We deliberately took the airport out of the action plan some weeks ago as we knew it would be a strategically important issue.
“I was surprised to see what looks like a worked up plan for the airport site. Sutton Harbour have revealed their hand. They haven’t just jumped the gun, they’ve invented a race that doesn’t exist yet.
“That land is designated as an airport in the core strategy and remains designated as an airport until such time as the strategy is revised.
“The current protection for the airport is already in place under the core strategy for another nine years. To do anything else on the site would require the council to change the designation and I have not given any indication that I want that to happen.
“We are still working on the basis that we want the site to remain an airport until every possible opportunity has been exhausted.
“While Sutton Harbour and others are within their rights to respond to the consultation with whatever suggestions they like, my view on this is clear: it’s an airport and those pictures don’t look much like an airport.”
On July 30, Cllr Evans told a meeting of the full Plymouth City Council that there was no public money available to subsidise an airport and that the private sector has been invited to come up with a viable solution by next summer.
However, he said five tests would be applied to any private sector bid to reopen the airport:
It must acquire ownership of the airport and associated infrastructure.
There must be no need for public subsidy.
It must have an ongoing commitment to airport services.
It must have a fully funded business plan.
There must be clear evidence of demand for and provision of Plymouth air services.
At the time Cllr Evans said provision of an airport in the city was a “strategic planning issue” and would be considered through development of the Plymouth Plan by next summer.
He said: “The land is currently protected under planning policy as an airport.
“If, however, the private sector cannot deliver, possible future uses of the land to support jobs and growth of the city’s economy, will be supported through the Plymouth Plan.”
He added: “The airport operation is closed and cannot reopen. Sutton Harbour Holdings closed in 2011 on the grounds that it was no longer viable. The previous council accepted this.
“We have all made it clear that we have supported the airport through its history and we would like the city to have an airport with a range of destinations.
“But the airport has been shut.
“There is a lot of debate still going on and misunderstanding about what we can feasibly do. In the current climate and with substantial cuts to the council’s funding, we’re simply not in a position to subsidise any venture in any way.
“However, we do want to see if the market has moved on and to see if there is a private sector solution available.”
WHAT THEY SAY: AIRPORT CAMPAIGNER RAOUL WITHERALL
SAVE-the-airport group Viable has vowed to fight any redevelopment of the airport site.
Last week Viable presented a petition of more than 37,000 signatures to Cllr Evans.
Raoul Witherall, director of Viable, said yesterday: “The people of Plymouth have just made very clear that they wish to see the airport protected from redevelopment.
“The strongest support comes from the areas closest to the airport. People living and working there will not welcome the prospect of a large new housing estate and the extra strain it will place on the already congested roads.
“We will fight any proposed redevelopment on the site vigorously.
“Plymouth has plenty of housing and shops. And there are better locations in the city where these can be built. What Plymouth lacks are high quality transport links and businesses and families want to see the airport operating again. It is a strategic asset.
“We will shortly be announcing our own bid to acquire and reopen the airport funded fully by private sector investment.”
WHAT THEY SAY: BUSINESS LEADER DAVID PARLBY
PLYMOUTH should have an airport – but as yet, the private sector isn’t there, says the Chamber of Commerce.
David Parlby, chief executive of Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, said: “The chamber’s view is that we feel the city should have an airport, but we also recognise the financial challenges of having one. We agreed with the council that they should not put more public money into the airport. Our own investigations revealed that there isn’t a private sector appetite, and we have not yet seen Viable’s specific plans. Our view, unfortunately, is that without significant private sector financing the airport isn’t going to happen here.” He said there would be significant costs involved in mothballing the land, including security. “I think it’s sensible to explore plans for developing the land. Whether Sutton Harbour’s plan is the right one is a moot point. It could be used as an industrial or commercial business park, an enterprise area or a business park. We have to look at the options.”