YOUR SAY: Your views on Plymouth City Airport
WHY THE FIVE TESTS FOR AN AIRPORT ARE SO IMPORTANT
by Council Leader Tudor Evans
I WAS staggered by the tone of Keith Rossiter's column (Friday, August 31). He appears to be suggesting some kind of conspiracy; that the council is rubbing its hands and waiting for developers to come forward and build housing estates by stealth on airport land.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
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Plymouth City Council did not shut the airport. Sutton Harbour took this course of action after finding it increasingly difficult to make the airport run as a going concern. It was the previous Conservative administration at the council which gave permission for Sutton Harbour Holdings to close the airport in December 2011.
Like Viable and all the many people who signed the recent petition, we would love to see an airport for Plymouth. We appreciate people's efforts to keep the interest alive.
We have to be realistic about the scale of investment that would be required for an airport to open again in this city. This is why we have the five tests to ensure any proposals are viable.
The tests make it clear what an undertaking running the airport would be.
Presumably Keith Rossiter does not want to run an airport, yet he seems to have a problem with these tests. Yet Viable, who do want to run an airport, do not have an issue with them.
It should be remembered that the airport site remains protected as an airport under planning policy until the end of the current local plan (Local Development Framework) in 2021. That means it is currently protected for the next nine years.
PETITION NOT VIABLE
by David Pengelly, via email
I HAVE read with interest the many letters and articles regarding the demise of Plymouth airport and the petition to save it. Yes an airport might be beneficial to the city, pity that so few people used it. Perhaps because it was in the wrong place and was never a viable option?
The petition had over 40,000 signatures. However, the population of Plymouth is 250,000 and if you take into consideration the South Hams, West Devon and East Cornwall that would most probably double the people who might have used it. So it amounts to less than 10 per cent of the population. Of those, remove the “Mickey Mouse” signatures and addresses plus those on holiday who most probably had no idea even what the petition was about. I would not even try to guess how many were pressurised into signing it by aggressive tactics. Yes I had one of those try it on me and no I did not sign. The various councils over the years have failed to do anything practicable with regards to the airport and the current leader made sure it was never going to be used again. So is the airport petition viable? Definitely not.
CHARGE REALISTIC RENT
by Norman Wyman, via email
IN THE absence of any information from the council or SHH one can only assume the thinking behind giving SHH a free lease rent free on the airport was to help/subsidise them develop an airline project.
Now that project has been wound down by them is it not time to start collecting a realistic rent at the least, or impose a purchase premium on them for the lease going forward. There’ s nothing to subsidise now.
They may start to think differently if it was costing them...couple that to the growing bad publicity they are getting over this issue, they may just give up and go away.
by Stuart Munnery, Woolwell
I HAVE read several excellent letters recently regarding the airport and the recent rather impressive petition via Viable submitted to the council. Impressive except to Tudor Evans, it seems.
So predictable isn't it, when we have politicians making statements to win votes which then turn out to be so much hot air. Mr Evans sits nicely on the fence, not prepared to stick his neck out. He claimed prior to the elections to support the airport; support involves action, yet we see none from the council. I presume the thinking must be along one of two lines. Either the council is frightened to lend its support in case the airport reopens only to fail again, thereby suffering condemnation or it has no interest in the project anyway and sees the airport as a waste of time. It would be nice to have a little more clarity on this matter from Mr Evans, if only he could engage a gear rather than sitting in neutral. In fact it could be argued Mr Evans is only putting obstructions in the way of the airport reopening and one can't help but think that whatever plan Viable comes up with, it will prove insufficient for our esteemed council.
So living in Woolwell I have the prospect of more development bringing with it some truly horrendous traffic jams on the Tavistock Road. With the Sherford development and those at the airport we can look forward to a log-jammed Plymouth in the future. Hardly improving the quality of life for your average Plymothian, I think. We may as well give all the business to Exeter, while Plymouth becomes the benefits capital of the south west, because successive councils here are doing nothing to attract business here and housing on its own won't cut it.
DO DECENT THING
by B Burch, via email
AS I expect everyone knows by now the majority of Plymouth residents want their airport back.
Tudor Evans and fellow councillors also say they would like it back. Viable had a sound business plan to make it a profitable concern and bring in trade to Plymouth plus destinations for the public to fly to in the future. So what is going on?
What is going on is that Sutton Harbour Holdings wants to build houses for their own personal greed. Should this be allowed to happen to one of the biggest cities in England? No, of course not.
As yet I personally have not heard any voice from SHH in defence of them keeping hold of the lease of the land so why don't they do the decent thing and relinquish the site back to Plymouth City Council so we can get our airport back to the people of Plymouth who it belongs to?
CYNICALLY RUN DOWN
by David Coles, Croydon Airport Society member No.2098; Ex Director 34007 Wadebridge; Ex Director D1048 Western Lady; Ex Membership Secretary Plym Valley Railway
RE letter from S Marketis on 29/08/12: Your reference to Croydon Airport interests me.
The airport was there not to serve Croydon but the whole of London. It was a major air gateway to the UK and it was closed because it was no longer large enough to cope with the more capacious aircraft coming into service, not because London didn’t need an airport.
Plymouth airport was not closed because of the lack of passengers; it closed because Sutton Harbour Holdings cynically ran it down to a loss-making level so that they could exploit the so-called “Armageddon Clause”. Why did they do this? – because they had massive debts and their very future was under threat. Commercial development of the site would enable them to pay off their debts. This is common knowledge. Did you not know this or are you altering the facts to suit your ends, which are obviously to get rid of the airport in any way you can?
Viable intends to extend the runway so larger and longer-range aircraft can use it.
The finance, I am sure, will be found.
When this happens you also will be able to use it.
Perhaps, if you are so intent on the airport’s closure, you should start your own petition and see how many signatories you can get to sign against the airport’s reopening.
I wonder if you have ever done anything POSITIVE for the city.
by Carole Earl, Crownhill
FIRSTLY, I love my daily Herald and thanks for printing on Friday that the airport land should be preserved.
I’ve enclosed a copy of a letter I’ve written to Tudor Evans, as I strongly feel, like the incinerator, the airport also, we the people of Plymouth have been badly let down by our council and as such I think the council should be held to account for their mistakes on both counts.
Regarding the airport, I don’t think we the public are allowed to see the whole lease. Am I right?
Part of my letter to Cllr Evans read: I was one of the public that witnessed you receiving the 35,500 signatures from people who want the airport re-opened, presented to you on Thursday.
I was heartened to hear you say, “The council made a mistake with regard to Plymouth airport”. Not often does one hear a politician or councillor admit to mistakes.
I am writing because I was reading a national newspaper which stated “that airports are regarded as developments where national need overrules local objections”, because airports are regarded as infrastructure. As such, I’m wondering if the council could give equal regard to the airport as it has to the planning for the incinerator.
AIRPORTS RUG PULLED OUT FROM UNDER US
by Steve Marketis, Woolwell
I now know I can fly direct to Canada from Exeter and on to the USA, or take KLM from Bristol to Moscow via Amsterdam.
So, if that’s the standard the competition offers, can someone tell me how Plymouth is going to house jets that size and a genuine airline giant now or in the future?
Can anyone also tell me what future economic conditions will foresee the business demise of Bristol and Exeter whilst Plymouth thrives? Or when enough Plymothians will be able to afford the three or four holidays a year by air that would keep an airport running here, if they were still willing to use it in preference?
I’d also like to know how those who want the site permanently mothballed “just in case” are going to do it.
Use another £40 million of taxpayers’ money to buy out SHG, or break the contract with them and see what happens?
Isn’t it the case that the only people actually pulling the rug from under Plymouth airport are other airports, by removing landing slots, going back to Heathrow in 1996? Could this just be because we never have and never will supply enough custom for them?
I’m glad someone like Tudor Evans is in charge. To my mind, the most important of the five conditions is the proof required that any sort of air service is genuinely wanted and will be well-used. I believe this robust management is the sort of hard-headed business sense that will serve Team Plymouth well, by showing the council understands business needs by acting like a business itself.
NO WONDER EXETER HAS EDGE ON US
by Mr B J Connell, Plymouth
WE HAVE all read about the fight for Plymouth Airport and it seems, as recently stated, this council is prepared to ignore the huge lists of support.
In which case the people must take to the street in a further endeavour to show how much this means to Plymouth and the need for this airport.
Recently seen in a daily newspaper: ‘Civil aviation is the elixir of growth’
No one can deny as a city, Plymouth needs this.
Also the following paragraph:
‘While economists disagree on many things they are virtually unanimous in acknowledging that civil aviation is the elixir of growth. Where planes fly, jobs follow in their vapour trails.
It’s no wonder that Exeter has the edge on Plymouth in just about everything in their expansion of business, trade etc. One can only wonder just how much financially the difference having their own airport has made.
It’s time this council took its head out of the sand and took a good look around this city of ours. It is failing. No, they are failing to give this city what it actually needs but instead we get a monstrosity of an incinerator no one wants in the city.
by Plymouth MP Alison Seabeck
I completely agree with Mr Jones (letter 25th August) & the 37,000 Plymouth petitioners about the importance of Plymouth’s airport.
I have campaigned for years to keep the airlink, have raised the matter in Parliament, instigated a Select Committee Enquiry into Transport in the South West, met with the Business Secretary Vince Cable & written to the Transport Secretary to put the city’s case.
However, we are now on the back foot as the previous Conservative administration stood by whilst the airport closed & lost its civil aviation licenses – we are essentially having to start from scratch.
I am working closely with Tudor Evans, the Leader of the Council and staying in contact with those working to find a viable business-led solution which would see an airlink to our city restored and which could in addition be used by the NHS and Ministry of Defence. What the Council doesn’t have in the current economic climate is an open cheque book.
There has to be a strong business plan for the site and for those running the airline which would operate from it.
There would need to be a real commitment not only from those who signed the petition but also from the wider population that people would use the airport. The routes would have to work financially – and so, I fear, it would be a case yet again of use it or lose it. One of the reasons it closed was that usage was not as good as it might have been. I will continue to press the case in the House of Commons for support for smaller regional airports because it is important that Ministers understand the importance to our local economy of an airlink – especially into London and so the debate about capacity in London which is happening at the moment is extremely important to the rest of the country, including Plymouth. We need to see protected regional slots and at the moment those are not forthcoming.
JET AIRCRAFT COULD USE PLYMOUTH RUNWAY
by aviation and defence writer Rory Allen
IT WOULD seem that neither local or national government have a particular talent in managing aviation matters and airports.
News from the Westminster halls of power tell of the battle for runway III, Heathrow, a grossly over-committed, passenger-daunting complex most-taxed experience which, at the end of a long-haul flight necessitates the ‘long walk to freedom’.
And checking-in offers the ordeal in reverse. The French would score it, ‘Nil Points’.
But Runway III is intended to get through more flight operations and have more even flights than the present.
What has been overlooked is the daily hazard of the airliners stacked up over Greater London, at a minimum vertical interval of about 1500 feet!.
In still weather conditions it is manageable. In wind-shear and turbulent conditions an aircraft can suddenly drop 1000 feet or more.
Stacking is not a good idea.
To further load the system is to invite disaster. Heathrow is way past its ‘close-by’ date. And ‘air-gates’ into the UK can be served by regional airlines operating into five regional airports along the UK’s
South and South East coastal regions, with another hub, such as Manchester, to deal with American and Canadian air traffic.
Four of the Southern regional airports already exist and need only upgrading. The fifth, Plymouth, would seem to have been closed under curious circumstances.
If, as in 2010, the dedicated airline had about 135,000 bookings, why, just a year later, was that figure down to less than 36,000? It was claimed that the old Dash 8 aircraft service had ‘lost’ the Air Southwest operational slots in Gatwick. They were, in fact surrendered with other opportunities, perhaps due to the lease-holders calling in a Northern airline operator to run another regional airline which had no real interest or expertise in developing or even sustaining either Plymouth’s airline or its airport.
There has, however, been an interesting development. As an old Suttonian, born in Plymouth, I witnessed its Blitzing then, a few years later, learned to fly at Roborough in Tiger Moth and Auster aircraft. I feel a sense of duty to assist in restoring the dignity of this city by helping to bring back its airport and an airline to serve it.
I have located a party with exactly the right type of aircaft which can operate from the 1,160 metre runway. Although a four-jet aircraft it is notably quiet in operation, it can carry 60 passengers in spacious seats and in comfort, flying at 420mph, with a range if 1500 miles.
It was encouraging to read that Cllr Tudor Evans seemed to have revised his ideas, and now wishes for the status of the airport to be recovered.
This is in line with the thinking of most of the people of Plymouth, and especially of its ailing business community.
The Paralympics launch was a touching and impressive ceremony of just how people, even with their handicaps, can succeed.
Here we have only procedures and ‘papers’ as handicaps. Let common sense, honesty, and developmental need prevail!