Senior Plymouth Conservative calls for a debate on city airport's future
A TORY chief has called for a debate on the future of Plymouth Airport and aviation in the city.
Cllr Ian Bowyer, the city's Cabinet member for finance, yesterday called for a "mature and informed debate".
But he said it should happen after the council elections on May 3.
The company which operated the airport on a 150-year-lease from Plymouth City Council, shut it in December saying it was not economically sustainable
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The company's lease allows it to sell the land if it closes the airport. The council would take 75 per cent of the proceeds.
In August, the council's Cabinet backed the closure after the production of two consultants' reports which said no one wanted to run the airport or flights, and not enough businesses used the airstrip to make it economically viable.
A campaign group, Viable, hit back with a business plan to reopen and run the airport.
Viable's chairman, Raoul Witherall, said yesterday that the debate should be held before the election so people would know which party to vote for.
"A debate is long overdue," Mr Witherall said.
Labour leader Cllr Tudor Evans said a debate was "an excellent idea".
He added: "I am sure we'll have one. But we would have been better off having the debate before the Conservatives let the airport close without a whimper.
"I am fully behind Viable's vision for phase one and phase two of their business plan. I have said that in a public meeting."
Mr Bowyer said: "I want to see a plan for Plymouth which makes best use of the current airport and meets the actual needs of all local people, be they members of the business community or local holidaymakers.
"This is something of public concern but it is important that we all understand the council's current position.
"The council has supported the airport since 2007 to the tune of some £7million.
"We have made a commercial decision informed by three independent studies, supported by the Chamber of Commerce, that the airport is not viable.
"We cannot sanction further investment from local taxpayers given the airport's low levels of usage and the absence of any interest from a commercial operator.
"We have protected the land from short-term development; the land remains categorised as an airport. We are willing to discuss any commercial proposal to operate the airport."
Mr Bowyer added: "I would like to see a public debate which is constructive and well informed.
"The council could organise this and it would be a chance for everyone to have their say, understand the issues, and agree a way forward. This needs to be held soon."