Vision for a new £30million airport in Plymouth is unveiled
PLYMOUTH'S airport could become a £25-£30million "world class international gateway" under plans being worked on by a group of businesspeople campaigning to save it.
The Viable group has today unveiled a vision for the Derriford site which would see the runway extended, a new terminal built and land turned over for lucrative commercial use.
Viable will discuss the plans with Plymouth City Council next month, but has given The Herald a preview of how it sees the airport potentially developing.
The Sutton Harbour Group (SHG), which operates the airport on a 150-year-lease from Plymouth City Council, is shutting the facility today saying it is not economically sustainable.
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But Viable, which opposed the closure, disagrees with the suggestion Plymouth can't support a top-class aerodrome.
Basing its design on London City Airport, Viable envisages a facility that could eventually handle up to a million passengers a year.
The phased project would take up to 10 years to fully realise, initially seeing the reopening of the airport with restricted operation and limited services.
But the group said that after about three years the operation could be expanded dramatically.
Its vision is for the runway to be extended from 1,160 metres to its maximum 1,390 metres, so larger aircraft can be welcomed. A runway "loop" would mean aircraft can wait for take-off slots diminishing delays. But ahead of this, a simple initial resurfacing of the runway would only cost £500,000, Viable said, a quarter of the expected cost.
A new, larger terminal could be built, at right angles to the current terminal, which would be demolished.
That, along with using the current car park, would free space to create a commercial hub, which could be turned into a mixed-use scheme containing elements such as a conference centre, shops, offices, a hotel and possibly even a cinema, with short-stay car parking, and bring in about £7million.
A new building could be constructed at the upper end of the site, which would house private aircraft and the Royal Navy's Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) team.
This building, if constructed first, could be used as the terminal while the main building is under development.
It is envisioned that if the airport goes through such expansion it could accommodate increasingly larger aircraft, starting at 20-seaters, and 100,000 annual passengers, in the first three years, moving to 50-seaters and 115-seaters.
That would mean Plymouth could link to more than 30 international airports, including Paris and Amsterdam, which would give it a worldwide reach.
Viable chairman Raoul Witherall said the cost of expanding the airport proposals would be about £25million to £30million.
However, revenue streams included developing the commercial space, rental from private planes and FOST, income from short- and long-stay car parks, and a possible city-wide Business Improvement District.
He said: "It will give us a world class international gateway and an airport for the next 100 years. This will connect us to the world and put Plymouth back on the map. Not only could this be done, but it should be done.
"We are seeing Plymouth City Council in the new year, explaining how this works."
Mr Witherall said that compared to the colossal cost of building motorways, an airport investment would be "cheap for the long-term value it gives Plymouth".
It would also support Plymouth's economic objectives and become "a symbol of the city's pride and ambitions".
In August, the council's Cabinet backed SHG's plans to shut the airport on December 23, after SHG had produced 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.
Mr Witherall said that in addition to presenting its vision for the site, Viable would still continue to work to protect the airport, opposing any planning applications and probing into what happened to millions of pounds received by SHG following the 2007 sale of airport land for housing.
Meanwhile, Moor View's Labour MP Alison Seabeck has written to Minister of State for Transport Theresa Villiers, who recently promised to look at state aid for regional air services, in a last ditch attempt to get Government funding to save the airport.
"I am extremely disappointed no solution could be found to save the airport," said Ms Seabeck. "It will be a great loss to Plymouth, especially the business community."
See Your Say – Pages 10-11