'Once it has gone, our prospects have gone'
MADDI Bridgeman, an airport campaigner and petition organiser, urged members of the full city council to protect the airport until an operator and investment can be found.
Former airport operator Sutton Harbour Holdings has a 150-year lease which allows it to sell the land for development if an airport proves not to be viable.
The company closed the airport last December and has already published a masterplan for housing, shops and offices.
Mrs Bridgeman said at the start of a passionate council debate: "We are hampered geographically by poor transport connectivity, and there should be no rush to redevelop the land for short-term gain.
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"Once it has gone, our prospects have gone.
"This is about Plymouth's long term future. We need to put Plymouth back on the map – globally.
She was supported by a packed public gallery, and applauded when she said: "Your discussion and debate should not be about lining shareholder's pockets but securing the future of our city."
Mrs Bridgeman used a number of examples to highlight the disadvantages of not having an airport.
"When the Princess Royal visited Plymouth earlier this year her helicopter had to land on a piece of waste ground," Mrs Bridgeman told members of the city council.
Mrs Bridgeman, a leading figure in the save-the-airport campaign, helped to trigger a debate in the full council by organising a petition with nearly 38,000 signatures.
She told the council that the closure of the airport had adversely affected people's lives.
She said a disabled mother could not visit her daughter in Manchester because the journey by train or car was too painful.
Off-shore workers could take up to 24 hours to get home to their family after a month-long shift.
A son who travelled to Plymouth from Hungary to visit his mother on Mothering Sunday in a journey which took almost 48 hours.
She asked how many lives had been put at risk because emergency helicopters could not land.
After the debate Mrs Bridgeman said she was delighted with the support for protecting the airport.
"Councillors have demonstrated a passion to keep our airport.
"We all need to get together to extend the nine years protection through the Plymouth Plan."