1. ITV Report

No prospect of Plymouth airport reopening

The airport closed in 2011 - and attempts to restore services have come to nothing. Credit: ITV News West Country

Two new studies from leading aviation experts have highlighted the extent of the economic, legislative and physical barriers to a commercially sustainable airport operation ever being re-established at the former Plymouth airport site.

More than two years after the closure of Plymouth City Airport, not one of the ‘five tests’ set by Plymouth City Council for the private sector to come up with a workable plan to reopen the airport has been met.

From all our analysis the conclusion is simple: there is not a sustainable commercial airport operation meeting the needs of the Plymouth population that could be delivered from this location, not now, and not in the future.

Regional aviation has moved on, with fewer airlines operating bigger aircraft and carrying more people. The site’s constraints are simply incompatible with today’s airline industry which is why no credible proposal has come forward and why the City Council’s five tests have not been met.

– Alex Lake, Fjøri Managing Director

The City Council invited potential operators to come forward with proposals, and had pledged to 'clarify the future' of the airport site.

The only organisation to come forward with an interest of reopening the airport has been campaign group Viable, though it has never published a business plan, or explained how it would operate without public subsidy.

Today's report by respected international aviation experts Fjøri and acoustic consultants Bickerdike Allen Partners, highlighted problems the group could face.

We have looked at the Viable plan in detail and in our view it does not look plausible as it runs contrary to regional aviation and passenger trends.

Apart from the significant start-up costs involved, not to mention the necessary demolition of 90 homes and business premises and the huge potential noise impacts and cost of their mitigation, any attempt to provide commercially viable, affordable air services would require significant ongoing public subsidy and that has been ruled out at both local and national level.

Plymouth does not have a regional airport within its boundary. But it does have Exeter, which we believe represents Plymouth’s and Devon’s best hope for sustainable air services.

– Alex Lake, Fjøri Managing Director

Now eyes will turn to Sutton Harbour Holdings Plc, who unveiled a draft masterplan for redeveloping the site in 2012. Talks are underway with the City Council with a view to submitting a planning application.

The people of Plymouth deserve accessible, affordable and reliable air services to a range of destinations, but these reports prove that it can’t be done from this site.

The constraints are insurmountable and painful experience over many years has shown that wanting an airport and actually using it are two very different things.

– Jason Schofield, Chief Executive Sutton Harbour Holdings Plc

John Andrews reports:-