Gloucestershire Airport could be put up for sale before Christmas, council leaders have confirmed.
Questions were raised on Monday 27 November over the future of the Staverton site, after claims council chiefs were considering putting it up for sale in the next few weeks.
Now the leaders of Gloucester City Council and Cheltenham Borough Council have confirmed they are working to bring in a new owner for the site, which they jointly own.
The 300-acre airport is run by Gloucestershire Airport Ltd, a company established in 1993, in which the councils have a 50 per cent shareholding.
It has a 999 year lease on the site, managing both the commercial- and aviation-related activities.
City councillor Jeremy Hilton (LD, Kingsholm and Wotton) told councillors on 27 November that he had been informed by a Cheltenham Borough Council cabinet member that they're looking to sell the site.
He told the overview and scrutiny committee about this, adding that a UK-based company with no previous experience in running an airport had shown an interest in buying it.
Mr Hilton was told during that meeting that no formal discussions had taken place at cabinet level, but the leaders of both authorities have now confirmed that they are working with the firm to "seek new investment".
Cheltenham Borough Council leader Rowena Hay said: “The timing is right for both councils to bring in a new owner to take [the airport] forward.
“The future of the airport and the contribution both the airport and the businesses located there make to the regional economy is well recognised. The timing is now right for both councils to bring in a new owner to take it forward."
Both councils say they are working in partnership with Gloucestershire Airport’s senior leadership team to find an investor, and are expected to instruct advisors to bring it to market in the near future.
Jason Ivey, airport director, said: “The timing’s right to seek new investment, expertise and resources – it makes commercial sense for everyone.
“The airport’s a real asset for Gloucestershire and with the right investment it can play an even greater role in unlocking regional growth and supporting exciting projects like the Golden Valley development.”
Paul Jones, executive director for finance, assets and regeneration for the borough council, said both authorities are looking forward to working with the airport to secure the best all-round result that will deliver for the business, local taxpayers and the wider economy.
Gloucester City councillor Richard Cook reiterated that both councils are committed to preserving the airport as a centre for aviation for the benefit of Gloucestershire, especially given its extensive heritage.
“It plays a hugely important role within the region and we hope that a new owner will take it to the next level,” he said.
However, City Council leaders are bound to face questions in the coming days as group leaders and the vast majority of councillors have been kept in the dark over the move.
At an overview and scrutiny committee meeting on 27 November, deputy leader Hannah Norman told councillors no formal discussions had taken place about the proposals among Gloucester’s cabinet.
Councillor Hilton said in that meeting that there was no reference to the potential sale in the City Council’s forward plan.
“There’s been no discussion with group leaders which I would have thought there would have been. And there has been no mention in the minutes of the scrutiny committee meeting of September 25.
“I would hope there would be full discussion within this council of the options if there is any suggestion that Gloucestershire Airport is put up for sale.”
The existing 300-acre Gloucestershire Airport site was formed in 1936 and originally named Staverton Airport, replacing its predecessor at Down Hatherley Airfield.
In 1993, Gloucester City and Cheltenham Borough Councils formed Gloucestershire Airport Limited.
Today, Gloucestershire Airport is one of the UK’s busiest general aviation airports, ranking in the Civil Aviation Authority’s top 15 airports for aircraft movements.
It has its own fire station and two business parks spanning a combined 700,000 square feet, including the recently completed CGX Connect.
Numerous high-profile aviation-related businesses, such as Babcock and Safran Group, call the airport home.
The airport received a much-needed multi-million-pound investment in 2021, which was funded by the Gloucestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, Gloucester City and Cheltenham Borough Councils.
These upgrades meant the north-south runway could be closed, freeing up over 300,000 square feet of surplus land for development.
Work completed included runway resurfacing, the installation of new runway lighting, upgrades to signage and drainage, and the installation of below-ground infrastructure in readiness for a new radar system.
These upgrades, as well as surplus land and a range of potential redevelopment and other commercial opportunities, within the airport and adjoining business parks, mean the airport should prove an exciting proposition for a new owner to come in and build on its historic success.
Credit: Carmelo Garcia, Local Democracy Reporting Service.