Newquay Airport Development Fee (£5 per passenger) axed after private meeting of Cornwall Council
A secret meeting of Cornwall Council’s Cabinet has agreed that the taxpayer will have to pay more to subsidise Newquay airport. They voted to abolish the passenger levy, which is the £5 Airport Development Fee (ADF) that is charged for each departing passenger over 16 who boards a flight from Newquay. Newquay was the first to introduce such a tax in the UK, in 2006, to fund development of the airport. It is understood that the controversial vote was reached by just one vote and was pushed through by the deputy leader of the council. The hope is that the decision will help Newquay win back Ryanair. But removing the £5 charge will mean an increase in the amount of taxpayer subsidy, shifting the burden from those who use the airport on to the general public. It comes at a time when cash-strapped Cornwall Council considering selling off leisure facilities, reducing library opening hours and closing public toilets. A cross-party group had asked the council’s chief legal officer to scrutinise the Cabinet’s decision, and there is concern that the decision was taken in private. One councillor said: “Where there are matters surrounding the airport, they frequently like to put cloud of secrecy around it.”
Newquay Airport Development Fee axed after secret meeting
16.9.2015 (Cornish Guardian)
A secret meeting of Cornwall Council’s Cabinet has pledged hundreds of thousands of pounds to Newquay airport after voting to abolish the passenger levy, the Cornish Guardian can reveal.
Councillors agreed to scrap the £5 Airport Development Fee (ADF) – it was the first of its kind to be introduced at a UK airport and is charged for each departing passenger over 16 who boards a flight from Newquay.
The Cornish Guardian understands that the controversial vote was reached by just one vote and was pushed through by Adam Paynter, the deputy leader of the council.
The hope is that the decision will help Newquay airport win back the airline Ryanair, which is said to be looking into a number of new routes – including Newquay.
A spokeswoman for that airline said: “We are always interested in new routes, which are dependent on demand, aircraft capacity and a viable airport deal.
“We remain in talks with up to 100 airports over potential Ryanair growth.”
Shifting the burden
But the move has angered some council members as it means an increase in the amount of taxpayer subsidy, shifting the burden from those who use the airport on to the general public.
It comes at a time when cash-strapped Cornwall Council considering selling off leisure facilities, reducing library opening hours and closing public toilets.
Councillor Fiona Ferguson said she was unable to go into detail about the meeting but revealed that a cross-party group had asked the council’s chief legal officer to scrutinise the Cabinet’s decision.
“The only thing I can say is that object to the whole meeting being held in private,” she said. “Any scrutiny of the Newquay airport decision should be undertaken so far as possible in a meeting open to the public.”
Councillor Bob Egerton, who has previously branded the airport a “white elephant” after it failed to meet its forecast passenger numbers, said: “I don’t think the original session should have been held in private.
“There will be a scrutiny meeting on Tuesday, September 22 – which is being held in private as well – and that should be a chance for some councillors to review the which has been made.”
Mr Egerton added: “Where there are matters surrounding the airport, they frequently like to put cloud of secrecy around it.
“The council’s excuse will be that it was all rushed and there was no way to disentangle the confidential parts from the not-confidential parts.”
The UK’s largest airline, easyJet, has previously criticised Newquay’s development fee, saying it “put Newquay at a disadvantage” by potential operators.
Tourism boss for Visit Cornwall, Malcolm Bell, said he approved of the move and said scrapping the fee could provide a welcome boost.
He said: “The Airport Development Fee was a big block to the low-cost airlines coming in and, even with Cornwall’s growing popularity, it was always a barrier to low-cost operators.”
Mr Bell added: “It’s surprising, but good news for tourism and, hopefully, it will open up new routes and increase volumes.
“We’d like to support that and, if this helps, particularly with international routes, then we’re all for it.”
Cornwall councillor, and town councillor for St Mawgan and Colan, John Fitter, said: “I totally 150 per cent approve of the Cabinet’s decision. It was a very brave decision and, in my opinion, a brilliant decision for Newquay airport.”
Others have questioned the decision, particularly after Cornwall Council recently stated that it had no plans to remove the fee.
Adam Paynter, the portfolio holder for partnerships at the council, whose role covers the airport, previously described the levy as “a short-term measure”, but, in 2013, he said the council had “no plans” to remove it.
He said: “We haven’t had feedback that passengers are being put off. We’ll continue to monitor the situation to see how it is going.”
In fact, Cornwall Council had suggested as part of its draft budget proposals that £400,000 could be saved by doubling the Airport Development Fee from £5 to £10.
The fee, on top of Air Passenger Duty, was introduced in October 2006 to raise cash to invest in the former military airbase.
Cornwall Council would neither confirm nor deny that the decision had been reached, but issued a statement saying an airport-related matter had been heard in private, and there was “no question of the airport closing or being put up for sale”.
Some earlier news about Newquay Airport:
Flybe to have daily flights to Newquay from Stansted from 16th May
Flybe is expanding its Stansted’s UK connections with three new services – to the Isle of Man, Newcastle and Newquay. The service to the Isle of Man, which will operate three times a day by the end of March. Next will be Newcastle on 29th March to provide passengers with twice daily direct connections during the week and daily at weekends to the North East. Newquay will be the third new route to join Flybe’s network at Stansted with a daily service from 16th May having initially been announced as a ‘seasonal part week summer service’.
DfT signs 2nd PSO to pay £2.5 million so Flybe can profitably maintain Newquay to Gatwick route
The Government will pay £2.5 million, and Cornwall Council will pay £300,000, in a 4-year funding deal to enable Flybe to profitably operate flights between Newquay and Gatwick. The DfT says the public service obligation (PSO) will continue a link. There will be 3 flights each way on weekdays and 2 at weekends. The aviation minister, Robert Goodwill, said keeping the region connected to London is a “vital part of our long-term economic plan” and Danny Alexander said the route ”is vital for Cornwall’s businesses, tourist industry and residents” and “with a return rate of nearly £3 for every £1 invested, it’s a great deal for the UK taxpayer, as well as for the south-west.” The DfT says Flybe will operate the flights with the timings providing a convenient schedule for a full working day [eh? holiday-makers?] at either destination.” EasyJet took over Flybe’s Gatwick slots when the service ended in March this year, but decided to drop the Newquay service. There were about 92,600 passengers flying between Gatwick and Newquay in 2013, so over 4 years the £2.8 million would be about £7.50 each. Could the fare not rise by that amount, to save having to subsidise?
Aerohub business park at Newquay Airport to gain £6m investment (from public funds)
The Aerohub business park at Newquay Airport is set to receive £6m for the first phase of the project. The hub is part of Cornwall’s new enterprise zone, which is dedicated to the aerospace industry. The money will come from the Homes and Communities Agencyhttp://www.homesandcommunities.co.uk/ and the European Regional Development Fund Convergence programme. http://www.erdfconvergence.org.uk/post-2013 The development is predicted to create 2,500 jobs [says 700 below] and construction is due to begin in October. Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “It’s a remarkable facility, we think about 700 new jobs could be created by this investment, its badly needed in this area. Companies choosing to develop at the Aerohub will be offered tax breaks and planning regulations will be eased.