Southend airport – Firms foresee return to airport’s golden age
BUSINESSES are looking forward to a second golden age of the once-buzzing Southend
A bold blueprint to expand has been announced by Rochford and Southend councils
and it is hoped the proposed train terminal and longer runway will help create
3,000 jobs. (See below).
Keith Hudson, deputy leader of Rochford District Council, said: “For many years
our airport has languished and now we will see a renaissance.”
His views are shared by firms based at the site and the proposed expansion has
been welcomed by companies eager to see passenger numbers return to that of the
1960s, when figures reached 700,000 passenger flights in a year. [error – this should say 700,000 passengers per year]
This has tailed off to around 30,000, but with the planned expansion it is hoped
numbers could reach up to two million a year.
Firms at the airport are welcoming expansion and hope to improve on the 1,000
jobs directly connected to the airport.
The maths is simple. More planes would lead to a greater demand for skilled
engineers. And Southend is full of potential, according to engineering firm ATC
Manager Ian Dorling said the firm is in the third year of taking on engineering
apprentices from Prospects College.
A handful of bright youngsters work with the firm and over a few years they develop
into engineers, complete with City and Guilds certificates.
Mr Dorling said: “There is a wealth of good, young talent here in Southend and
I think those people who are likely to benefit from expansion are the young people
He added skilled engineers and other workers often leave the airport to go to
bigger sites such as Stansted and Luton, but this could be turned around by success
Expansion at the airport would go hand-in-hand with expanding training for young
ATC Lasham is in talks with Prospects College and hopes one day potential engineers
can get a specialised qualification, which means they are authorised to inspect
work carried out on planes.
At the moment apprentices learn about how to mend and fix metal at the college
and their training is completed with skilled workers at the firm to get a City
and Guilds in aeronautical engineering.
But the firm, like many others, is not concentrating on what may just be pie
in the sky. There is a note of realism which is keeping their feet on the ground.
Mr Dorling explained: “I don’t think the benefits of expansion will be immediate.”
Bob Peck, the managing director of Inflite, an aviation maintenance and engineering
company, is confident the development at the airport will not only bring increased
business for firms already based there, but could see a growth in smaller companies
moving into the area.
“The introduction of a new airline operator, using the airport for regular scheduled
flights, will automatically increase the traffic loads and so give the opportunity
of new business to existing maintenance firms at the airport,” he said.
“The planned airport growth with its new infrastructure, will also mean larger
passenger aircraft will be able to operate in and out of the airport comfortably.
“I think any major airline operator based here, or utilising the airport, would
encourage smaller operators to consider basing their own operations here. Southend
Airport has, this last year, been investing in improving terminal and airport
facilities and this has been a confidence booster for firms at the airport.”
Despite the current credit crunch, Mr Peck is confident the economic situation
won’t put off a potential new buyer for the airport.
He said: “I think expansion here will still go ahead.
“From a developer’s point of view they will face the same situation wherever
“Inflite is already developing and expanding its own facility by building new
workshops that will allow a 33% increase in capacity at the site.
“We are also installing new enlarged, electrically-operated hangar doors that
will allow us to cope with larger passenger aircraft.
“Employing local engineering staff and bringing on apprentice engineers is key
to our developing future.”
For now, firms are left waiting for a new operator to take over the airport and
stump up the millions needed for the ambitious plans before things really take
Posted by: Richard Elmer on Today
Minor point – it should read 700,000 passengers
per year, not flights per year.
Posted by: southendreb, southend on Today
Training on the job by people that know about engineering. Isn’t that what happened
in the 60s. hopefully the wheel will go full circle, What we need now is a man
with vision and drive, Any more Freddie Lakers out there.
Posted by: dave turner on Today
Could some kind person please inform me where the alleged 30,000 passengers
a year fly depart for and how many flights are involved.
I was under the impression that the runway is too short for most modern planes
to take off fully laden.
If flights are operating 50 weeks a year, this means 600 per week.
Maybe the “Echo” has not yet got a proof reader for the articles they print.
Posted by: Norfolk on Today
The bulk of those passengers are Ford employees on the company shuttle to and
from Cologne. These flights operate twice daily Tuesday to Thursdays and once
daily on Mondays and Fridays. They use their own BAe146 aircraft.
Posted by: southendreb, southend on Today
It seems the optimistic figures of extra 3,000. jobs and 2 million passengers
are dreamed up by southend and Rochford councils , Better discount those figures.
The London Southend Airport Joint Area Action Plan
was launched on 26th June 2008.
Details can be found on Southend Borough Council’s website, at:
The Joint Area Action Plan (JAAP) is being prepared by Southend-on-Sea Borough
Council and Rochford District Council in response to the challenges and opportunities
offered by Lond
on Southend Airport together with an airport related employment cluster. Its
preparation is in accordance with the provisions of the Planning and Compulsory
Purchase Act 2004 which allows for the preparation of a development plan document
(DPD) by two or more local authorities. Area Action Plans are new-style planning
documents that are targeted at areas of significant change and conservation. They
should integrate land use, transport and regeneration proposals with clear mechanisms
for delivery. The JAAP will provide the basis for coordinating the actions of
a range of partners with an interest in the London Southend Airport and environs
and establish planning policies until 2021. It will:
- Manage growth and change in the area by establishing development and design principles
- Ensure the protection of areas and places sensitive to change
- Direct investment and form the basis for regeneration in the area
- Be deliverable.
The JAAP will provide the framework for the regeneration and expansion of economic
growth by providing opportunities for a range of economic, social, environmental
and transport benefits. It builds on policies in the Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
and Rochford District Council Core Strategies and Community Strategies which provide
the overarching strategic policy frameworks for the development of London Southend
Airport and environs.
A key step in the process of establishing the JAAP is the preparation of an ‘Issues
and Options’ report that provides an opportunity for all interested parties to
have their say in the future development of London Southend Airport and Environs.
It sets out the initial analysis and potential spatial plans for the development
of London Southend Airport and Environs in the period to 2021 that have been derived
from the evidence base and analysis. It also sets out the vision and objectives
of the area, the key issues facing it and options for the future.
The feedback received from this document will play an important role in the development
of the JAAP. An online facility has been created that enables comments to be submitted
quickly and easily; this can be found at Rochford.jdi.
We recognise that not everyone has access to the internet and that it is important
that no one is excluded from participating. If you wish to submit your views but
are unable to do so via the internet or would like a hardcopy of the document,
then please contact:
FAO Debee Skinner
Southend on Sea Borough Council
PO Box 5557
Tel: 01702 215408
Submissions must be received by 5pm on 8th August 2008.
Reviewed 26 June 2008
There are many large documents for the JAAP – available at:
In the “Issues and Options” section, these three alternatives are put forward:
i) Continue the current airport model (MRO = Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul – focus).
The low investment option for the airport would continue to see incremental growth
the functioning of the airport using its current infrastructure. Growth in activity
at the airport has been limited in the recent past and very much focused towards
expansion of the MRO functioning of the airport. Aircraft movements are currently
in the order of 39,000 movements per annum and would be anticipated to increase
to around 50,000 movements per annum (last seen in 2000).
Investment would be restricted to redevelopment or improvement of existing London
Southend Airport & Environs Joint Area Action Plan Issues & Options Report
facilities and limited MRO opportunities as they come forward. Within this constraint
the result would be limited growth in passenger numbers from a current level of
30,000 passengers per annum*, but this would be constrained by the fact that limited
operators would find the airport an attractive commercial proposition given its
facilities and catchment. In terms of economic benefits, new employment would
be limited to MRO growth and any wider aviation clustering opportunities would
be restricted. The airport, however, would not be the economic driver required
by Southend and Rochford to help achieve employment aspirations.
ii) Airport growth: existing runway and new facilities.
The Airport Masterplan 2005 sets out a vision for how the airport could grow
being a regional airport based on using its current runway (length 1,610 metres).
The key to this option is the provision of new passenger infrastructure in the
form of a new railway station for the airport and investment in new passenger
terminal facilities. The importance of the railway is fundamental to increasing
the attractiveness of the airport to potential airline operators as it increases
the size of the passenger catchment to include core markets within London (by
reducing the travel time to the airport).
With this investment, the airport masterplan indicates there is the potential
to increase passenger movements at the airport to around 1 million passengers
by 2012 and up
to 2 million passengers by 2030.
Independent analysis of the masterplan forecasts undertaken by York Aviation
highlight that while they are theoretically achievable, they are highly optimistic
given the airport would remain constrained to airlines who operate smaller aircraft.
In this regard there is a high level of risk associated with this option. The
economic reality is that passenger operators are operating larger and more efficient
aircraft and will view the airport as a constraint to commercial operation.
This then casts doubt on whether the investment in the infrastructure is viable
to proceed. In terms of economic benefits, growth of the airport would underpin
the wider aspirations of the area but are relatively high risk in respect of potential
deliverability given the reality of the situation.
* So u r ce: CAA Annual Airport Statistics, 2006
iii) Airport growth: extended runway and new facilities.
The final option for the future of the airport is based on the option above with
addition of increasing the length of the runway (up to 1,799 metres).
This addition has an important impact in terms of the capacity potential of the
airport and its resultant attractiveness to airline operators. Currently the
runway is an identified constraint on the operation of the airport. By lengthening
the runway [to the south-west] across Eastwoodbury Lane into the current RESA
(= Runway End Safety Area) area it would mean that larger aircraft (such as Boeing
737s) would be able to be operated fully laden out of the airport for business
and passenger uses, making the airport a more attractive fixed base for a wider
range of operators.
The airport is likely to grow faster to a capped passenger capacity of two mppa
[2 million passengers per annum] because given the new runway and railway station
it would attract two or three fixed base operators to the airport in a relatively
short period of time.
The lengthened runway would also give a boost to the business market and MRO
markets by attracting new fleets and making the airport a more efficient base
for these purposes. Given the growth on the airport is dependent on its ability
to attract operators (through offering an enhanced asset) the risks of this option
are greatly reduced.
The likelihood of reaching the passenger forecasts is strong which in turn improves
the potential for investment in the other assets of the railway station, passenger
terminal, and supporting facilities. In economic benefit terms the airport under
this option would clearly act as a driver for the local economy, providing direct
employment as well as enhanced opportunities for wider aviation-related and business