New studies confirm Plymouth airport not viable for aviation use
Sutton Harbour Holdings, the leaseholder, closed Plymouth airport in December 2011 and has plans to build homes, shops and offices on the site. They say there is no chance of the airport ever being reopened. Now Sutton Harbour say two expert studies it had commissioned showed that a plan by campaign group Viable to re-open the airport was “totally unrealistic”. Viable’s plans to extend the runway and airport facilities for jets would cost at least £40million and require the demolition of homes and offices. The reports also said the proposed jet aircraft would expose 6,000 people in 2,400 homes to “annoying” noise. Oakwood Primary School and 450 homes would require noise insulation, and other homeowners would need to be offered relocation packages at the airport operator’s expense. According to the reports, the cost of even a modest commercial re-opening would run into millions of pounds and still make a loss.” Viable disagrees and says it will fight on.
Studies spark new row over airport’s future
By Plymouth Herald
February 25, 2014
By KEITH ROSSITER Political Reporter @krossiter
THERE is no chance of Plymouth’s airport ever being reopened, its former operator says.
Sutton Harbour Holdings, the leaseholder, closed the airport in December 2011 and has plans to build homes, shops and offices on the site.
And yesterday the company said two expert studies it had commissioned showed that a plan by campaign group Viable to re-open the airport was “totally unrealistic”.
It said Viable’s plans to extend the runway and airport facilities for jets would cost at least £40million and require the demolition of homes and offices.
Viable last night rejected the analysis.
“It is well understood that as a business the airport was marginal but it can be made to work profitably,” Raoul Witherall its chairman, said.
SHH commissioned aviation experts Fjøri and acoustic consultants Bickerdike Allen Partners to produce studies of the airport operation.
No airline operator had been able to run a sustainable operation out of Plymouth City Airport in the past 15 years, SHH said.
The company said the two studies it commissioned highlighted the barriers to a commercially sustainable airport operation ever being re-established.
The reports said Viable’s plans to extend the runway and airport facilities for jets would cost at least £40million and require large scale demolition of nearby homes and offices due to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules on minimum runway width
They said jet aircraft would expose 6,000 people in 2,400 homes to “annoying” noise.
Oakwood Primary School and 450 homes would require noise insulation, and other homeowners would need to be offered relocation packages at the airport operator’s expense
According to the reports, the cost of even a modest commercial re-opening would run into millions of pounds and still make a loss
Fjøri managing director Alex Lake said the needs of the Plymouth population could not be delivered from this location – “not now, and not in the future”.
He said: “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.”
Viable’s plans for the site include reopening the airport as an unlicensed aerodrome, followed by two runway extensions to cater for jet aircraft.
SHH said Fjøri’s report showed that extending the runway to the length Viable wants would mean doubling its width to satisfy CAA rules.
This would require the realignment of Plymbridge Road, and the demolition of some 90 houses along Plymbridge Road, Blue Haze Close, Durris Close, St Marks Road, St Johns Close, Combley Drive and Rothbury Gardens, plus the demolition of offices and industrial premises at Estover.
Fjøri concludes that the runway extension alone would cost around £20million before multi-million pound property acquisition costs are taken into account, and require a further £20million investment in upgrading airport facilities, including a new terminal.
Fjøri’s Mr Lake added: “In common with many other cities like Nottingham, Sheffield, Ipswich, Swansea and York, Plymouth does not have a regional airport within its boundary. But it does have Exeter.”
Sutton Harbour Holdings chief executive Jason Schofield said: “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.
“These reports also prove that Viable’s proposals are simply not feasible and in our view are an unwelcome distraction.
“It is time to move on.”
VIABLE warned that it was “reckless and short-sighted” to destroy Plymouth’s transport infrastructure.
Raoul Witherall, its chairman, said that without an airport Plymouth would struggle to be taken seriously.
“Plymouth airport can be and must be reopened to resume provision of vital connectivity.
“At a time when the vulnerability of our city’s rail links has been so visibly exposed, destroying what transport infrastructure we do have is reckless and shortsighted.
“Plymouth will pay heavily for such mistakes.”
He said Viable was not a campaign group but a special purpose vehicle business run by local business people with a primary purpose of re-opening the airport and maximising its commercial potential.
“We have a plan to re-open the airport that is sustainable and has been validated, clearly demonstrating the future profitability of a resumption of passenger services at Plymouth.”
York Aviation, which has carried out work for Plymouth City Council and Transport for London, has recently completed its own study into the passenger demand for and economic benefit of a reopened Plymouth airport for Viable.
“This report shows clear current passenger demand and substantial economic benefit to Plymouth over the life of our business plan,” Mr Witherall said.
“Viable will shortly be publishing these findings.
“With the railway severed and longer term transport solutions carrying vast price tags, Plymouth needs to reflect on its underlying connectivity deficit and the tools it has in its own hands to improve matters. “Viable will be pleased to cooperate with all parties in achieving a lasting remedy that could set our city on the path with a firmer economic outlook.”
Councillors pledge to protect Plymouth Airport site
Flights from Plymouth airport stopped in July 2011. Councillors have pledged to protect Plymouth’s former airport from future development by using planning powers and by lobbying the government. A company called Sutton Harbour has a 150 year lease on the site, and closed the airport in December, saying it was no longer financially viable. It has issued its “vision” for an urban centre which includes housing, shops, a primary school and nursing home, public spaces and a theatre venue. The airport site is protected until 2021. The council wants the site protected for airport use in future, and wants government intervention to prevent other use. But the council does not have money to subsidise it. A group of businesspeople called Viable believes the airport has a commercial future as an airport.
“Viable” urge council to buy Plymouth City Airport lease
Viable Group, which is an American investment advisor located in Texas, hopes to reopen Plymouth City Airport, and wants Plymouth City Council to buy back the lease for the site. Viable Group claims its five-year plan could see 500,000 passengers using the airport afer 5 years if owners, Sutton Harbour Group (SHG), would sell the lease. Sutton bought the 150 year lease from the council in 2000. Plymouth City Council said it supported the idea in theory. Some of the land at the airport has already been earmarked for a £38m housing project. Viable wants to start off with charter services, and then go to scheduled daily domestic flights using two 19-seater planes. Then they want a 40-metre extension to the runway, allowing 90-seater jets to connect Plymouth to Europe.
Dec 23, 2011 … Plymouth Airport closed today. No aircraft will be able to use the site from this evening. The site has been used for flying since the mid-1920s.
Apr 28, 2011 … (BBC). Plymouth City Airport is to close in December, its owner has announced. … 100 people were flying out of Plymouth every day.
Jul 6, 2011 … Air Southwest flights at Plymouth Airport are to be transferred to … Air Southwest said that it will transfer all of its Plymouth flights to Newquay …