Plymouth Airport Closes

By | Category: Travel rumblings

It is unusual for an airport to close. Expansion wishes by the management yes; controversy over greenhouse emissions yes; noise pollution, yes; angry nearby residents, yes. These are the sort of stories that tend to occur. But most stories are about the withdrawal by an airline from an airport. Even Sheffield Airport which had been under threat has been given an investment boost.
The owners, Sutton Harbour Group who bought Plymouth Airport in 2000 say that it has been making a loss and therefore it would cease operating by the end of this year. That seems to conflict with their avowed aim mentioned on their website. There they say, “Now in a new century air travel is no novelty but an essential part of West Country business life.“ Obviously, no longer.
Sutton Harbour Group used to own Air Southwest but sold that last year to Eastern Airways. They are the only airline operating from Plymouth connecting it to Aberdeen, Bristol, Cork, Dublin, Glasgow, Guernsey, Jersey, Leeds Bradford and Manchester. Air Southwest also operates out of Newquay and presumably that is where some services will be transferred to. If there is a demand. Otherwise locals will have to use Exeter or, more likely, Bristol.
But has the owner let the airport slip? The website looks as though it hasn’t been updated this year as it says the group still owns Air Southwest. The “latest news” is 4th November 2010!
What happens to the airport? Will it be sold to another company? Will the land become derelict? Sutton Harbour Group has 143 years left of a 150 year lease from the council at a peppercorn rent. They intend to maintain the lease so will it be developed as a business or industrial site with commercial rents? But since their business plan is to concentrate on marine regeneration how will retaining the airport site fit in with that? Is there anything in the lease from the council that says a change of purpose means the council can profit as well? Or does Plymouth doubly lose out? As will holidaymakers and passengers who will have to drive further to catch a flight.

UPDATE: Over the weekend, Simon Calder writing inThe Independent suggested that other airports might be in danger of closing and named Blackpool, Durham Tees Valley, Humberside as candidates. Durham is up for sale as it is part of Peel Holidays which is looking to sell its airports. Humberside is owned by the Manchester Airport Group and seems an unlikely candidate for closure in the near future. Blackpool is owned by Balfour Beatty ( which also owns Exeter Airport) but despite, falling passenger numbers, they are confident. Which leaves Calder’s last named airport, City of Derry, which is council owned.
But as he points out; for such a small island do we have too many airports?

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