Plymouth City Council is considering reopening Plymouth Airport and has applied for support from the Govt’s Airfield Development Advisory Fund.
The Council has submitted a bid to the Airfield Fund, managed by the Department for Transport and the CAA, to get a clear picture of what level of investment would be needed to reopen the airport for commercial passenger services.
The advice available includes planning and conservation policy, accountancy, business model development, marketing strategy and innovation.
Plymouth Council leader Tudor Evans said, “This new fund is just a month old but it has been set up specifically to offer advice. We said we would explore any options, ideas and opportunities which come our way and that’s what we are doing.
“We’ve all seen the aviation industry change dramatically over the last year and who knows what direction it will take.”
Plymouth Airport closed in 2011 when the then operator, Sutton Harbour Group, a local property development company, invoked an ‘Armageddon Clause’ in its contract with the council, saying the airport could not be operated profitably. SHG wanted to develop the site instead with a mixed use ‘garden village’ concept. This was headed off by planners who safeguarded the site for aviation until 2024.
However SHG has itself had changes, with a new owner in 2018, and is now concentrating on waterfront developments.
Business leaders and some councillors have publicly stated a desire for the airport to return, citing an inadequate rail service and other strained travel links. FlyPlymouth is the local campaign set up to restore the airport to mixed general and commercial aviation.
Plymouth City Council has appointed an aviation consultant to proactively approach potential operators to assess the appetite for a private sector solution. Any operator would have to meet five conditions set by the council:
- To acquire ownership of the airport and associated infrastructure
- To operate without the need for public subsidy
- To have an ongoing commitment to air services
- To have a fully-funded long-term business plan
- To clearly evidence public demand for Plymouth air services.