Sunday, 15 September 2013
Image above - an aerial view of Plymouth Aiport - courtesy of Cyber Heritage.
If you are a regular reader of my blog and/or are a citizen of Plymouth then the following writing is probably just preaching to the converted but I wanted to share my thoughts and feelings with you to respond to recent comments made by Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans. The comments I refer to were made partly on my personal facebook page.
Let's start with the thread on my facebook regarding the recent closure of Plymouth Airport, please read the thread so you can see what was said and by whom. It is strange that I haven't spoken to one non-council person who has supported the closure so it appears the only people who do support the closure are the council and Sutton Harbour Holdings (SHH), it seems bizarre that the former group would not want essential infrastructure for our 'Ocean City'? Obviously I understand why SHH would support the closure as they have a financial interest in developing the land and stand to make a sizeable amount of money from their proposed development, many new homes have already been built around the site and it seems that P.C.C have rather prematurely installed multiple car parking meters around the perimeter sealing the airports fate.
Rather foolishly the people of Plymouth listened to the Labour election campaign and listened to verbal rants suggesting that Labour would save the airport if voted in but this was merely election spin to gain votes and in reality many people were not voting Tudor in but were just voting Vivien Pengelly out. The Labour manifesto did include the following "If the Plymouth Airport closes we will mitigate the loss through a vigorous campaign of lobbying government for better transport links to Plymouth, especially more and earlier 3 hour trains from London" This statement is very different from some of the verbal claims made by Labour candidates leading up to the 2012 election and we are still waiting for a better train service and 3 hour links to London. So, once again, Labour have failed us, not that I am suggesting that the Conservatives are offering us anything better, we simply remain with Hobson's Choice as we have done for many years.
Going back to SHH and PCC we are still waiting to to find out what happened to the huge sum of money given to SHH in relation to the airport but we are merely told there are commercial sensitivity agreements in place and therefore we can't be told even though it is our money as we are the taxpayers.
The most interesting point for me is that Tudor and his party keep telling us that the Airport is not financially viable but I question that as even if the airport did run at a loss surely the benefit it would have to our city would outweigh that loss substantially. I have heard various figures and the most interesting came in the form of a recent article published by the BBC and the Plymouth City Airport Economic Study into Air Service presented to the cabinet on 23/08/11. Whilst Professor Begg may argue that the airport is not financially sustainable and that we should instead rely on rail links I pose the following question; The airport subsidy would stand at £1 million pounds a year so if we hadn't built the Life Centre, for example, then we could have supported the airport for at least another 50 years, the annual revenue raised by our bus lane cameras could also be used an an alternative means to fund the subsidy in fact there are many ways we could raise this money but none of these are being looked at by our council.
Aviation consultant Laurie Price agrees (comments taken from the BBC article "There is a strong case for reopening the airport. Plymouth is struggling as its port declines and it is going to be hard for it to find a new role with such poor transport links, he says. About 15 years ago there used to be an "extremely good" Plymouth-to-Heathrow service. The airline was profitable, the airport just about broke even, and taken together the service was viable, he says. But higher airport charges and competition from Newquay hit Plymouth hard. A fundamental part of a hub airport is that it connects with the regions, he says. "If we're putting funds into areas for regional development then why not subsidise an airport? They do it in Europe." I find Laurie's comments particularly encouraging as Newquay Airport is now reducing it services.
Even if the current location is not the right place for an airport, as we would ideally need a longer runway, we still need to campaign for our own air services as this is the best way to boost business and tourism in the area. If we are to be a real City of Culture and 'Britain's Ocean City' then lets allow people to reach us easily. Unfortunately the only way we are going to achieve this is with a different council and I don't think that either the Conservatives or Labour are capable of the task as their own agendas and politics always get in the way of what is best for the people of Plymouth and what is best for the long term future of Plymouth.
I will follow up this blog with a response to Tudor Evan's comment on the Home Park Developments.