Plymouth Airport’s prospects look brighter for 2019

The future of Plymouth Airport in the UK certainly looks positive for 2019. Following a proposal from Sutton Harbour Holdings plc (SHH) – the long-lease holder of the former airfield – to develop the 113-acre site into a housing development, the initial advice from the government planning inspector indicates that she is not minded to modify the City Council’s policies that safeguard the airport for aviation use in the Joint Local Plan. The inspector’s final report is unlikely to appear before March this year.

The airport was closed in 2011 after SHH declared it was not commercially viable.

FlyPlymouth (an airport operator-in-waiting) was set up in 2015 with the aim of acquiring the airfield lease, reopening the facility, reintroducing passenger services and creating a business park around the airstrip. It has concentrated on developing the first stage of its business plan around general and business aviation while the airport is recommissioned and built up again.

Following a public meeting at the end of last year, FlyPlymouth is now confident that its strategy to acquire the airport at a fair market value once the Joint Local Plan process has completed now appears both realistic and achievable. The task now is to engage with all the stakeholders to work towards a commercial transaction.

While the airport’s sustainability was historically tied solely to scheduled passenger services on a low-cost carrier model, the consensus is that to repeat this model in the early phases of reopening would expose the airport to unacceptable risk. What’s more in the three years preceding the airport’s closure 75% of air traffic movements were general aviation. Hence the decision to focus on business and general aviation while passenger volumes and demand is being rebuilt.

Once the airport is stabilised, FlyPlymouth expects that scheduled services will once again play an integral role in the future of the airport.

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