In the Spring Budget the Chancellor George Osborne announced a Government Study into the viability of re-opening Plymouth Airport. The study is being undertaken by the Department for Transport. FlyPlymouth has been closely involved in the preparations for the study.
Initially it had been hoped that it would be concluded by Christmas. However, in common with many infrastructure projects, delays occur for a variety of reasons. We now expect the study to be concluded some time in 2016.
We remain in close contact with our MPs regarding the Government's role in supporting the re-opening of Plymouth Airport and are confident the outcome of the study will conclude that Plymouth Airport is a vital part of the South West's transport infrastructure and is capable of being operated successfully.
We were pleased to see that Plymouth City Council adopted a number of the modifications we proposed to the first draft of Part 1 of the Plymouth Plan. This included protection of the airport airspace against incompatible development.
Part 1 of the Plymouth Plan sets out the main strategy for development in the city until 2031. Speculation that the airport might be redeveloped for housing failed to recognise that there are other locations in and around the city that can serve the need for new homes, but there is only one location where an airport can be located and that is the present site.
Part 2 of the Plymouth Plan has been issued in draft form and is open for the collection of views until January 2016. To have your say in Part 2 visit the Plymouth Plan website.
It has been widely reported that a decision on expansion of runway capacity in South East England will be delayed into 2016 while further studies into environmental effects are evaluated. This clearly demonstrates the difficulties of developing new runways and demonstrates the wisdom of Plymouth City Council's policy to safeguard Plymouth Airport for aviation use in the Plymouth Plan.
FlyPlymouth's plans are not affected by the issue of runway capacity in the South East. London is just one of the routes that we plan to operate from Plymouth and while connections to Heathrow would be desirable we haven't assumed they will happen for at least 10 years. Plymouth could benefit significantly from flights to and from an inter-continental hub airport and we would like to deliver this as soon as possible irrespective of any decision on new runway capacity in South East England.
Last year the Government published its General Aviation Strategy, which was aimed at growing the UK's £3 Billion per year general aviation industry. The strategy promised to boost planning policy protection to protect a network of general aviation airfields across the UK and thus boost economic growth.
However, there was a potential planning policy anomaly because previously developed land is generally regarded as being more appropriate for new development than "greenfield" land. This lead to speculation that getting planning permission to develop airfields for other uses would be easier than greenfield land. A parliamentary petition was raised to "Keep airfields greenfields". You can read and sign the petition here
The Government has issued a response to the petition that clarifies the status of airfields. In summary, the clarification makes it clear that the open spaces at airfields (i.e. runways, taxiways and other open land) should not be assumed to be suitable for redevelopment for other uses.