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City blocks plans for homes on airport site

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 04, 2012

Ambitious plans to build houses, shops, offices and student flats on the site of Plymouth's former airport have been knocked back by the city's leader.

Sutton Harbour Holdings, which closed the airport last December, has drawn up a masterplan for a new "urban centre" for the north of Plymouth.

The company holds a 150-year-lease from Plymouth City Council on the airport. But Council leader Tudor Evans poured cold water on the proposal.

Councillor Evans said: "That land is designated as an airport in the core strategy and remains designated as an airport until such time as the strategy is revised.

"The current protection for the airport is already in place under the core strategy for another nine years. To do anything else on the site would require the council to change the designation and I have not given any indication that I want that to happen.

"We are still working on the basis that we want the site to remain an airport until every possible opportunity has been exhausted."

Save-the-airport group Viable vowed to fight any redevelopment of the site. It has presented a petition of more than 37,000 signatures to Mr Evans.

Raoul Witherall, director of Viable, said: "The people of Plymouth have just made very clear that they wish to see the airport protected from redevelopment.

"The strongest support comes from the areas closest to the airport. People living and working there will not welcome the prospect of a large new housing estate and the extra strain it will place on the already congested roads.

"We will fight any proposed redevelopment on the site vigorously.

"Plymouth has plenty of housing and shops. And there are better locations in the city where these can be built.

"What Plymouth lacks are high quality transport links and businesses and families want to see the airport operating again.

"We will shortly be announcing our own bid to acquire and reopen the airport funded fully by private sector investment."

Business leaders said the city should have an airport but it was right to explore other avenues.

David Parlby, chief executive of Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, said: "The chamber's view is that we feel the city should have an airport, but we also recognise the financial challenges of having one.

"We agreed with the council that they should not put more public money into the airport. Our own investigations revealed that there isn't a private sector appetite, and we have not yet seen Viable's specific plans.

"Our view, unfortunately, is that without significant private sector financing the airport isn't going to happen here."

He added: "I think it's sensible to explore plans for developing the land. Whether Sutton Harbour's plan is the right one is a moot point. It could be used as an industrial or commercial business park, an enterprise area or a business park."

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