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Doomed city airport should be nationalised, says council

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 25, 2012

Plymouth City Airport

Councillors in Plymouth have pledged to protect the city's former airport site from development.

A meeting of the full council also agreed yesterday to call on the Government to make the City Airport a national asset to help ensure commercial air services can operate in the future.

A resolution by Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans pledged to use the council's planning powers to safeguard the site as long as legally possible and to start a city-wide, cross-party campaign to lobby the Government to provide support for the airport.

The decision by the council followed a debate about the future of the airport, prompted by a petition signed by 37,000 people, calling for the state to take ownership of it.

Airport campaigner Maddi Bridgeman, one of the petition organisers, launched the debate in the council chamber with an impassioned speech, telling councillors: "Once the airport has gone, our prospects have gone."

Mr Evans said: "We recognise that it is not possible to protect the airport land for ever, but we will use our planning powers to protect it from development for as long as legally possible."

Councillor Ted Fry, deputy leader of the Conservative group, said he was disappointed that businesses had not used the airport as much as they might have.

"The airport is safeguarded until 2021 and I will be no party to a cheap deal which will lessen that.

"We should not be in this position because a nameless former administration agreed to a 150-year lease for Sutton Harbour Holdings. That should never have happened."

Mr Evans said he would publish a timeline of talks with the private sector over the airport so that the events leading up to the closure of the airport would be public knowledge.

Councillor Jean Nelder, a former Labour Cabinet member for transport, said its future was a strategic planning issue and should not be taken away by short-term commercial interests.

Conservative councillor Dr David Salter said: "I am deeply ashamed that this city cannot manage to support an airport. We have a university, a medical school and a major theatre, but we cannot support an airport."

He said it was not enough to write to the Prime Minister – "Plymouth airport is the responsibility of the city council."

Ian Bowyer, the former cabinet member with responsibility for the airport, said the runway needed to be extended, but "we in the council don't have resources". But he doubted that the Government would step in to nationalise it.

Cabinet member Mark Lowry added: "The last thing we want is development on the airport land. We have got masses of land for housing – at Derriford, Seaton Barracks, Laira and Sherford."

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