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Plymouth City Airport revival group unveils its masterplan

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 11, 2012


A private sector group aiming to revive Plymouth Airport has revealed a rival masterplan which it hopes would connect the Westcountry to the rest of the world within a decade.

The Viable company, made up of businesses and members of the public and which last week told Plymouth City Council it wanted to buy the freehold of the site, said it has the financial backing.

The group plans to have flights to Britain and western Europe within two years, and has a plan to create a hub with worldwide reach in five to 10 years.

Its plan comes just a week after site leaseholder Sutton Harbour Holdings (SHH), which closed the airport last year, revealed its own “masterplan” to build on the site.

However, Viable’s plan revolves around it buying the site at Derriford in the city and another package of land adjoining it, so the runway could be extended.

Council leader Tudor Evans last week replied to Viable chief executive David Keegan’s offer to buy the site by telling Viable to first talk to SHH. But Viable has now said it is still in talks with the council about both the airport and extension land; and the Una Group company, which also owns land the extended runway would need.

Viable, which now has 400 members, envisages modern 100-seater jets and turboprops using the airport, with flights initially to Stansted, Manchester and Dublin, and then connecting to hundreds of international destinations.

Raoul Witherall, Viable’s chairman, said the organisation has “excellent direct relations with a number of investors and is confident of the project’s funding.”

This means an initial “vision”, released last December, which envisaged a new terminal built and land turned over for lucrative commercial use to fund airport development, is no longer a requisite.

“Viable has revised its plans in favour of securing the external investment needed to acquire the airport,” Mr Witherall said. “Profitable operations at Plymouth are possible assuming a fair market price is paid for the airport.

“The group has put together the business team and operational management that it is confident can deliver and operate a profitable aviation business for the city.”

He added: “One benefit for Plymouth of private investment is projects which will allow revenue to grow more quickly – such as the runway extension – become higher priority and are more likely to occur sooner after the airport's reopening. Viable’s plans include maximisation of space and facilities for aviation together with the extension of the runway to 1,199 metres, the maximum the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) will approve on the width of airfield available.”

He said Viable still plans to develop “modern terminal facilities” and create a “well-connected modern gateway”.

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