Plymouth loses 'vital link' airport

Plymouth City Airport has no option but to close because it does not have enough passengers to justify keeping it open, the head of its parent company said today.

The Sutton Harbour Group (SHG) announced to the Stock Exchange this morning that it would close the loss-making Devon transport hub in December, putting 56 jobs at risk.



Its chief executive, Nigel Godefroy, said the loss in February of flights connecting Plymouth with London, which accounted for half the airport's passengers, coupled with the troubled national economy, meant it was no longer financially viable. The airport is due to make a loss of £1 million this year.



"We have fought tooth and nail to do our best for the city. But we are in a situation where it was not sustainable for a commercial organisation," Mr Godefroy said.



"Ultimately it is all about bums on seats. We were down to less than 100 passengers per day.



"I think the lack of people using the airport indicates it is perhaps not as important (to the city) as I would have hoped and indeed others would have hoped."



SHG has owned the airport for 11 years, during which time it even launched a new airline, Air Southwest, to link Plymouth with London when the previous provider pulled out.



However, the airport had been increasingly marginalised by fierce competition in the South West with larger airports in Newquay and Exeter, and hampered by having a short runway that is unable to accommodate large passenger airliners.



Air Southwest was sold off by SHG in November last year, as it struggled against competition locally from Exeter-based Flybe. Its new owner, Hull-based Eastern Airways, axed a number of routes from Plymouth, including the Gatwick flights, in a bid to cut costs.



Air Southwest said today said it would continue to operate flights from Plymouth until it closed and after that it would operate from Newquay and Bristol.



The latest Civil Aviation Authority figures showed that Plymouth Airport had 128,603 passengers last year, but just 96,498 were passengers using it as a take off or arrival point.



Some of the land at the airport is already earmarked for housing, with a £38 million project in the planning system for homes on what was the airport's disused second runway.



Tim Jones, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, said losing the airport was a huge blow to the city and urged SHG and Plymouth City Council, which owns the land on which it is built, not to use it for housing or any other use. He suggested it could be "mothballed" for five years until the economy picks up.



"Its value as an airport is in excess of £1 billion, that is what it would cost to build again from scratch," he said.



"Using the land for housing would only recoup around £40 million.



"If the city had a motorway or a fast train line this move would be more palatable. But without them the airport is a vital transport link."









David Parlby, chief executive of the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, said he hoped that the airport could survive as a smaller "aerodrome" set-up.



"It is not good news for Plymouth but it is not entirely unexpected," he said.



"SHG is losing £1 million per year, which is something that is not sustainable. What we would like to see is a scaled down aerodrome version of the airport and an increase in the number of three-hour trains from London to Plymouth, which combined would help lessen the impact of this decision."



Plymouth City Council said it was "disappointed" by the decision to close the airport but understood "the commercial decision as the company has been operating in a difficult and challenging market as seen generally across the regional aviation industry".



A council spokeswoman said: "Under the terms of the lease we have until late December to explore all options for the airport and have been working closely with Sutton Harbour to try and secure a sustainable future for the airport.



"This has included talking to different potential airport operators, 16 commercial airlines as well as the Civil Aviation Authority to examine all possible models for the future running of the airport."



She added that the council had appointed an external accountant to "assess the airport's viability" and commissioned a study to explore "focus on potential new operating models as well as take account of the city's wider transport connectivity".



This will look at the possibility of faster, more frequent trains to London and "securing the new generation fibre optic internet connections for Plymouth".

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

Arts and Entertainment
Liam and Zayn of One Direction play with a chimpanzee on the set of their new video for 'Steal My Girl'
music

Animal welfare charities have urged the boy band to cut the scenes

News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin married in Venice yesterday
peopleAmal and George Clooney 'planning third celebration in England'
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley at the premiere of Laggie at Toronto Film Festival 2014
theatreActress 'to make Broadway debut'
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

£50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

CTO / Chief Technology Officer

£100 - 125k: Guru Careers: A CTO / Chief Technology Officer is needed to join ...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker