Airport campaigners 'in talks'
THE group that wants to reopen Plymouth's closed down airport says its plans are "very much alive and gaining momentum" and it is in talks with backers who could bankroll a rejuvenated airstrip.
Raoul Witherall, chairman of the Viable group, said it was working on four separate funding projects with "various backers".
He said: "Any one of these would very comfortably provide for an entirely private sector solution to reopen, operate and expand Plymouth airport."
He said details remain confidential for the time being but would be revealed once terms are signed.
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It comes as Sutton Harbour Holdings, which has a 150-year lease on the 104-acre site at Derriford, questioned the financial appetite for re-opening the airport, and recent comments from Plymouth City Council that it could not financially support a rescue operation.
But Mr Witherall was unfazed and said: "The council had made its position on funding quite clear back in February and Viable has been working to that framework."
Meanwhile, he stressed that Viable's operational management team has been expanded and is now "fully capable of delivering safe and efficient operations at a reopened Plymouth airport".
He said a new research is under way to assess the economic impact of the airport, claiming the Berkeley Hanover report, which could not identify "an economic rationale" for the council to underwrite commercial risks, only examined the economic value at the point at which services were withdrawn.
"Viable's will present a more complete picture," he said.
The group's business plan to reopen and expand the airport has been presented in outline form and is available on website, he said, but stressed: "Viable's proposals for funding and operational details of costs and revenues are commercially confidential and will not be available in the public domain."
But he said Viable had "significant public support" with about 25,000 people signing a petition with will be presented to the council later this summer.
"It is simply not factual that more people signed for the airport than used it," said Mr Witherall. "Last annual passenger numbers were 125,000, the fastest growth figure for a UK airport in 2009-10."