Boris Johnson's plan could reopen Plymouth City Airport
BUSINESSES have been told a new airport east of London would give Plymouth its best chance of connecting to emerging global markets – and even rescue the city's closed airstrip.
A team sent by London Mayor Boris Johnson presented plans to more than 60 city business leaders at two seminars.
They said Mr Johnson's proposals for a new four-runway international air hub, including the famed "Boris Island" proposition, offered Plymouth its best shot at an economic renaissance by plugging the city into world markets.
The Mayor of London's Aviation Team told businesses a new aerodrome in the Thames Estuary area would even present a lifeline for the closed Plymouth City Airport, which could feed flights into the hub.
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And even if reopening the Derriford airstrip turns out to be a non-starter, improved road and rail links expected with any new London airport would mean it would take no longer to reach than Heathrow does now.
Guy Lavis, external affairs lead for the Mayor of London's Aviation Work Programme, told The Herald: "A four-runway hub gives Plymouth and the South West the best possible chance of hub connection.
"It could be a re-opened Plymouth, or Exeter, or Newquay connecting to a UK international airport.
"That gives business people in the South West the best chance to get to globally emerging cities in places like China and South America.
"It can only benefit the South West."
He said that while "the market" would determine if reopening Plymouth's airport was feasible, a demand for air travel "would make it more likely". Mr Lavis said the airport's demise nearly two years ago was due to the loss of a "critical link" with Heathrow in 1997.
"Only a new four-runway hub will give Plymouth and the South West the only chance to restore that link," he said. "People understand that Heathrow has failed the South West. Even a third runway at Heathrow will never restore that connection to the South West."
He said that even if Plymouth's airport was not reopened, new high speed rail links through London would mean "you could get from Plymouth and the South West in no longer than to Heathrow currently."
Mr Lavis, and colleague Chris Moores, briefed about 40 Chamber of Commerce members yesterday at Boringdon Hall. The night before he outlined plans to 25 of the Chamber's Stakeholder Group at City College Plymouth.
The London Mayor wants a new airport built because Heathrow is struggling to meet growing demand for air travel.
The Government set up the Airports Commission to recommend how the UK solve this capacity crisis.
The Commission will make an interim report in December which Mr Johnson's team hopes will include at least one of three proposals he has put forward: either rebuilding Stansted, creating an inner estuary airport, or a "floating" aerodrome in the estuary; the so-called "Boris Island".
David Parlby, chief executive of Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, said: "This briefing outlined many potential benefits of the outlined plans, as well as some problems and concerns surrounding impact on businesses.
"I am hopeful South West businesses will continue to be involved in the discussion."
The Commission reports in 2015.