Council ordered to hold public consultation on Plymouth City Airport
THE fate of the city's airport was thrown back into the hands of Plymouth people today.
Only days after the latest phase of the save-the-airport campaign culminated in a bundle of letters being delivered to Downing Street, planners are asking the public what they want done with land at Roborough.
The city council has been forced to reopen its public consultation on the development blueprint for the North of Plymouth after the airport operator published major development proposals.
Sutton Harbour Holdings closed the airport last December, and earlier this year the council removed the land from its draft Derriford and Seaton area action plan, saying it should be considered separately.
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But in August the company submitted a masterplan to develop homes, offices and a large shopping centre on the land, on which it holds a 150-year lease. Sutton Harbour submitted the masterplan in response to an earlier public consultation on the area action plan.
The plan, drawn up by Plymouth architects AWW, includes proposals for a variety of uses including a new district centre, housing, employment uses and open space that have not been considered by the council.
As a result the planning inspectorate has told the council it must hold more public consultation.
People will now be able to comment directly on the Sutton Harbour Holdings proposal to use airport land as a district centre.
The extra consultation means the council has had to change its timetable for the area action plan and a related "addendum sustainability appraisal". People will be able to have their say from today until 5pm on December 7.
The area action plan will be submitted to the Secretary of State later in December. An independent examination will take place in March or April next year, and a planning inspector will hold a public examination to ensure that the plan has been prepared properly, is right for the area and takes into account the comments that have been made.
The inspector's report is expected to be published in July next year, and the area action plan will be adopted in August.
Paul Barnard, the city's assistant director for planning, said: "As a local planning authority we are obliged to consult on this significant proposal as it has been submitted as a statutory representation and offers an alternative district centre.
"While Sutton Harbour Holdings and any other interested parties can respond to consultations in any way they wish, our earlier decision to remove the airport site from the area action plan remains. We want the future of the land to be part of the new Plymouth Plan conversations."
The land is identified as an airport in the city's Core Strategy and will remain so for another nine years – or until it is replaced by the Plymouth Plan.
Airport campaigner Maddi Bridgeman said: "This is incredibly frustrating, but at least it's keeping the issue in people's minds."
She urged people to have their say on the consultation, but added: "How many times are we going to have to write? Council leader Tudor Evans has received nearly 400 letters and emails."
Plymouth Moor View MP Alison Seabeck delivered a bundle of letters, emails and a petition with nearly 38,000 signatures to Downing Street earlier this week.
The petition, organised by Mrs Bridgeman and other members of the airport campaign group Viable, had triggered a city council debate.
During the debate Cllr Evans called on The Herald to spearhead the campaign to get people to write to the Prime Minister asking him to intervene to save the airport.
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