Lib Dems urge minister to intervene over airport
BUSINESS Secretary Vince Cable has been urged to step into the row over the future of Plymouth City Airport.
The city's Liberal Democrats have written to Dr Cable asking him to visit the airport, which was closed last December.
Peter York, president of Plymouth's Lib Dems, has written to the Business Secretary asking him to order a detailed report into the impact that closing the airport is having on the city's economy.
And he calls on Dr Cable to intervene in the row "in some way".
Airport operators Sutton Harbour closed the airport last year, saying it was no longer viable.
The previous Conservative administration commissioned two reports which backed up Sutton Harbour's claims.
And new council leader Tudor Evans delivered a blow to airport campaigners, who last week presented him with a petition of more than 37,000 signatures.
Mr Evans told The Herald that if a suitable operator did not come forward by next summer a decision on whether to release the land to housing would have to be made.
In his letter, Lib Dem leader Peter York also invited Dr Cable to visit Plymouth.
He said local people "do not deserve to be suffering now from the inept and short-sighted mismanagement of the previous Conservative administration; nor from the cynical opportunism of the Labour Party".
Mr York added: "Plymouth is the largest urban centre west of Bristol. And yet its motorway links are via Exeter and Bristol, which gives these cities a considerable competitive advantage.
"Its rail link is via Dawlish and, with rising sea levels and erosion of the coast, is in danger of falling away into the sea. There is now no direct air link."
He said the only way out of the impasse was for there to be some kind of initiative from the coalition Government.
"The airport lies at the centre of four highly marginal constituencies, in all of which the Conservatives are one of the disputing parties.
"Your Conservative colleagues in the Cabinet may realise that it would be in their own interests to undo some of the damage done by their irresponsible colleagues at the local level."
Cllr Vivien Pengelly, leader of the Conservative group on the council, said yesterday: "I think it's shocking to develop the airport for housing. I have said this from day one, that it should stay as airport land.
"In a few years there might be someone who will want to open it again.
"Once the land is sold for housing, that's the end of it. There is nowhere else around Plymouth.
"Plymouth has an ambition to grow and a bigger city is more likely to be able to support and airport."
She said that were already "massive amounts" of land earmarked for housing – at Sherford, Plymstock Quarry and Millbay, Derriford.
This week the All Party Parliamentary Group on Aviation called on the Government to designate regions a quota of any new landing slots at London airports, or to subsidise protected routes.
Labour MP Brian Donohoe, a member of the group, said: "Unless there are connections to the Westcountry from the hub of Heathrow the potential for inward investment will be affected."
The Herald was unable to contact Cllr Evans for comment.