Plymouth City Airport urges council to stop going begging to Whitehall
AIRPORT campaigners have urged Plymouth to stop going cap in hand to Whitehall – and to stand on its own two feet.
The Viable group was reacting to news that, as reported in yesterday's Herald, the Government has rejected pleas to rescue Plymouth's airport.
Raoul Witherall, Viable's chairman, said: "Plymouth must stop going cap in hand to Whitehall and learn to stand on its own two feet.
"We are no longer in the 1960s and it is not the place of central Government to intervene in matters of this kind."
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Stephen Redfarn, a leading businessman, said the city should focus on "the art of the possible".
The group started its bid to raise funds for legal costs at a public meeting in the city last night.
People who attended the meeting at the Future Inn hotel in Derriford handed over cash donations.
It is estimated the group will need at least £10,000 to pay legal costs in its bid to take over the airport.
Mr Witherall suggested it may be possible to have people set up standing orders to an account every month as a source of regular income.
"This is the only way to snatch the airport from the fire," he said. "It has to be privately funded."
But it was stressed that donations would be used purely for legal fees and not for any expenses the Viable board incur.
Council leader Tudor Evans disclosed earlier this week that the Government had refused pleas for state intervention to save Plymouth City Airport, which was closed in December 2011 by its operators Sutton Harbour Holdings.
Councillor Evans said he met Transport Minister Simon Burns in London, and was told there was no possibility of a Government bail-out for the airport.
Mr Burns told him Plymouth people should use Exeter Airport.
Sutton Harbour, which holds a 150-year lease on the airport land, has produced a masterplan to develop a new community of houses, shops and offices on the 113-acre site.
Mr Witherall told The Herald: "We must protect and make the most of what assets we do have, and our airport comes high on that list."
He said Plymouth should not have to rely on Exeter Airport, which he said was vulnerable, competing for the same markets as Bournemouth and Bristol.
"Exeter does nothing to support Plymouth links to London or any forms of inward investment to our city," Mr Witherall said.
"Viable has made a formal offer of cash to acquire the airport based on a fair market valuation as an airport.
"Now that the option of nationalisation has been rejected by the Government, we hope the city council will turn its efforts towards a more achievable goal."
Mr Redfarn, the former chief executive of Westcountry Television, was part of a consortium which bid for Exeter Airport about five years ago.
He said his investors then "saw the writing on the wall" for airports.
"It's difficult to see where Plymouth City Airport will raise the money now," Mr Redfarn added.
"We have to be careful not to use our firepower on issues that are not going to get anywhere.
"Plymouth ought to be focusing on rail links.
"This is about the art of the possible."