Another day, another letter in airport bid
THE group set up to revive Plymouth's airport has written a second letter to the council saying it wants to buy the site's freehold.
The Viable company has written to council leader Tudor Evans to say it sees no benefit in meeting lease-holder Sutton Harbour Holdings first.
The company says that if dealings must be conducted through SHH the airport will have "no future under any circumstances".
The group's letter has been written in response to a letter from Cllr Evans, itself penned in response to Viable's formal expression of interest in buying the freehold of the 113-acre Derriford site.
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As reported in yesterday's Herald Cllr Evans replied to Viable saying it should first talk to SHH, which has a 150-year lease He said it would be "presumptuous and inappropriate" for the council to negotiate on "an interest it does not currently own".
However, Viable's newly-appointed chief executive David Keegan says Mr Evans' letter has resulted in the "potential introduction of a third party" when it was Cllr Evans himself who laid down "five tests" for any private sector operator intent on acquiring the airport, back in July.
And Mr Keegan reiterated that Viable says it can meet these tests, which include having the wherewithal to acquire the airport, operate it without public cash, commit to running ongoing air services, have a funded long-term business plan, and show evidence of demand for, and provision of, flights.
"We meet, in full, all the specific points stipulated," he wrote, and stressed: "The interest we are looking at is a freehold procurement of the site and not a reassignment of the lease."
Mr Keegan's letter asks if SHH owns "the legal title of the site, or part thereof" and whether the council is "unable or unwilling" to sell the freehold.
He wrote: "We do not see any benefit, without fully understanding the ownership of title etc of the site, in meeting with SHH."
He continued: "Clearly, if Plymouth City Council takes the position that dealings must be conducted through and with SHH then the airport will have no future under any circumstances."
He said Viable's business model and business plan are "fully standalone, with no exit route for financial gain".
Mr Keegan renewed Viable's call for the council to agree heads of terms (HOTs), usually a non-binding agreement on details of a deal, which Viable envisages containing the agreed cost of the purchase, settlement with SHH, and any covenants and timescales.
Following that Viable would "furnish you with a detailed business model and business plan showing the airport operation and its sustainability".
"These are not unreasonable commercial terms that would generally be transacted upon in such instances," he wrote.
Mr Keegan said Viable had already met senior council officers and was due to meet them again next week, and that they were "aware of our potential interest in the site and the commercial conditions to proceed."
SHH, which closed the airport last December, this week unveiled a "masterplan" for the site, which sees it covered in houses, shops, offices and student flats.
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