Plans to create a form of enterprise zone at Blackpool Airport could face an uphill battle over green belt status, a Fylde planning chief today warned.
Coun Kevin Eastham, the Mayor of Fylde and vice-chairman of the planning committee, said scope at Squires Gate could be limited.
He said most of the useful land which could have been developed had already been used after being been sold off by previous owners.
Yesterday, the Gazette revealed airport owner Balfour Beatty was working with the councils and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership to produce a plan which could help retain flights at Squires Gate.
The airport faces potential closure on October 15 if a new buyer is not found by next week.
Coun Eastham said: “I’m aware of discussions between the councils and other parties over some sort of master plan, but it may not be easy.
“There is quite a small amount of green belt land in the area, and the Government regards this sort of ‘Green Wedge’ land as vital.
“It would be very difficult to win the argument – green wedge land is sacrosanct.
“When you look at how much land the owners in the 1950s, Hawker Aircraft Company, had, when they extended the runway, so much of that acreage has been sold by successive owners and perhaps not enough of that money raised was invested back in the airport properly.
“Maybe instead of selling, it should have been leased out and the rent income, index-linked, could have been used to support the airport.
He added: “I think there will remain an aviation presence at the airport with the smaller companies, helicopters and the Irish and Isle of Man flights so the facilities should be mothballed, but I am not sure a kind of enterprise zone to support commercial flight operations would be possible.”
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said political imperatives might be able to override green belt, and said he would be writing to aviation minister Robert Goodwill to ask him to see if he can do anything to help.
He said: “I’m delighted and grateful the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership is taking an interest as well as our councils and the county council. I will be writing to Robert Goodwill, the Parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Transport, to see what he can do to keep aviation going on the site.
“It might be possible to explore the Government’s new regional air connectivity fund to see if that can play a role in sustaining flights at Squires Gate. I would appeal to all parties including Jet2, who have a significant number of employees at the airport, to set aside the complexities of the past and work together to resolve the situation.”
n Meanwhile, an online petition calling on Blackpool Council to save the airport has gathered more than 1,800 names in just 24 hours.
It can be found at www.change.org/p/balfour-betty-save-blackpool-airport
What you have been saying online
I don’t wish to be cynical, but I think this is going to end up as another housing estate. They may well look at alternatives, but the reality is I can’t see it being anything else. I doubt that any new jobs will flock here. I just personally hope it continues as an airport, but to be blunt again I can’t say I use it myself. It was cheaper to go to Manchester.
I am flying out on the 9th October. I hope they don’t expect me to pay £10 Airport Development Fee?
I wish the idiots would stop turning this political. Nothing to do with any party, it’s down to the hard fact that commercially it isn’t making any money. This is in the private sector as well.
I’m sure the airport in terms of tourism is more for locals going on holiday rather than tourists coming here.
If there were planes full of Spanish tourists coming to Blackpool for holidays then we may lose money for the local economy... there isn’t though.
Those bloggers castigating the Labour-led council for doing nothing may do well to recall that it was a Conservative-led Blackpool Council that approved the sale of the airport to Balfour Beatty.
My concern is that if the airport closes what happens to flights for Manchester or Liverpool that can’t land there because of fog, severe ice etc and need use Blackpool Airport as has been the case several times in the past. Also, I understand that the helicopter flights for the oil and gas rigs in the Irish Sea use Blackpool airport. There are several good reasons to maintain flights from Blackpool.
I can’t see why Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre don’t get together and do a “compulsive purchase” and take both the land and airport operations from Balfour Beaty. Problem solved.
5:24 PM on 01/10/2014
Blackpool “Clowncil” have no plans to buy - no - they would rather spend money on twenty mph signs!
Lord Rupert Astor St Clair
7:26 PM on 01/10/2014
This is not a time for party politics, this is not a time for marketing spin, this is not a time for creative accounting, This IS a time to stand up for Blackpool and acknowledge that the problems need sorting. We are marking time in quicksand, take a step back and take a good look, the whole thing needs rethinking, be brave enough to let failing business die and stop kicking the can down the street
3:16 PM on 01/10/2014
Running a regional airport at a profit is notoriously difficult. Aviation professionals know that and that is why buyers are not queuing around the block to purchase it. With that in mind, Blackpool Council need to steer well clear before squandering taxpayers money on a dead duck.