Airport group calls for aviation pledge

A Jet 2 aircraft at Blackpool Airport before large commercial passenger flights ended in October 2014
A Jet 2 aircraft at Blackpool Airport before large commercial passenger flights ended in October 2014

Blackpool Airport must develop its aviation business no matter who buys it, campaigners have warned as negotiations over its sale are believed to be coming to a head.

The Save Blackpool Airport group, which wants to see the return of holiday flights to Squires Gate, said there were two main contenders to take it over from Balfour Beatty.

And the group is calling on minority five per cent shareholder Blackpool Council to ensure, if a deal is done in the coming months, that it insists on maintaining aviation rather than allowing it to be turned over to housing or business premises development.

Rob Blower, from the group, said: “It has come to our attention that a deal may be being finalised and that there are two offers in. What we want is for the new owner to be one committed to growing the aviation business at the airport and not to simply look at the land for development.

“We want the council to keep the pressure on to ensure any new owner understands that the aviation business must be maintained and strengthened.”

The group ideally wants to see the return of international commercial passenger flights, which ended in October 2014 after years of losses when Jet2 was forced to pull out and relocate flights to Manchester.

The airport closed for several weeks but re-opened early the following year, with commercial passenger flights returning to the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland in April 2015. Those fights ended in March this year when Van Air, which operated the flights for Citywing, lost its route licence.

However, aviation operations at the airport have continued with increased helicopter activity and continual private aircraft flights and flying school activity.

It is understood that whoever takes over would have to invest in instrumentation and infrastructure, however there was no question over its viability as an operational airport.

Aviation is considered a vital part of the Blackpool Enterprise Zone project which is centred on the airport and long term plans include developing that aspect of the site.

Rob Green, from the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Economic Development Company which works with Blackpool Council and is involved in overseeing the enterprise zone, said he was aware that Balfour Beatty had been in talks for some time over the sale of the airport.

He said: “From the enterprise point of view, the airport and aviation is very important indeed to the success of the zone.”