Boris Johnson sets out hopes for Blackpool Airport and home ownership dream during visit to resort

Prime minister Boris Johnson raised hopes of holiday flights once more returning to Blackpool Airport as he made his own flying visit to the Fylde coast on Thursday.

By Shelagh Parkinson
Thursday, 9th June 2022, 5:54 pm

Mr Johnson was in the resort to set out a framework of plans to help families struggling with the cost of living crisis including the relaunch of ‘right-to-buy’ policies to help more people own their home.

But he also found time to visit HeliSpeed at Hangar 3 at Blackpool Airport which is a major hub for pilot training.

And he challenged Blackpool Council, which owns the airport but says it is not commercially viable to relaunch holiday flights, to look again at what could be done.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his speech at Blackpool and The Fylde College in Blackpool

He said HeliSpeed was “going great gangbusters” and was now one of the biggest helicopter training centres in the country which had “put Blackpool on the map from an aviation point of view.”

The Prime Minister said the town needed “Conservative politicians with a vision to take it on”, and said the council should look at what had been achieved at Teeside Airport which now has “bars, duty free, conference facilities and flights going to holiday destinations in Europe.”

Blackpool South Conservative MP Scott Benton said the Government had recently introduced measures including halving passenger duty which would help regional airports like Blackpool.

He said: “Last week we had a 10-point aviation plan launched. There are loads of things in there that will help Blackpool, for example on new hydrogen jets going forward.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting student Cassidy at Blackpool and The Fylde College in Blackpool

Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister took part in a brick-laying lesson with students at Blackpool and the Fylde College in Bispham – literally levelling up as he tested his construction skills.

He then addressed an audience at the college setting out plans which he hopes will support struggling families while protecting the economy from current global uncertainty.

It was his first major speech since a vote of confidence on Monday on his leadership, and included a commitment to extending right-to-buy to housing association tenants.

The policy, first introduced by Margaret Thatcher, has enabled many tenants to buy their council homes – but critics say it can lead to a shortfall in social housing.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his speech at Blackpool and The Fylde College in Blackpool

Mr Johnson said when houses were sold, they would be replaced, also helping to fuel economic growth.

He said: “It will not only help us build more and more homes in the right places, but help more people attain what is currently an unattainable dream of home ownership.”

Improving the quality of housing in Blackpool is a key council policy, with multi-million pound council housing developments underway.

A total of 75 new houses are being built at Troutbeck Crescent, Mereside, and 131 will be built on two sites at Grange Park.

Coun Lynn Williams, leader of Blackpool Council said: “We look forward to seeing the detail of the proposals being announced today and if they benefit local people in Blackpool we will welcome them.

“The key to making sure any new right-to-buy policy is not detrimental will be ensuring that for every affordable rented home that is sold a new one is built.

“This will ensure that we do not lose the availability of homes for those in housing need. Not everyone will be in a position to buy a home, that is why we are working hard to increase the amount of social rented housing in Blackpool.”

The town’s former Labour MP Gordon Marsden said there needed to be a “water-tight” policy of replacing homes that were sold otherwise “we would only end up with less ability for people to be in decent properties.”

It was the Prime Minister’s third visit to Blackpool this year, and following his speech he said he had chosen the resort to make his key announcements because “it is an area that is really changing and where the Government is trying to help.”

He added government funding was supporting investment including in the Illuminations and the Tramway.

He said: “As a long-time user of the Blackpool trams, I was very proud to see the tramway extension, also there has been help with the Houndshill shopping centre development and 3,000 DWP workers are being brought into the town centre.

“What it does is create momentum so that other businesses come in as well.

“It drives tourism and investment. Blackpool is the second biggest destination for tourists outside London in the UK. It’s massive, we think it’s got great potential.”