Council chiefs accused of being '˜in denial' about future of resort's airport

Blackpool Council chiefs have been accused of being '˜in denial' about the future of Blackpool Airport.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 18th September 2016, 8:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 1:32 pm
Demolition begins on Blackpool Airport terminal
Demolition begins on Blackpool Airport terminal

The Gazette revealed on Friday that low cost carrier Jet2 would not return to the Fylde coast even if Squires Gate did re-open to commercial traffic.

The airport has not served big jets since October 2014 when owner Balfour Beatty shut the airport following a failed attempt to sell up.

The runway has since re-opened but the main passenger terminal has been demolished.

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And Coun Tony Williams, leader of the opposition Conservative group on Blackpool Council believes Jet2’s stance flies in the face of the optimism from council chiefs.

He said: “Despite my continued reports and statements that Blackpool Airport would never see jet airliners returning this Labour council have continued to argue that they would.

“Coun Mark Smith whose portfolio includes the airport adamantly stated the airport would sometime in the future restart flights to Europe.

“I knew this wouldn’t be happening and my guess is that the council knew it too, as did Balfour Beatty.

“The terminal building has gone, security is scaled down, and there is no car parking and no hope of a return of large jets. So much for progress by this council.

“Jet2 blames Balfour Beatty for the demise of the airport, but as this council had a representative on the board of the airport management group it’s impossible they didn’t see this coming.

“This council has been in complete denial and allowed one of the best facilities of this town to wither and die.

“It’s a serious and most disgraceful state of affairs.”

Blackpool Airport and Jet2 were involved in a legal battle before the closure of the airport.

The airline successfully sued the airport for breach of contract following a threat not to allow late night and early morning flights.

Balfour Beatty said such operations made the airport unprofitable.

A spokesman said: “Since the airport reopened in 2014, Balfour Beatty has returned Blackpool Airport to a profitable business.

“We have invested significantly to commence services in support of offshore gas production, as well as instigate small-scale passenger flights to the Isle of Man and Belfast.”

Coun Mark Smith, cabinet nember for business and economic development, said: “I don’t think many people will be surprised about Jet2’s comments but I think Coun Williams is panicking unnecessarily. Jet2 is not the only low-cost airline in the world and is probably not the airline the airport would target to return given their very public and legal fall out.

“We believe the airport will shortly upgrade to category III status which will bring larger aircraft to the facility. We already have regular passenger flights to the Isle of Man and to Belfast and this upgrade will be a step back towards even larger aircraft in the future – however this negotiation process does take time and the economic conditions need to be right for both the airport and the operators.

“Following the recession many smaller airports have seen a massive decline in numbers and this return to growth for Blackpool Airport is very good news indeed.

“The enterprise zone status is also helping protect the main runway and key infrastructure at the airport and could provide business rate relief for any airline or company that chooses to set up an operation there, allowing the airport to expand and take on more commercial flights should negotiations be successful.

‘’The Enterprise Zone master-plan which is being developed will propose new investment which will help secure the operational sustainability of the airport.’’