Gloucestershire Airport should remain operational, report

An independent report has recommended that Gloucestershire Airport should remain operational and not sold off for housing development, The BBC has reported.

Formerly called Staverton Airport, the airport is part owned by Gloucester City and Cheltenham Borough councils, but is located on Tewkesbury Borough Council’s land at Staverton. The councils have been considering the idea of selling off the airport, after Filton Airport near Bristol was sold to developers last year as it was considered unviable.

However, the report recommended that Gloucestershire should be retained by its shareholders and possibly part privatised to boost its future growth. The report, which was designed to evaluate the airport’s potential, was prepared by air transport consultants, York Aviation, and commissioned by Gloucester City Council.

The report, which is yet to be discussed by the two councils’ committees, said that the airport brings millions of pounds into the local economy and should remain in operation. It also remarked that the airport’s set-up, with the local authorities as shareholders, is complicated, and part-privatisation to be run by a trust could improve the business.

Paul James, leader of Gloucester City Council, said: ‘Historically there has been a greater suspicion from Gloucester than necessarily from Cheltenham in terms of what the airport brings and its ability to deliver a return but the report sets out the economic value to the county and it also gives us a way forward so that we can maximise the value to taxpayers as well as to the shareholders.

‘We want to make sure we have a settled policy on the airport, to remove the kind of uncertainty talked about, but to also make sure we get a good return for the taxpayer,’ he said.

Darren Lewington, head of operations at the airport, said: ‘We are pleased with the recommendations within this report and we are looking forward to working with the shareholders now that the long term future of the airport has been guaranteed to maximise the benefits to the industry and to county taxpayers.’

Gloucestershire Airport is considered to be the UK’s busiest general aviation airport, handing some 75,000 to 90,000 flights every year, and housing more than 180 aircraft. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association have just voted it 2013’s Best General Aviation Airport.

Gloucestershire Airport tops Bristol and London City for flight frequency

During May, Gloucestershire Airport has handled more flights than London City and Bristol airports.

In its list of the 15 busiest airports in the UK, the Civil Aviation Authority has ranked the Staverton-based airport 10 places behind Heathrow, using figures that are based on the number of flights as opposed to the number of passengers.

Gloucestershire airport handled slightly fewer than 7,000 flights in May, making it the 11th most active airport in the UK, and the airport has handled more than 42,000 flights so far this year.

Head of operations, Darren Lewington, said: ‘The airport has had an exceptionally busy few months. The fine weather has helped in recent weeks, but there’s also a noticeable increase in business aviation traffic, which is encouraging for us and the county as a whole. Commercially, our marketplace is still exceptionally challenging.

‘It will take us longer than we anticipated to reach the increased profitability we forecast in our business planning but this is hardly surprising in the face of the global economic downturn, record fuel prices and the lengthy delays to our runway safety project,’ he said, adding: ‘These latest CAA figures are encouraging and we are beginning to see consistent signs of recovery that will help to deliver our long-term business goals.’

The airport also had to deal with complex legal agreements relating to the land it uses, which also resulted in delays to its safer runway project, which had led to increased costs. ‘The political processes associated with the runway project took longer than the airport or councils anticipated,’ Mr. Lewington said.

The airport contributes about £250 million to the local economy every year.