Councillor Questions Airport Lease Decision
The controversial decision was made in a closed-door meeting last month and the handover will be completed within the next 11 months.
The Duchy has confirmed that all the land and buildings at the airport will be transferred to them.
At last week’s Transport, Economic Development and Infrastructure meeting, Cllr Gordon Bilsborough voiced his doubts over the decision after Senior Officer Craig Dryden revealed an increase of 2,300 passengers between April and September this year.
That’s a 9% rise on the same period in 2014 and it means more income for the airport.
Craig said that finances were still “precarious” but the new “streamlined” airport management had brought tighter cost control.
But Cllr Bilsborough asked the meeting Chair, Robert Dorrien Smith, if giving up the lease had been the best choice.
Robert said that while numbers were up, that was compared to a bad year in 2014. And he said the decision was “history” because councillors had already voted on it.
Cllr Marian Bennett wanted to remind councillors that this year’s increase still didn’t mean the overall passengers numbers were anywhere near 2008 figures.
Craig Dryden agreed. He said around five years ago, the airport was getting around 130,000 passengers annually. That’s now down to 93,000.
Marian wanted the Council to request a breakdown of air and sea journeys from the Steamship Company.
She felt it was a reasonable request as the authority has a responsibility for transport, the community and tourism.
She pointed out that the airport and quay facilities are publicly funded and passenger numbers were “an essential statistic to have.”
Cllr Richard McCarthy agreed, saying, “we’re all in this together.” And he was curious to discover how many people had been transferred to the boat during poor weather in August, when there were 14 no-flying days.
But Cllr Ted Moulson was uncertain whether the Council had any remit to ask for potentially commercially sensitive data from a private company.
Cllr Dorrien Smith agreed that the Steamship Company would be approached for the information.