By Andrew Atkinson EXCLUSIVE
Return of commercial flights from Blackpool to Spain are ‘up in the air’ following a surprise £4.25m purchase by Blackpool Council of the Squires Gate site.
“We do not envisage the return of large scale passenger planes to the airport,” said Council leader Simon Blackburn.
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said future commercial passenger flights would depend on air operators: “People should not expect a swift return to holiday flights.
“The area’s lack of capacity – to fill large jets – had caused big losses in the past.”
However, MP Marsden said: “Commercial flights could return – if the Government would consider subsidies for regional airports – to help with security and safety overheads.”
Half a million people used Blackpool Airport – including thousands who travelled to Spain – via Monarch and Jet2.
In the wake of passenger numbers falling below 300,000 the airport closed in 2014. With the acquisition by Blackpool Council hopes were raised that commercial flights would return.
“We have the airport’s best interests at heart – but we are not trying to bring jumbo jets back to the airport,” said Coun. Blackburn.
Helicopter and Commercial flights to places like the Isle of Man have continued after the closure three years ago. The Squires Gate site has been turned into an Enterprise Zone, with future expansion plans in the pipeline.
Coun. Blackburn added: “The acquisition is to safeguard the helicopter and other commercial airside activities that take place. We hope to create up to 5,000 jobs on the Enterprise Zone site.”
Blackpool Airport is the largest area of land in the Enterprise Zone and Coun. Blackburn said: “Blackpool Airport is profitable.
“As a minority stakeholder we have always retained an interest in the company continuing as an airport.”
Blackpool Council are now the sole owner following the £4.25 million deal.
In the midst of financial troubles Blackpool Airport introduced the Airport Development Fund charging £10 to park, prior to holidaymakers flying out of the seaside resort.
Airline Jet2 gave notice of pulling out of Blackpool Airport – that ultimately lead to the closure in 2014.
Campaign group “Save Blackpool Airport” was set-up, in a bid to see the return of holiday flights to destinations like Spain. However Blackpool International Terminal was demolished.
Thereafter security scanner facilities were auctioned off last year – deemed as the end of Commercial flights returning.
Balfour Beatty put Blackpool Airport up for sale in August 2014 – prior to closure in October 2014 – due to huge financial losses.
The airport was losing over £1 million a year – with a reported £35 million loss prior to closure.
The airport’s contract with Jet2 – and falling passenger numbers – were cited as behind the closure. Jet2 reportedly blamed Balfour Beatty – for not promoting flights enough.
In October 2016 Balfour once again put Blackpool Airport for sale, after its reduced capacity operation stabilised the business, centred on small scale aviation, private jets and the strong offshore helicopter business.
And London-based property developer Midos reportedly showed interest in the site. However, Blackpool Council, who held a five per cent share of the airport company, have now completed a sale with owners Balfour Beatty.
Balfour Beatty’s sale to Blackpool Council sees the airport back into full public ownership for the first time in 13 years.
Blackpool Council sold the airport to a consortium, led by City Hopper Airports and Mar Properties for £13m.
Blackpool Council has acquired all shares in the current operating company Regional and City Airports (Blackpool) Holdings Ltd and take over 100 per cent ownership of the airport site.
Blackpool Council had purchased lands at the airport for £600,000, two areas at Squires Gate, held by the airport’s previous owner Mar Properties, which sold the airport to Balfour Beatty in 2008.
Following Blackpool Airport’s closure it was mooted that building development, underlined by housing, would take place.
Conservative Group on Blackpool Council, Coun. Tony Williams, said: “I am delighted that the airport isn’t going to fall into the hands of a property developer.”
In criticism Coun. Williams said that Passenger Flights could possibly have returned: “Why has it taken the council so long to listen to what everyone has been asking them to do?
“If they had acted sooner – then perhaps we would still have passenger flights operating from Blackpool Airport.”
Coun. Williams added: “They sat on their hands – while Balfour Beatty sold off all the scanners and other equipment – and allowed the terminal to be demolished.”