EXPANSION plans at Lydd will enable the airport to pay a key role in the future expansion of air travel in the South East say airport bosses.
Plans have been approved for a £25 million runway extension and a new passenger terminal at the airport, west of Rye.
They were approved by a Government inquiry despite concerns that it would have a negative impact of the fragile ecology of Romney Marsh and increase the risk of an incident at the nearby Dungeness power station.
Bosses say The development of Lydd into a modern regional airport will help to meet the growing demand for urgently-needed additional airport capacity in the South East and help ease congestion in the skies.
Lydd has underlined its credentials as the Government-appointed Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, prepares to publish its interim report into how more runway capacity can be provided to help the UK maintain its status as a global air travel hub.
The airport celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2014 and has ambitious plans to build its passenger figures to the levels that once made Lydd Airport one of the busiest in Britain – in 1958 it handled 223,000 passengers, 37,000 more than Gatwick.
The first phase of its expansion, the construction of a 294m runway extension plus a 150m starter extension, should start early in 2014. A longer runway will open the airport up to airlines operating fully-laden B737-type jets. A new terminal building will follow once passenger numbers grow.
Approval for Lydd’s development was hard-won after an eight-year battle for planning permission, and airport bosses are keen to push its case as one of the solutions to the current shortage of runway capacity threatening to cripple future economic growth.
Investment in Lydd is huge says Executive Manager Hani Mutlaq who explained that on top of the £25m cost of expansion, the airport’s owners have already spent £30m over the past decade in modernising facilities and upgrading equipment.
Mr Mutlaq said: “As the Airports Commission considers all the options for providing more runway capacity the focus has been on the expansion of Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted, and the construction of a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary.
“We have called on the Commission to recognise the important role that smaller regional airports like Lydd can play in helping to meet the need for greater runway capacity.
“While building extra runways at places like Gatwick will be hugely expensive and take many years, making full use of smaller modern airports like us makes a lot of sense. After nearly 60 years, Lydd Airport is once again ready to take its place as a busy and vibrant gateway to the South East.”
Lydd is currently working on more than 60 pre-commencement conditions, including environmental.