AN aviation expert says that smaller airports such as Lydd have a valuable role to play in the future of air transport.
Louise Congdon is managing partner of York Aviation LLP, an air transport consultancy specialising in the economic impact of airports in the UK, Europe and worldwide.
She has worked in the air transport industry for 34 years, including with the CAA, West Midlands County Council (Birmingham Airport) and Manchester Airport Group.
She is due to address the ongoing inquiry today (Friday)
Louise said: “Following cancellation of the new runway projects at Heathrow and Stansted, any new Aviation Policy being prepared by the Coalition Government will not be in place before 2013 at the earliest.
“Development of Lydd would be consistent with Government policy on airports as it would enable the airport to meet local demand, so reducing the need to travel on the congested road network to other more distant London airports.
“The valuable role which could be played by the smaller regional airports within the South East, including Lydd, is explicitly supported within the Future of Air Transport White Paper, subject to environmental considerations.
“There are 72 people employed at the Airport, with 48 working for London Ashford Airport Ltd.
“Despite investment of £30 million in improving facilities, Lydd has been unable to attract airlines to start commercial passenger services mainly because of the short length of the existing runway, which is too short for operations by medium sized jets used on charter and low fares services.
“With an extended runway in place, a new terminal would be required to enable the Airport to handle more than 300,000 passengers per annum.
“Total air travel demand in Kent and East Sussex amounted to 4.5 million air passengers in 2009 according to CAA Survey data; of which 2.5 million passengers were within the local catchment area of Lydd.
“In preparing demand forecasts, we’ve grown this market potential from current levels using the latest growth rates advised by the Department for Transport, while also reflecting the impact of the recession on national demand growth.”
We expect that charter airlines, for which an extended runway will be essential, will be attracted to operate initially low frequency seasonal services from Lydd.
“Once Lydd’s ability to attract passengers to these services had been proven, we expect a network of regional scheduled services to develop to points like Belfast, Dublin, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
“Over time additional charter services would be operated along with some services to European cities, such as Barcelona, Geneva and Madrid serving a mixture of business and leisure needs.
“With the extended runway and the Airport handling 300,000 passengers a year, the operation of Lydd Airport itself will support 130 direct and 70 indirect jobs.
“With the addition of a new terminal and the Airport handling 500,000 passengers a year, the operation of Lydd Airport itself will support between 200 and 210 direct jobs and 100 indirect jobs.
“The Airport will also contribute to attracting additional tourist visits to the area, which could amount to between 3% and 9% of total Airport passengers.
These inbound tourist visits would themselves support additional local employment in the range of 33 to 96 jobs.
“Users of Lydd would also benefit from reduced car journeys to their local airport, compared to alternative airports elsewhere in the South East.”