The price of the failure of Blackpool Airport has been put at an astonishing £21m.
And now the assets and equipment on the airport’s site will have to be sold off to the highest bidder to pay off creditors.
Liquidators have visited the airport to price up anything which can be auctioned off to raise money.
Blackpool Airport Ltd owed divisions of its parent company Balfour Beatty £19.2m while unsecured creditors, firms and individuals supplying goods and services to the airport, were owed £2m.
The figure has left the owners of businesses which used the facility stunned.
The airport had been losing around £1.5m a year and had been put up for sale in September by Balfour Beatty in the hope of attracting a buyer to run the business at Squires Gate.
But when no deal could be struck the construction and engineering giant shut down the operation on October 15.
Passenger numbers hit 550,000 in 2007, but with the global economic crash and the loss of a number of key customers – leaving Jet2 as the only major airline with aircraft based at Squires Gate – passenger figures dropped sharply and were at 262,000 last year, nowhere near enough to break even.
Liquidators Zolfo Cooper have taken charge of the company and were at the airport taking stock of the businesses assets as part of the process of trying to raise cash to pay the companies owed money.
Insolvency expert Mark Patterson from Zolfo Cooper said: “We had a meeting of shareholders followed immediately by a meeting of the creditors at which we were appointed as liquidators.
“Then there was a meeting of the employees where they were made redundant. Our job now is to realise the assets of the company and then return money to the creditors.
“So our role going forward is to look at the assets, that is, things such as the equipment on the Blackpool Airport Ltd site .
“There are also debtors to contact for the money they owe, insurance claims to settle and potential rates refunds.
“There was an amount owed to four Balfour Beatty related entities in the order of £19.2m. Then there was an amount owed to unsecured creditors of £2m.”
Mr Patterson said less than a handful of staff are being kept on to help out on site with the winding down of the company, together with the security staff.
Coun Tony Williams (pictured) leader of the opposition on Blackpool Council said: “If that is indeed the level of debt then it’s astonishing.
“Clearly the management of the airport was not working and has not been for a long time. The debt seems an awful lot and it seems to be much more than the losses they had been reported as making over recent years.
“It’s clear, as things unravel, Balfour Beatty was out of its depth when it comes to running an airport. I think it has a lot of explaining to do.
“It’s a very sad day for our airport.
“The council should have stepped in to give Balfour Beatty more time to find a buyer. It should not have spent the money set aside from the airport’s sale and should have kept it back to pay for an emergency like this.”
Simon Menzies from Pool Aviation said: “I am surprised the amount owed is as much as that. I cannot understand how a small airport like Blackpool run up so much debt.
“Most of us smaller operators at the airport have been good customers and paid up on time at a fair market rate over the years, even paying a premium for fuel but we accepted that because Blackpool is where it is and it is not one of the larger airports. It’s very sad.”
He said his own company was battling on against adversity, with three of its aircraft now based at other airports, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester, a situation which has brought extra costs.
He added: “We had to move them with just a week’s notice and we are now coming to terms with that situation and the cost implications.”
Paul Wane from the Helicopter Academy, who is now temporarily based in Pilling, said: “I flew over the airport the other day at about 1,000 ft.
“I tuned in to the Blackpool control frequency and it was dead, just static, so I got my guidance from Warton and looking down it was like a ghost airfield. No-one around no cars, no activity.”