MP calls for review to help boost Blackpool airport

Blackpool Airport: Airports such as Blackpool need more financial help says Gordon Marsden MP
Blackpool Airport: Airports such as Blackpool need more financial help says Gordon Marsden MP
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A Blackpool MP has called for more action to help improve small airports like Blackpool – as the Chancellor today gets set to announce a major boost for the area around terminal.

Speaking at a meeting on the future of aviation in Westminster to national members of BATA (which covers 95 percent of aviation output in the UK), Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden, said: “Aviation – commercial, business and passengers – makes a crucial contribution of £18bn a year to the UK economy.

And smaller local airports are part of this – as well as to being a point of community pride as well as local assets

“And smaller local airports are part of this – as well as to being a point of community pride as well as local assets.

“Those airports should play a key part in places like the North West in supporting our freight, offshore wind and energy project and other initiatives.

“The experiences at Blackpool and elsewhere shows that local airports need to be strongly linked into Local Enterprise Partnership, and other key funding and infrastructure decisions in the region. With more devolution of funding from central Government going to such bodies from next year, it’s time for that major review of how we can support and galvanise our local regional airports, over and beyond new routes.”

It comes after The Gazette reported yesterday how Chancellor George Osborne is today expected to announce Blackpool Airport as a new enterprise zone for Lancashire as part of his budget speech.

The move, which is expected to see the airport site included in an expansion of the current enterprise zone at BAE in Samlesbury and Warton, would see tax breaks or business rate reductions offered in a bid to bring big business into the area.

Experts predict the move could create 3,000 jobs around the Squires Gate terminal in coming years.

And it could also safeguard the future of the airport by creating an industrial hub around it. The airport was closed by owners Balfour Beatty last October after racking up debts of £34m. More than 100 jobs were lost.

It re-opened in December but without commercial flights or an international airline.

The Gazette also reported yesterday how a report from the Transport Select Committee had highlighted sources of funding to help smaller airports grow.

Mr Marsden, who is also a shadow transport minister, said: “The Committee has rightly stressed the vital role smaller airports can play as economic and social enablers for people and businesses locally.

“If we’re to spread the potential of smaller airports for regional growth, strategies which engage with their role in the local economy, capacity to expand freight and other aviation activities, and logistical and regulatory support need to be looked at.”

Commenting on the current situation for Blackpool Mr Marsden said: “The focus the Select Committee has put on smaller local airports in its supportive report, the increased recognition of the economic importance of them by bodies such as BATA and the Airport Operations Association, plus the funding possibility for new routes from the Air Connectivity Fund and more transport money to be determined locally in the future, should put us in a different frame of discussion and opportunity to say six months ago.

“I have been in continued close and frequent contact with Blackpool Council and alerted them to potential ways the Air Connectivity Fund could be used to encourage commercial flights back. I have spoken again today to Blackpool Airport and the Balfour Beatty representative carrying forward these discussions and urged a speedy, positive conclusion to them.

“On carrying forward these ways to expand further activity at the airport, I’ve also been liaising closely with my constituency neighbour the MP for Fylde Mark Menzies. These are decisions that affect Blackpool, Fylde and also west Lancashire. I will keep that focus going – both with existing ministers and whoever takes over from them after May’s General Election.”