Airport consultancy York Aviation has made a number of recommendations for investment in infrastructure, operations and management of Blackpool Airport, with the return of commercial services to holiday destinations virtually ruled out.
A summary of the report will be considered on Monday 5 November by Blackpool Council, which acquired the airport from Balfour Beatty in 2017 to ensure the Squires Gate operation remained open for business.
Based on York’s recommendations, two wholly-owned council companies, Squires Gate Operations Ltd, which looks after airport operations, and property-focused Blackpool Airport Properties Ltd, will be responsible for preparing and implementing a detailed business plan that will help to map out the long-term future for the 400-acre airport site.
The plan to be developed will look at safeguarding jobs, identify necessary infrastructure improvements, establish areas of business growth for the airport including business aviation; and support the release of development land for the wider Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone.
York Aviation identifies the main opportunities for future growth potential as:
- Growth of existing areas of core business, particularly general aviation activity and flying tuition
- Continuation of the contract for helicopter offshore operations
- Creation of further opportunities for corporate and executive aviation activity, providing additional revenue for the airport
- Opportunities to attract substantial aircraft maintenance repair and operational activity, with the main focus on smaller executive jet-type aircraft, bringing rent, movement and fuel income
- Replacing old hangars with new build hangars located closer to the runway to increase capacity and income
- Opening up attractive development land fronting Squires Gate Lane
- Development of an on-site café with airside views
York Aviation has also analysed the market to assess how likely it is that commercial air services might be reintroduced at the airport, looking at a number of holiday routes operating on an annual or seasonal basis that might attract enough passengers to make investment viable.
The consultancy estimated the total number of passengers per year at 250,000, but said that starting holiday flights would require high levels of investment in new terminal facilities, security, operational equipment and staffing, thus the cost would far outweigh the income generated and could see an annual £1m-plus loss – York estimated that 1.5m passengers would be needed each year to justify the investment required, more than double that ever reached at Blackpool.
York also explored the potential for a resumption of local regional air services to the Isle of Man, Dublin and Belfast which operated from the airport until 2016. The opportunity for re-introduction of such services will continue to be reviewed.
Cllr Mark Smith, cabinet member for regeneration, enterprise and economic development at Blackpool Council, said: “The report provides clear guidance for future marketing opportunities and identifies priorities for investment.
“The airport is an integral part of the future development of the Enterprise Zone and a much-loved and valued transport asset for Lancashire. Our focus and dedication is to support the business sectors already operating and to promote opportunities for new growth for the airport.”
Within the Enterprise Zone spending plan, £28.8m has already been allocated for the next three years which includes £3.45m towards the initial activity of relocating and replacing older aircraft hangars, providing new apron and a new offshore helicopter terminal.