Balfour Beatty has sold the controlling interest in the airport to Blackpool Council, returning it to public ownership after 13 years.
The council, which was previously a 5% shareholder in the airport, has signed a £4.25m deal to fully take over the operating company Regional & City Airports (Blackpool) Holdings.
Since 2014, when Balfour Beatty put the site up for sale, the site hasn’t been used for commercial flights, although it runs profitable aviation services, supporting offshore energy and being a base for the North West Air Ambulance as well as a number of flying schools and private jet users.
In a brief statement, a spokesman for Balfour Beatty said: “The sale of Blackpool Airport further simplifies the portfolio, in line with the group’s strategy”. The construction group paid £14m for its 95% stake in 2008.
Cllr Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council, said: “This sale heralds a positive new dawn for Blackpool Airport. This move will protect the airport as a company and will also allow us to ensure that the airport itself can continue to operate as an important hub that can benefit the whole region.
“We do not envisage the return of large scale passenger planes to the airport. The purpose of this acquisition is to safeguard the helicopter and other commercial airside activities, build upon them and deliver our overall objective of creating up to 5,000 jobs on the Enterprise Zone site.” The Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone stretches to 356 acres and is promoted as “Serving Britain’s Energy Coast”.
Blackburn continued: “Blackpool Airport is the largest area of land in our Enterprise Zone and this purchase will help us ensure that the airport continues to play a big part in making our Enterprise Zone one of the most successful in the country.
“As the current company stands, Blackpool Airport is profitable and as such we can be confident that the money for the purchase can be repaid. People can be confident that we have the airport’s best interests at heart, we will retain the current operating staff as well as exploring any potential opportunities for private companies with aviation interests to invest.”
Blackpool Council last owned the airport in 2004, when it was sold to City Hopper Airports for £13m, before being sold on to Balfour Beatty in 2008. Budget airlines including Jet2 and Ryanair ran services from Blackpool, but struggled to make them viable.
The council said the acquisition is to be funded through a mixture of prudential borrowing and future sales of identified land within the enterprise zone to new businesses. A full business case exploring the potential future for the airport is being developed.
JLL advised Balfour Beatty.