Airport enterprise zone bid to launch

A Citywing aircraft which flew from Blackpool Airport. Below, Simon Menzies of Pool Aviation
A Citywing aircraft which flew from Blackpool Airport. Below, Simon Menzies of Pool Aviation

Blackpool Council is set to launch a bid to have the airport included in the Lancashire Enterprise Zone.

It would mean that Squires Gate would be an extension of the zone which is currently centred around BAE Systems operations at Warton and Samlesbury.

Story on Simon Menzies-managing director of Pool Aviation at Blackpool Airport.

Story on Simon Menzies-managing director of Pool Aviation at Blackpool Airport.

A full report is yet to be submitted to Blackpool’s Executive, but the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, Fylde Borough Council and Lancashire County Council have been contacted and have agreed in principal.

It would mean that tax breaks and other incentives could be offered to firms looking to relocate to the airport area to bring much-needed jobs and encourage some development of unused land at the site.

A report to the council states that “Lancashire County Council on behalf of the Local Enterprise Partnership has agreed to meet the consultants fees (£15,000) required to undertake specialist financial elements of submitting the bid.”

It adds that: “Development without fiscal incentives of both surplus airport land and the redundant aircraft factory at Squires Gate is not viable in current market conditions.

“The large potential development space will be particularly attractive to new business, if suitable space is not encouraged to be provided by private sector developers, companies will not locate in this area and the chance to capture some economic benefits and secure new skills and sustainable employment will be missed.”

The report adds that the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Economic Development Company be authorised to do the negotiations with key stakeholders to develop the plan.

Coun John Jones, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “Since the decision to close Blackpool Airport was announced we’ve been working with the owners, Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and other local, regional and national stakeholders to ensure the best possible outcome for the site.

“This has resulted in the return of independent aviation businesses and the creation of a significant number of jobs. We hope further good news will be announced soon.

“Meanwhile, one of the measures that we looked at to ensure the long-term viability of the site is the potential creation of an Enterprise Zone at the site to encourage businesses to invest.

“The decision taken today formally gives permission for the Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde Economic Development Company to progress that by putting in an application to the Government.”

Meanwhile airport users have urged the owners to continue to develop the airside operations and look at upgrading the airport from category 2 to category 3 as soon as possible.

Simon Menzies, from Pool Aviation, said his own company, while grateful that the runway was back open again, was suffering loss of business due to the fact they cannot fly in their larger aircraft.

He said: “We had to move operations to Liverpool and Manchester when Blackpool Airport closed in October and we have not been able to bring our larger aircraft back.

“The emergency cover is not high enough and it restricts operations at category 2.

“To make it a success in the long term they need to have greater capacity. That comes at a price of course but it is all relative and we don’t think it is so significant that it can’t be overcome. It needs to be a category 3 for our larger jets and for companies such as Citywing to operate once again from Blackpool.

“I know a lot of the small operators at Blackpool are hoping things will get back to a bigger state of operations.”