Severn estuary airport plan not yet "dead in the water" claims consortium

PLANS to build a £5 billion airport in the Severn estuary have failed to make the shortlist in an interim report on the future of UK airports.

But MSP solutions, the consortium behind the major scheme, said the proposal was not yet “dead in the water”.

It now wants to pursue talks over the project, which it said was always going to be a long term proposition.

The recently published report by the Airports Commission said it had doubts about the difference a Severn estuary airport would make.

It said: “The scale of the contribution of a new airport in the Severn estuary as presented in this proposal to UK airport capacity is not clear and would not appear to offer additional capacity where the assessment of need identified the demand (in the South East).

“Given that Cardiff and Bristol airports would close, any additional capacity benefit may be small compared to the proposed cost.”

The comments were welcomed by bosses at Bristol Airport, which already handles nearly six million passengers a year.

Chief Executive Robert Sinclair said they were pleased "the unrealistic and undeliverable" proposal had been dismissed. He had previously described the plan as "far fetched" as it would lead to the forced closure of Bristol and the loss of jobs.

The commission's report was, he said, clear recognition that Bristol Airport was best placed to meet demand from passengers in the South West and South Wales.

Mr Sinclair said: “Bristol Airport has planning permission in place to develop and enhance facilities to serve 10 million passengers per annum - an increase of 64 per cent compared with the present day.

"The environmental effects of this development, which will be phased in line with passenger demand, have been fully evaluated and a range of controls and mitigation is in place to manage its impacts."

He said the idea of a new Severnside airport was dismissed by an aviation White Paper ten years ago because it would struggle to attract enough traffic to be financially viable and would not generate sufficient economic or regeneration benefits.

But he urged the Government not to overlook the important role of regional airports as they removed the reliance on the London airports.

The estuary airport plan was for a facility to open in 2029 and eventually handle nearly 40 million passengers a year.

MSP said with most flights taking off and landing over water, noise and air pollution would be limited.

The consortium said replacing Bristol and Cardiff airports would solve the limitations of both sites and allow for much needed expansion.

John Borkowski, managing director of MSP, said: “We are now going to think about the best way forward but we don’t think the scheme is dead in the water.

“We will talk to some people who are interested in the long term, including some political figures, to see if they want to take it further.”

Mr Borkowski said MSP was not “terribly optimistic in the medium term” but after 2025 the project could become more appealing if there were problems with capacity at Bristol and Cardiff.

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