MP presents 38,000-name airport petition
A campaign to save Plymouth City Airport has been taken to the heart of government, writes Nick Lester.
Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, has handed into Downing Street a petition signed by almost 38,000 people, along with nearly 400 letters and e-mails, calling on David Cameron to intervene and help the now-closed facility. The air link is seen as vital to the city's future economic fortunes.
Speaking after presenting the petition and letters, Ms Seabeck said: "I would hope the Prime Minister would now look at this and the potential for Plymouth and the South West to contribute to the UK growth agenda, and come to the conclusion if he's going to expand airport capacity in London then he has to support regional links to those airports, which is affordable and maximises the potential of the South West."
After the council launched its letter-writing campaign last month, 285 people put pen to paper, and another 112 sent e-mails.
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It was triggered by a "Save The Airport" petition, organised by campaigners from the group Viable.
One of the biggest in Plymouth's history, it called for government intervention to save the airport, which was closed last December by its operators Sutton Harbour Holdings.
Ms Seabeck said of the public reaction: "It was actually a much bigger response than I was expecting. An awful lot of interest has been generated."
But she added: "If it's possible for the private sector to run this airport then we the people of Plymouth are going to have to try and use it."
This summer Sutton Harbour published a masterplan to redevelop the site into a large community, with houses, shops and offices.
Meanwhile, Viable has set up a company to take over and run the airport, claiming that its business plan could make a success of the operation.
The council has made it clear that it will not step in to rescue the airport, but has said the land in Roborough would remain protected at least until 2021 under the city's development framework.
If Plymouth people make it clear they want to keep open the option of having an airport, the protection could be extended to 2031 under the emerging Plymouth Plan.