TOUGH questions were posed to a panel about the future of Shoreham Airport at a public meeting.
But the one company everyone wanted to hear from directly failed to turn up last Monday.
Albermarle Shoreham Airport Limited (ASAL), described by one woman as ‘the elephant in the room’, did, however, send a statement just a few minutes before the meeting, organised by the Shoreham Society.
Chairman Gerard Rosenberg read out the company’s promises to repair the decaying terminal building and municipal hangar ‘as soon as possible’.
Many said they found the promises hard to believe and called on the owners, Worthing Borough Council and Brighton and Hove City Council, to take more action to force the repairs.
James Appleton, head of planning at Adur District Council, said English Heritage was monitoring the situation and he knew it was likely to recommend the airport be put on its latest ‘at risk’ register.
“English Heritage are very keen to make sure the airport is a viable business because that is the most important thing,” he added.
Many in the packed audience at the Ropetackle Arts Centre called for reassurance about flooding and future plans for building on airport land.
Adur Council leader Neil Parkin said: “I want to scotch some of the wild rumours that hundreds of homes are going to be built on the airport.”
Mr Appleton confirmed some commercial building was planned on airport land but the Draft Adur Local Plan did not include as much building as he believed Albermarle wanted.
“As far as the airport is concerned, it has always been recognised as important business,” he added. “It has also been seen as an important location for business growth.”
The local plan allocates up to 15,000 square metres of employment floor space on land south of Ricardo.
Previous versions of the plan had suggested employment development running along the river frontage, down to the main airport terminal buildings, but concerns about the impact on operations at the airport had since ruled this out.
Jonathan Candelon, chief executive of Brighton City Airport, which now runs the airside operations, said the future was positive.
“Without a sustainable airport, nothing else exists,” he said. “Hundreds of people depend on the airport to make a living.
“We are just about there to achieve our goal, which is to make it financially viable.”
He said the latest figures showed a small profit and that was in just the first year of operations.
The full statement from Geoff Egan, Albemarle Shoreham Airport Limited director, read: “Albermarle Shoreham Airport Limited (ASAL) had 70 investors. In June 2014, the majority of investors were bought out by five investors with the financial backing of ICG Longbow. On September 1, ASAL leased the operational assets to BCAL for 30 years.
“ASAL has started with the terminal building. This started with scaffolding and contractors conducting surveys and taking samples in preparation for the works to update the work specification. ASAL is working as fast as possible with these and soon will start with the municipal hangar.
“Delays with the work have been caused by various issues. One of the main issues was to avoid interfering with the airport’s air traffic control equipment.
“Repairing the roof is the first item on the list and these are planned to start soon and should be completed in approximately 20 weeks. The roof lanterns also need changing and these will take a while since they are bespoke and need to be procured and assembled. The external works will then follow.
“The whole project is planned to be completed by March/April next year. The hangar works are due to start in January 2015 with completion around June 2015. English Heritage is fully engaged.
“We have reactivated the Growing Places loan application from Coast 2 Capital to undertake the refurbishment works and they have approved the funding, subject to due diligence. Their due diligence is progressing with our assistance but in the meantime the works will be financed from our own resources. We welcome the opportunity to become a growth hub as part of the Greater Brighton City Deal. We look forward to working with the councils and Coast 2 Capital re employment for the area and invest in the airport to enable it to be more sustainable long term.”