States' members are being warned that further delay to a multimillion pound project to deal with Alderney's crumbling runway would be "very, very unwise to put it mildly".
Deputy Peter Roffey, the President of the States' Trading Supervisory Board, which is responsible for Alderney's airport, urged the States' Assembly to get on with refurbishing the runway - with or without an extension to its length - and successfully appealed to his colleagues to reject an alternative proposal to await a States' decision on whether Guernsey's runway should be extended.
Deputies Yvonne Burford and Heidi Soulsby wanted to make the proposed extension of Alderney's runway conditional on the States first agreeing not to lengthen Guernsey's runway. And they wanted to prompt a debate on Guernsey's runway in the first quarter of next year.
Debate on their amendment started at around 14:30 yesterday, Wednesday. At around 12:00 today, Thursday, the States rejected their amendment by 15 votes to 21. The record of how members voted can be read HERE.
Deputy Roffey, pictured top right, told the Assembly that approving the Deputy Burford / Deputy Soulsby amendment could delay the Alderney runway project by up to 12 months because initial work which can take place only in the summer would need to be put back from one year to the next.
"I'm looking at it not from who is to blame for what. I know I’ve got a runway up there [in Alderney] and we're the operators of that runway and no further delay is acceptable beyond what is absolutely necessary to carry out the works," said Deputy Roffey.
"We can't afford that. We simply can't afford the risk that entails. The terms of this amendment just bring very real significant risks of delay to a capital project where such delay is very, very unwise to put it mildly. We need to crack on."
Pictured: Deputy Yvonne Burford tried unsuccessfully to reorder decisions about whether to extend runways in Alderney (above) and Guernsey.
The States' Trading Supervisory Board and the Policy & Resources Committee is jointly asking the States to revisit a £12million refurbishment project agreed in 2019 and double the budget to £24m for a larger scheme to extend Alderney's runway by at least 170 metres and construct a new terminal building to replace the current one built in 1968.
Opening debate on her amendment, Deputy Burford said: "The reason I believe that we must decide the fate of Guernsey's runway before the fate of Alderney's is this: the entire case - and I mean the entire case - for the runway extension in Alderney hinges on the fact that we own Aurigny and it happens to operate ATR72s on its regional network.
"Under no other circumstances whatsoever would we be proposing such a plan. It is my firm contention that if, for any reason, Aurigny was no longer operational the whole rationale for extending Alderney's runway would disappear."
Deputy Burford said she was "far from alone in saying that if we extend Guernsey's runway it would be the end of Aurigny". She then quoted the President of the Committee for Economic Development, Deputy Neil Inder, who told a scrutiny public hearing last year that "if we want to see a post-Aurigny world, my advice is to give great consideration to the extension of our runway [in Guernsey]".
"York Aviation has said extending our runway could cost Aurigny, i.e. the taxpayer, £25m a year, something which would be unsustainable very quickly," said Deputy Burford.
"If, as is extremely likely, Aurigny becomes uneconomic as a result of a Guernsey runway extension and therefore can no longer serve Alderney, then, despite claims in the policy letter, no airline based outside of the Channel Islands is going to find it remotely economic to operate the two routes out of Alderney, irrespective of the runway length.
"It was reported in the news recently that Doncaster Sheffield airport is set for closure. An airfield with a catchment of millions of passengers. And yet we appear to kid ourselves that sticking a couple of hundred metres onto Alderney's runway to make it just very short instead of extremely short is going to make it attractive to airlines. It is pure fantasy."
Pictured: The States are expecting a debate in the next few months about whether to extend Guernsey's runway, although an attempt may be made at this week's meeting to scrap the work and agree not to extend.
Deputy Burford's amendment proposed that the States should be restricted to the smaller scheme agreed for Alderney in 2019 - known as 'option A', with no extension in length - if they decide to extend Guernsey's runway.
Deputy Inder strongly criticised Deputy Burford's amendment.
"What it's saying is that if you dare vote for an extended runway [in Guernsey], you're only allowed to have option A [in Alderney]. What kind of negotiation is that?" asked Deputy Inder. "If any of you dare vote for an extended runway - vote for lower fares, vote for opportunity, vote for the future - you will get option A. It's utter nonsense."
Deputy Inder also said the amendment was "entirely disrespectful" to his Committee for Economic Development because it included a direction to the Committee to make recommendations to the States about the future length of Guernsey's runway by a date which he said was now unachievable.
"I've explained to members that we can't make March 2023, but for some reason it's been completely ignored. There has been every opportunity for the proposer and seconder to address that and at least show the Committee some respect," he said.
"We're 90% of the way there. All the money has been spent. We've got some very serious characters – deputies – in our Committee...it's not unreasonable, for a substantial piece of infrastructure, to allow the work to follow its course."
Pictured: Deputy Neil Inder said the proposers of the amendment had not treated his Committee with respect.
Deputy Burford was commended by Deputy Lyndon Trott, who said the figures involved in the project required serious scrutiny, including a sum identified as a possible contribution from the States of Alderney.
"If we were spending the equal amount on our runway [in Guernsey], that is a staggering £951m on a like-for-like basis," said Deputy Trott.
"That is why, if we are still here on Sunday afternoon debating this, there will be no objection from me. This is a massive infrastructure project for Alderney and we cannot afford to get it wrong.
"As we know, the Alderney fiscal deficit is about £9m per year - that is £4,500 for every person who lives in Alderney. If we [in Guernsey] were generating those sorts of per capita losses on an equal like-for-like basis, we would be £285m in the red. This is why this is so important – the numbers are huge."
Pictured: Deputy Lyndon Trott compared the proposed budget for the work on Alderney's airport to an equivalent scheme per capita in Guernsey.
Opening debate at the start of the afternoon session yesterday, Wednesday, after members had returned from their traditional Christmas lunch, Deputy Peter Ferbrache, the President of the Policy & Resources Committee, accepted that the expenditure proposed was significant and that "we must spend every single penny that comes into the States' coffers wisely", but he said that extending Alderney's runway - known as option C+ - was "the best value for money".
"One of the key things Alderney needs is connectivity. It needs decent connectivity," said Deputy Ferbrache, pictured top left, in a speech which lasted 63 minutes, one of the longest ever heard in the Assembly, though not as long as Deputy Ferbrache's longest speech, which he made in 2016.
"There is no doubt that Alderney is now in need. It's need is vital to its resilience as a sustainable community. It needs a modern, secure and appropriate runway for the 21st century. It also needs the upgrade – really replacement – of the attendant facilities. It's a matter of need, requirement and necessity. For the islanders of Alderney this is probably the most important issue for them for many, many years.
"The rehabilitation of Alderney's runway is a critically important investment in Guernsey and Alderney's future. Even if we cast aside philanthropy and the spirit of the family of the Bailiwick, Guernsey has every economic interest in Alderney being a sustainable and vibrant community.
"If not, who is going to have to pick up the financial tab? It will be the taxpayers of Guernsey. If Alderney isn't given the opportunity to develop its community, the buck will come back to Guernsey."
Debate continues on the original propositions from the States' Trading Supervisory Board and the Policy & Resources Committee and various other amendments submitted by States' members.
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