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Presidents at odds over latest attempt to extend runway

Presidents at odds over latest attempt to extend runway

Sunday 21 November 2021

Presidents at odds over latest attempt to extend runway


Deputy Neil Inder has given the clearest indication yet that his Committee for Economic Development will soon ask the States to approve an extension of the airport runway.

The proposal to extend could be followed by spending public money to encourage low-cost airlines to serve the island.

But it will be strongly opposed by Deputy Peter Roffey, who leads the Committee responsible for Guernsey Airport and States-owned airline Aurigny. 

"If you want to see a post-Aurigny world...give serious consideration to extending the runway," said Deputy Inder, speaking at a Scrutiny Management Committee public hearing with the Committee for Economic Development.

"We are an island - fact. We need to fly to it and sail to it. We need to extend the harbour and we need to look at extending the runway."

Deputy Inder suggested that the benefits of extending the runway may not be realised unless the length, which is currently less than 1500 metres, is increased to at least 1700 metres. In July, he said that extending the runway would be more publicly acceptable if it was within the existing boundaries of the airport.

Guernsey_Airport_runway.jpg

Pictured: For the past two decades politicians in support of a longer runway have failed to persuade the States' Assembly to back their plans. Deputy Neil Inder's Committee for Economic Development now looks highly likely to make another attempt in the first half of next year. 

Deputy Roffey fears that extending the runway could be self-defeating for the island and result in "worse connectivity".

"No planes based on Guernsey for early morning flight. Lower frequency. Fewer destinations. Flights being cancelled if [there are] any delays because the planes are needed on other more profitable routes. Probably boost outgoing leisure trips, not incoming. Bad for general economy," said Deputy Roffey. 

After the hearing, Deputy Yvonne Burford, the President of the Scrutiny Management Committee and a former pilot, said that "extending the runway makes no sense whatsoever".

The Committee for Economic Development intends to prompt a States' debate on the runway in the first half of 2022. 

"Just by building an airport doesn't mean suddenly we're going to have an extra 10,000 passengers per year," said Deputy Inder. "If I'm anything, I don't like flannel. I've never liked flannel. I won't bring anything to the States unless I'm convinced that there is a business case around it. 

"I'm not one of those politicians who wants to have my portrait in the tarmac. I must know that it's the right thing for Guernsey and what will be put before the States in May or June will be an honest assessment of the benefits of extending the runway."

The Committee for Economic Development was represented at the hearing by Deputy Nicholas Moakes and senior official Steve Wakelin alongside Deputy Inder. 

They were asked whether extending the runway would be consistent with States' commitments on climate change. Deputy Moakes said that electric aircraft, which could become increasingly common, may require a longer runway and therefore not extending its length could result in more CO2 emissions from the airport. 

They were also asked whether they envisaged using public money to reduce airlines' landing fees or encourage low-cost carriers. "Possibly," said Mr Wakelin.

Deputy Nick Moakes

Pictured: Deputy Nicholas Moakes, a member of the Committee for Economic Development, told the Scrutiny Management Committee's public hearing that lengthening the airport runway may help Guernsey to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the future by allowing the operation of electric aircraft, some of which he said may require a longer runway. 

At the hearing, Deputy Burford asked Deputy Inder if adopting a "build it and they will come" approach would be prudent. In reply, Deputy Inder said that the States' financial support of Aurigny over many years could alternatively have paid for a runway extension.

Deputy Burford asked Deputy Inder whether extending the runway would be the end of Aurigny. In reply, Deputy Inder said: "That is a question for the STSB [States' Trading Supervisory Board, which is led by Deputy Roffey]. I can't see a position which will be publicly acceptable if the team at Aurigny don't deliver on their wish to make the company successful...we can't continue to pump millions per year into Aurigny."

An opinion poll set up by Deputy Burford and still open on social media had generated more than 250 responses by 10:00hrs this morning with around 23% saying they were in favour of lengthening the runway and around 77% saying they were against.

Pictured: An online opinion poll set up by Deputy Yvonne Burford which remains open until Monday.

After the Scrutiny Management Committee hearing, Deputy Inder thanked the Panel for the opportunity to explain the work of his Committee. 

"Scrutiny hearing précis. Key themes: Guernsey Finance, tourism, medicinal cannabis. And a drift into machinery of government and whether fit for purpose, runway extension and housing and population. With thanks to panellists Deputy Burford, Deputy Trott and Mrs Morris," he said. 

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