Home » £119k loss council airport could be leased out to make it ‘cost-neutral’
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£119k loss council airport could be leased out to make it ‘cost-neutral’

(Pic: Pixabay)

HAVERFORDWEST airport could be leased out as part of plans to make the council-run facility, currently forecast for a £119,000 deficit, cost-neutral to the authority.

Last year, Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, members heard the financial position at the council-supported Haverfordwest/Withybush airport deteriorated in 2022/23, with an out-turn position for 2022/23 of £238,000.

At the March 26 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s services overview and scrutiny committee members received a report on the airport, stating: “In the financial year 2022-23 the airport operated at a cost to the council in the region of £238,000, and, whilst highly valued, this level of spend cannot be justified in the current financial climate when placed against many of the statutory services the council has to deliver.

“Following an extensive review of the operations of the airport, this loss has been considerably reduced, however the airport continues to operate at a loss, which this financial year 2023/24 is forecast to be £119,000.”

The report lists reasons for the halving of this deficit, including: increased profit margin on fuel £40,000; increased landing fees £7,000; reduction in staff training £8,000; reduction in equipment and equipment maintenance costs £10,000; and a reduction in one off costs of hedges and sewers £53,000.

Five options were presented to members as ways of making the airport cost-zero: retain the airport with a drive towards becoming cost neutral; close the airport tower; sell the airport on a freehold or long leasehold basis; lease the airport to a current stakeholder and established aviation company; and finally to advertise the airport to let on the open market.

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Of the options, the first, could generate around £15,000 a year extra through a number of opportunities, the report said, but added that significant capital investment was needed in the facility, including ground lighting close to the end of its useful economic life, which could cost £400,000-£500,000, along with a corroded fuel storage tank, needing to be replaced at a cost of £200,000.

Some informal conversations have taken place around the favoured option, to lease the airport to a current stakeholder, members heard.

“Although at this stage detailed conversations have only been had with one party, the opportunity to lease will also be offered to other existing stakeholders,” the report stated.

“It is also likely that an existing stakeholder might be a ‘special purchaser’ who would pay more than the market as their existing interests will also benefit.

“Following these discussions, it seems there is a potential that the council would be able to agree a lease of the airport to an experienced and well-established aviation company who is an existing stakeholder with a good track record.”

It finished: “This option would make the airport cost neutral to the council from the day the lease is signed whilst also ensuring that an operational airport remains for Pembrokeshire to benefit from.”

Councillor Di Clements proposed that option be backed, seconded by Cllr Rhys Jordan, with members unanimously approving the option.

A final, more detailed recommendation is to be presented to the council’s Cabinet at a future meeting.

If approved, the lease would be dealt with under the delegated authority of the Assistant Chief Executive.