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Haverfordwest airport to be leased out to make it cost-neutral to council

Haverfordwest’s airport must be run as a ‘zero subsidy’ concern, said Cabinet Member for Place, the Region and Climate Change Cllr Paul Miller (Main Pic: Pixabay)

SENIOR Pembrokeshire councillors are to lease Haverfordwest airport as part of plans to make the council-run facility, which had a circa £119,000 deficit last year, 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.

That loss has been reduced to an expected £119,000 for 2023/24 “following an extensive review of the operations of the airport”.

Following scrutiny committee backing for the airport to be leased, a more detailed recommendation was presented to Cabinet on May 20, seeking approval of the lease to “an existing stakeholder / established aviation company,” by giving delegated authority to the Assistant Chief Executive, with relevant input from officers.

The report before Cabinet said the lease would be for an initial 10-year term, with a requirement to obtain/keep a CAA [Civil Aviation Authority] Cat II licence and at a market rent, which 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”.

“Any lease would have to allow the operator to run the airport on the commercial terms of their choosing to give a chance of long-term sustainability, so, the council will lose full control of how the airport operates.

“However, any lease will require that the airport be maintained to an acceptable standard and that a CAA Cat II licence is maintained. If these terms of the agreement are breached, then the facility will return to the council.”

Deputy Leader Cllr Paul Miller, presenting the proposal and moving approval, said: “The airport is a valuable facility and one I’m keen to maintain; I personally recognise that maintaining an ongoing public subsidy is not something we’re particularly keen to do indefinitely.”

He added: “What the lease, we believe, will do is maintain a franchising CAT II airport in Haverfordwest and remove our liability from day one.”

Deputy Leader Cllr Paul Miller (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council webcast)

Members heard conversations were ongoing with Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society over continued use of part of the site for the annual Pembrokeshire County Show.

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Cllr Miller said he was “a huge supporter” of the show, and it was hoped the lease will broadly allow it to continue as before, adding that officers “are getting involved to ensure a smooth transition, and one the show is comfortable with”.

New Cabinet Member for Planning & Regulatory Services Cllr Jacob Williams said: “I don’t think this administration, or any administration, can afford to lose the farming community, one of the oldest and biggest county show in Wales; it’s so important we don’t lose the ongoing relationship between the agricultural society and the council.”

Councillor Jacob Williams (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council webcast)

Following a discussion in private session, members unanimously backed the leasing of the airport.

The council intends to exclude Hangar 5 [indoor trampolines] from any lease, and also includes the option to take back part of the site that may have the potential to be developed as a solar farm or industrial units.

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