Glasgow & West Scotland

Prestwick Airport: Strategy set out to achieve growth

Prestwick Airport images
Image caption The Scottish government-owned Prestwick Airport has set out a long-term vision for growth

A long-term vision has been set out for Prestwick Airport - a year after it was taken into public ownership amid fears it could close.

A 53-page report has highlighted efforts to boost freight and passenger numbers as key drivers of success.

The business review document also places importance on Prestwick's bid to become the UK's first spaceport.

The Scottish government bought the struggling airport for £1 last year and later announced £10m in loan funding.

The cash was committed towards operating costs, a repairs backlog and to make improvements to the terminal building.

Strengths and opportunities

The long-term strategy has been based upon reports and recommendations from a senior advisor appointed by TS Prestwick Holdco Ltd, the holding company that was created by the Scottish government to buy shares in the airport and oversee its corporate governance.

The strategic vision said the Ayrshire terminal's association with Glasgow, some 35 miles away, was its "best asset".

A local campaign to change its name to Robert Burns International Airport, in recognition of the Alloway-born bard, would "damage the airport's business prospects, notably with inbound passengers", it said.

The vision also confirms Prestwick's bid to be the site of the UK's first spaceport, which it said will be "the catalyst for transformational change".

In the meantime, Prestwick faces some challenges including aged infrastructure, a maintenance backlog, a railway station in need of a £4.75m refurbishment, the need for a new primary radar within the next five years and Ryanair's expansion into Glasgow Airport.

The vision also said Scottish airports were "disproportionally affected" by air passenger duty (APD) due to their geographic location and Prestwick is calling for changes to UK aviation policy leading to a reduction in or removal of APD.

Prestwick chief executive Iain Cochrane said: "Our long-term vision for Glasgow Prestwick, which is shared by the Scottish government, is of a high-quality, exceptional value and vibrant aviation, aerospace and visitor hub.

"We aim to ensure that it becomes the busy and prosperous strategic anchor for economic growth and delivery in Ayrshire and Scotland that we strongly believe it can be.

"The document outlines the plans for investment, development and the optimum operating structure required to take the airport forward to achieve this long-term vision."

Mr Cochrane said there was widespread acceptance that there was no "no quick fix solution" to problems faced by the airport.

'Significant opportunity'

He said the possibility of Prestwick bidding to become the UK's first spaceport presented the airport with "another significant opportunity".

Mr Cochrane said: "We satisfy - and in some cases exceed - all the essential criteria such as infrastructure, weather and airspace, and securing spaceport status would be the catalyst for transformational change at the airport - from boosting revenue from space-related flight testing, establishing an attractive modernised hi-tech image and bringing in visitors and tourists.

"It will also bring significant economic benefits to both Ayrshire and Scotland. Our team is therefore firmly focused on winning the bid."

Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the aim was to transform Prestwick into "a successful and vibrant airport".

She said: "The management team has built on the work of the senior advisor and this document outlines their investment and business development plans, as well as the operating structure that is being put in place to take the airport forward.

"We have been clear from the start of this process that there is no quick fix for the airport but there are opportunities to improve in all areas of the business, from increasing passenger and freight traffic to putting forward a bid for the UK Spaceport programme.

'Safeguard jobs'

"We are confident there is a place for Glasgow Prestwick Airport in the evolving Scottish aviation market and look forward to seeing it grow and develop in the future."

Scottish Labour's infrastructure spokesman, James Kelly MSP, said that a year on from its sale, "workers have no sense of what direction the Scottish government will take Prestwick Airport".

He said: "Prestwick Airport is absolutely vital to the economy of the west of Scotland, supporting thousands of jobs. Yet despite the heavy investment of taxpayers money we are no further forward on how these jobs will be secured long term.

"The SNP need to get their head out of the clouds. Workers in Ayrshire deserve a clear plan that will safeguard existing jobs and create more, not the Nicola Sturgeon International Airport."

Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said the report should be "the launch pad for a focused plan of action from the Scottish and UK governments" and urged First Minister Alex Salmond and Ms Sturgeon to make it "their top priority".

"The UK Government's ambition to open a spaceport by 2018 is a tremendously exciting opportunity for Scotland and Prestwick stands in great shape to win the bidding process," he said.

"We urge Scottish ministers to do everything in their power to support it."

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