Airport is key to county’s economy

Author
Ian Mean
Director of Business West Gloucestershire | Vice Chair of GfirstLEP | Business West
6th December 2023

Councils and business have often not been compatible bedfellows.

So, I was not really surprised that Gloucestershire Airport, jointly owned by Gloucester City Council and Cheltenham Borough Council, has been put up for sale.

Not before time in my view.

That’s because the two councils have often been shouldering some of the airport’s costs for too long.

They have been forced to bail out Gloucestershire Airport Ltd on several occasions over the years. 

What is urgently required is proper commercial  investment to make the airport really fly as a big business.

Gloucestershire Airport Ltd was established in 1993 and both Gloucester and Cheltenham councils have a 50 per cent shareholding.

It has a 999 year lease on the 300 acre site and manages both the commercial aviation related working.

Gloucestershire Airport-formed in 1936 and originally named Staverton Airport is regarded as one of the UK’s busiest general aviation airports-especially in the commercial sector.

 To be honest, I am a latter day supporter of the airport having seen firsthand how successful it is, and the important part it plays in the Gloucestershire economy.

Previously, I had thought this large piece of land between Gloucester and Cheltenham might be better used for housing and a new general hospital serving the whole of Gloucestershire.

And you may remember that a new airport  was one of the initial ideas for Gloucestershire 2050, a vision for the county’s future.

The siting would be at the Cotswold Airport at Kemble. That was a dead duck from the start because of cost and the proximity of Bristol and Birmingham airports.

Why have I changed my mind about Gloucestershire Airport’s future?

I have seen it grow rapidly with two business parks spanning  700,000 sq feet with top aviation groups like Saffran and Babcock setting up there.

So, the time is now right for the airport to really take off commercially and for the councils to step aside.

But the councils must take the right advice on the sale to ensure that Staverton’s heritage is preserved and investors realise its true potential and importance to our county’s economy.

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