Members of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee have approved a recommendation to urgently engage with Government to secure funding support to ensure the continued sustainability of the City of Derry Airport.
The recommendation was made following a presentation made at the Committee where proposals to secure funding support from Government were presented to elected members.
As part of the presentation, members heard about the challenges currently facing the City of Derry Airport as a result of the COVID pandemic and the level of financial support currently made available from Government during this period and how the onus is on Council to secure the rebalancing of the financial responsibility for City of Derry Airport (CODA) to allow this key infrastructural asset to continue providing critical air connectivity for the North West region.
It was recommended to members of the Committee they should proceed with a three stranded approach to secure a funding package over a six-year period towards the operating costs of the airport, with continued financial support to retain the London PSO service as well as securing additional funding for a Dublin PSO service that would support the NW economic recovery and development and meet the needs of the local business community.The strategic importance of City of Derry Airport (CoDA) as a key source of air connectivity in the North West of Ireland, both as a promoter of tourism and as a contributor to regional economic growth was emphasised at the meeting. Members heard how the Airport accounted for £26m additional GVA per annum and 850 jobs, prior to the pandemic and how imperative it is that support continues to be provided in order to maintain its continued operation in the short to medium term so that it can play its role in assisting with economic recovery and growth.
Members also heard how Council continued to engage with Central Government to provide the financial assistance required to secure the future sustainability of the airport and ensure the existing connectivity to key UK destinations is maintained for at least a further six-year period beyond 2021 whilst critical transport infrastructure, such as the A5 and A6, are progressed and roads connectivity to the North West is significantly enhanced. It was also outlined to members that the Council remained committed to reducing the financial pressures on the ratepayer by reducing its annual operating subvention.
It was outlined to elected members of the Committee that despite the recent challenges, passenger numbers increased by 7.1% in 2019/20 with the airport providing critical connectivity for over 200,000 passengers. In a post COVID environment, it was envisaged the airport would hope to resume connectivity to London (via the fully funded PSO service), Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester as well as continue with the recently announced summer service to Palma.
Members heard how successful discussions with Government had the potential to see Council’s operating subvention reduced to a more sustainable £1.5m per annum and would represent a significant saving allowing Council to release funds for investment in other critical priorities and pressures.