Reopening Skye airport is a proposal set for take off
PLANS for the return of a regular airline service on Skye – which could boost the area’s economy by almost £47 million – were given the green light last week.
At Highland Council’s Planning, Development and Infrastructure Committee meeting on Wednesday, councillors approved a 104-page business plan to reopen the Broadford Airfield in Ashaig and committed up to £30,000 over the next two years to deal with the critical aspects of taking the project forward.
Councillors were told estimated passenger numbers between Glasgow and Skye every year could be as high as 23,800 and that operating a 19-seat Twin Otter aircraft would be the best value option.
The report also revealed the £39.7 million and £46.8 million benefit of a regular scheduled service to the economies of the island and the wider communities of Lochalsh and Wester Ross would outweigh the £39.7 million to £46.8 million costs of redevelopment over 30 years.
MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch Kate Forbes said: ‘I am really excited about the prospect of reopening the airport on Skye. We’ve already got the basic infrastructure there and now several commissioned reports have confirmed the enormous benefits of direct flights to Skye.’
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart said that a new airport would encourage economic growth to the area and called for the Scottish Government to support the project.
He said: ‘The development of the Ashaig airfield in Skye is to be welcomed and long overdue.’
Ian Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, and longterm airport campaigner, said: ‘I am delighted at this decision and that the report demonstrated there is a real need for a regular air service to Skye and a strong business case for developing the airport.
‘It is time that Skye was connected by air to the rest of the world.’
Councillor for Skye and Raasay Hamish Fraser said the council’s next step is to lobby the Scottish Government and its partners to make the project – which could be opened in two years – a reality.
He said: ‘The big issue is to get the service up and running and then see what further infrastructure is needed to keep it going.
‘An inter-island service, or island-hopping approach, could make the project even more viable.’
Chairman of Broadford and Strath community council Calum MacLeod said the sheer volume of visitors to the region called for an alternative and faster form of transport to be introduced.
He said: ‘No-one could foresee the phenomenon that has happened to Skye over the past few years in terms of volume of tourists and traffic, and we now have a very strong business case for a regular air service.
‘We have had a very busy summer with a lot of traffic on the roads. An alternative form of transport will open the island up to more people and provide opportunities to explore it in different ways than by car.
‘The drive from the central belt to Skye can take anything between four and six hours, depending on the traffic and road conditions.
‘The same journey by air would take about an hour.’
Hamish Fraser and Calum MacLeod are overjoyed at the Wednesday’s decision. Inset: Kate Forbes outside the Broadford airfield in Ashaig.