Re­open­ing Skye air­port is a pro­posal set for take off

The Oban Times - - NEWS - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­

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.’

Pic­tures: Sara Bain

Hamish Fraser and Calum Ma­cLeod are over­joyed at the Wed­nes­day’s de­ci­sion. In­set: Kate Forbes out­side the Broad­ford air­field in Ashaig.

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