“Airport City” and the missing “Masterplan”: Questions abound for Rhoose residents…

As the Vale of Glamorgan Local Development Plan (LDP) consultation (deadline 20th December) continues, serious implications for residents of Rhoose remain hidden within a “Masterplan” that no one has seen or is able to comment on.

The “Masterplan”, which the Vale council LDP refers to as a Welsh Government document, although the First Minister insists is a Cardiff Airport Board document, contains a reference to an “Airport City”. On page 70, paragraph 6.62 of the LDP, the document says:

airport city reference in LDP

This reference to the Airport City Masterplan can be found in the Local Development Plan on pages 70 – 71

The Masterplan, which we are told will contain details of proposals for this Airport City, including the following elements;

  • “Safeguarding the route” of the railway Spur from the Vale line to the airport.
  • An ‘energy centre’, described as a combined heat and power plant.
  • Employment land to the south of Port Road, which currently comprises the best agricultural land on Model Farm, which Gethin and Rhys Jenkins‘ family has been farming for four generations.
  • An extension to Porthkerry Country Park, by land being transferred from Legal and General, the Landowners (who will see an huge increase in the overall value of their land from its reclassification from Agricultural to Employment land) to the Vale of Glamorgan Council.

The inclusion of this Masterplan within the LDP leaves many questions for us residents of the local area, which you might want to ask local councillors and planners:

  1. Why are the Council, who received our petition opposing the rail spur during the last LDP, still insisting on having this proposal in the new LDP?
  2. How can the council justify tucking way in a reference on page 71 “safeguarding the route of the rail spur”, and then only in a reference to a “Masterplan” that no one has seen nor can comment on?
  3. Why does the Council feel that it needs to allocate more land to the employment zone for this “Airport City” south of Port Road, when there is plenty of employment land already allocated north of the road which hasn’t yet been developed, despite being available for the last 15 years?
  4. How can the council justify rendering Model Farm economically unviable, thereby ending the farm that four generations of tenant farmers have been looking after and from which they have produced high quality food for Wales? Especially while employment land north of Port Road remains undeveloped and unused?
  5. How much disruption will be caused to local residents using Port Road to commute to Barry and Cardiff, in building this power plant and the development (if it ever happens) of the employment land south of the road, and what will happen to the iconic view across the fields to the viaduct, the Bristol channel and beyond from the road?
  6. While the extension to Porthkerry Country park seems positive for the Vale, has the Council looked fully into the financial implications of managing all this extra land? At present, the land is tended by the farmers at Model farm, at no cost to the taxpayer.And perhaps most urgently…
  7. Who is responsible for the creation of this “Masterplan”? When will it be published? Will it be open to public consultation?

Confusion about who is writing the Masterplan

The Vale of Glamorgan Council Local Development plan states clearly that the “Masterplan” is being prepared by the Welsh Government on page 70:

WelshGovMasterplan

But Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales, has said equally clearly in the Senedd that it is NOT a Welsh Government document, but the Cardiff Airport Board are preparing it:

What questions do you want answered about these plans? If you’re a resident of Rhoose, how do you feel about these plans for your local area being developed without consultation with the public? Do you feel that the “Spur” idea is still a threat to our rail services on the Vale line?

Cardiff Airport: Carwyn Jones to encourage new routes with operators?

This is from Sunday’s news:

The first minister has confirmed he has met commercial operators with an interest in buying a stake in the struggling Cardiff airport.

Carwyn Jones said a “medium to long term” strategy has been discussed with potential investors.

The Welsh government stepped in and bought the airport in March after passenger numbers slumped.

But Mr Jones told The Wales Report with Huw Edwards they wanted someone to share the running of the airport.

He said: “What we are looking at is for a commercial operator to come in to run the airport, perhaps come into partnership with us – maybe buy half of the airport if I can put it so crudely – so the money comes back quickly.

“There’s interest out there – I have met with large operators who have that interest.” […]

You can watch the interview with the First Minister at the beginning of The Wales Report on iPlayer.

Good relationships with operators are vital to the success of Cardiff Airport. The figures will only have a chance of dramatically picking up if there are a range of better routes on offer. Routes, routes, routes! To be clear, local fiddling with improvements to transport links will not boost the demand. We’ve stated this before on this website. Here’s a video clip explaining why:

And here’s a transcript of the video.

Welsh Government to buy Cardiff Airport

Who saw this coming?

Cardiff Airport will be bought by the Welsh Government, it has been announced.

First Minister Carwyn Jones revealed on Twitter today that a deal had reached with owners TBI to bring the struggling airport into public ownership.

TBI is a company owned by Spanish conglomerate Abertis (90%) and AENA (10%), the Spanish airports operator.

The nationalisation of the airport comes after a torrid few years which have seen declining passenger numbers and the loss of a number of key routes.

Mr Jones has spoken frequently of his dissatisfaction at the airport’s performance, which he labelled “not good enough” in March.

And in October, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood called for a public stake in the airport.

The Welsh Government will now enter an exclusive period of due diligence that it said would take into account “financial, legal and vale for money considerations”.
[…]

Full story on WalesOnline today

Cardiff Airport’s performance woes and Carwyn Jones’ airport task force

In May this year you may have seen news of an investigation being conducted by the First Minister Carwyn Jones, with the help of a task force of various groups that have a stake in the airport.

One of the groups who were asked to make a representation to the task force is the Vale of Glamorgan Council. As we’ve noted before, because of new leadership the original Local Development Plan, including the rail spur suggestion, has been discarded. Council leader Neil Moore has talked about going ‘back to the drawing board’ on more than one occasion.

According to BBC News today, Cardiff Airport has suffered a drop in passenger numbers in a comparison of the first half of 2012 with the same period in 2011. Another group on the task force is the Airport itself who have given some pretty clear clues in today’s article about what they would like to see. A spokesperson gave a key reason for the unfortunate drop in passenger numbers:

The airport said the majority of the fall was due to the decision of bmibaby to pull out of Cardiff.

Then an echo of what Steve Hodgetts, the commercial director of the Airport, said in March this year:

The spokesperson added that route development remained a priority for the airport, which was working closely with the Welsh government through the newly established Airport Taskforce and Enterprise Zone.

In fact the Airport has never lobbied or asked or expressed a desire for a direct rail spur to answer its woes. It’s clear from the bmibaby example that retention of airlines is very important. It’s also clear that route development – that is, more and better air routes around the world including new partnerships with additional airlines – is what will help to bring more passengers to the airport.

As far as we’re aware the task force investigation is still ongoing and we’re looking forward to the findings when they are eventually published. Given the early signs given by the Council and the Airport – two influential members of the task force – we’d be willing to bet that the idea of a direct rail spur in the Vale of Glamorgan won’t be among the recommendations. Let’s hope so at least.