New European Commission guidelines, adopted last Thursday (20th February) set out how member states can support regional airports, such as Newquay, with financial assistance.
The new rules will allow Newquay Airport to continue to receive the subsidy from Cornwall Council for a further 10 years, after which time it will have to be stopped.
Commenting on the news, Steve Double, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for St Austell and Newquay said “Newquay Airport is vital to Cornwall's economy and as such must be protected. I have been calling for some time for a robust business plan that will put the airport on a commercial footing and cut the need for the tax payers’ subsidy. Whilst it is good news that Newquay will continue to be allowed to be subsidised for a further ten years, it should now focus the minds of those responsible to plan for a future without the Cornish Tax Payer having to foot the bill."
Ashley Fox, Conservative MEP for the South West said, “There was a lot of pressure on the Commission to come up with tighter guidelines after allowing subsidised ‘white elephants’ across Europe.”
"As a matter of principle, I am against state subsidies as a distortion of the free market. However, Newquay Airport is essential for the local economy, especially after the recent storms cut the rail link in Dawlish. I am pleased that we agreed a 10 year window to give Cornwall Council the time to plan for a financially independent future for the airport.’
The guidelines say that state aid for investment in regional airport infrastructure will continue to be allowed only if there is a genuine transport need and the public support is necessary to ensure the accessibility of a region.
Also, operating aid to regional airports like Newquay with less than 3 million passengers a year will be permitted for a 10-year transitional period, but Newquay Airport will need to work out a business plan towards how it could meet its operating costs after this time.