Lydd Airport Expansion – but no surface transport improvements?

News from Lydd Airport has been rather sparse of late – it would appear that negotiations have been taking rather a time to complete. Even a runway extension and new terminal won’t really answer the question of how a “regional airport” at Lydd would survive with the severely restricted surface transport links.

Obviously Manston “only” has a dual carriageway right up to the boundary that links to the Motorways, a rail line nearby that will be upgraded, a passenger terminal due soon and a port right on the doorstep.

Whilst we welcome the investment in another regional airport, it still seems rather a strange choice.

“Bosses say plans for a new passenger terminal could touch down earlier than previously thought as a mark of confidence in the expansion of Lydd Airport.

In a meeting with residents and businesses this week, the airport’s manager expressed his frustration at delays in securing an area of land to complete the 294m runway extension.

Final stages of negotiations are taking place between the airport’s legal team and land owners to buy an area of farmland next to the airport, which include agreeing a compensation and purchase package.

Hani Mutlaq, executive manager of Lydd Airport – formally known as London Ashford Airport – told members of the Lydd Airport Consultative Committee he expected work on the runway to start in summer 2018 once the deal is signed and completed by “early 2019”.

Once completed, the runway will be able to handle fully loaded Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 aircraft. The airport says the expansion will maximise the routes and choice of aircraft available to airlines and will “provide much needed extra capacity in the south east”.

The two main projects which will see the biggest change to the airport’s traffic and see passenger numbers soar are the new terminal and the extension to the runway – which were proposed 10 years ago in December 2006.

But an exact timetable for works to begin on the terminal building has not been confirmed with Mr Mutlaq only saying he hoped to bring the work forward.

He said: “The airport is heading in the right direction. Our expansion plans are progressing and the support of the owner is strong.

“Indeed we are even considering bringing forward our plans to build the new terminal, in addition to the runway extension. That is a sure sign of our confidence in Lydd Airport.”

Approval to extend the existing 1,500m runway by 294m and a 150m starter area and to build a brand new terminal facility capable of taking 500,000 passengers a year was granted by Shepway council in 2010.

Initial work already carried out on the runway extension has been approved by the council meaning further work has no time limit on its completion, Mr Mutlaq said.

Mr Mutlaq said encouraging progress is being made to invest and grow the business in other areas and remained confident post-Brexit, adding the airport was committed to the project in the long term – having already invested £35 million in the last decade.

The aim is to create a successful and modern regional airport creating new jobs and “act as a catalyst for economic growth” in Kent.

Mr Mutlaq also told the meeting how the airport had already expanded with additional services and aviation businesses moving in. Two new hangars have been built costing more than £850,000 and are already full.

He said: “Such is the demand that both new hangars are virtually full and we have a waiting list, so we will be taking a decision soon on investing in even more hangar space at Lydd.”

Search and rescue operations have been based at Lydd since August 2015 from a temporary base but Bristow Helicopters – which runs the helicopters – is planning to build new permanent headquarters and to the 30 staff already employed at Lydd.

Construction is expected to start in the spring with Bristow investing millions of pounds in its long term future.

A flight training specialist has already set up a base at Lydd installing a £100,000 flight simulator and providing pilot training courses for student pilots from the UK and around the world.

Upgrades already carried out to facilities over the past 10 years include installing a new instrument landing system, executive terminal with VIP facilities, improved passenger check-in and new departure lounge.”