Belfast Telegraph

City of Derry Airport facing closure over £6m funding blackhole

City of Derry Airport (Paul Faith/PA)
City of Derry Airport (Paul Faith/PA)

City of Derry Airport could close within two years if annual funding of £6million is not found to sustain it, it has been warned.

During a meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council's Governance and Strategic Planning Committee on Tuesday night, councillors agreed to formally request financial assistance from central government in order to sustain the airport beyond March 31, 2021.

Beyond that date, however, it emerged around £6m each year would be needed to keep the Eglington airport operational.

An additional £750,000 of council funding to keep the airport running until March 31, 2021 was also approved. Members were told this would directly protect 110 jobs at the airport, and a further 70 jobs indirectly.

The airport currently offers passengers five routes across the UK to London, Glasgow, Manchester, Edinburgh and Liverpool.

The route to London is 100% funded by the Government, however this is due to be reduced to 50% in 2021.

Councillors were told key issues affecting the airport include reduced passenger numbers, Air Passenger Duty of £13 and increased operational costs.

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A council briefing paper also states continued Brexit uncertainty "presents a significant further challenge" to the airport and the North West region.

"Given the proximity of the airport to the Irish border and a significant proportion of passengers coming from Donegal a significant risk exists which needs to be managed," the paper reads.

"The sustainability of the airport is critical at this time of significant uncertainty not only to mitigate the substantial challenges for the North West City Region but to benefit from any potential opportunities associated with Brexit."

City of Derry contributes an estimated £14.2m to the Northern Ireland economy each year.

SDLP councillor John Boyle said: "We need to always be thinking about how it might be that we can keep the airport as viable as possible right now, in the immediate to medium term.

"It is absolutely vital. What the long term future is will depend on government support, but if we don't have that government support, then we are going to have to look at a plan that would see us potentially having to close the airport."

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