A MEMBER of the ruling Labour administration in Swansea said he was “totally dissatisfied” with the situation surrounding the county’s airport, which the council owns.
Cllr David Hopkins, cabinet member for corporate service and performance, was responding to another set of questions from frustrated users of the airport at a meeting of full council.
He and council leader Rob Stewart said they were restricted in what they could say due to ongoing legal advice and were not trying to avoid the questions.
Cabinet is to consider what further courses of action might be available for the authority, including their costs, but it’s not clear when the meeting will take place.
In January cabinet decided to negotiate a new lease with the existing operator to continue running the airport at Fairwood Common, Gower, despite complaints from users about the way they felt it was being operated. The council doesn’t want to run the airport on cost and environmental grounds.
Around three weeks later the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) provisionally suspended the airport’s operating licence due to a “systemic failure of safety management”. The operator, Swansea Airport Ltd, was given a chance to rectify the issues raised. The action plan it subsequently submitted was not deemed acceptable by the CAA but it was given further time to resolve the issues. Speaking in early April, Swansea Airport Ltd director Roy Thomas said things were moving in the right direction. He added that the airport had to be more business and leisure-orientated to make it commercially viable.
The council, meanwhile, said it would review its position – and Cllr Hopkins was asked at the meeting on May 4 when cabinet would have this discussion.
Cllr Hopkins said it was difficult to answer. “At the present time we are taking legal advice – it’s taking longer than I would particularly like,” he said.
Cllr Hopkins asked airport campaigners to be patient, and said “all factors” would be considered when cabinet finally met.
He was asked by an airport user, Dave Grant, about various items at the airport and whether the council would ensure they were reinstated. Cllr Hopkins said council officers had provided comprehensive advice about the airport’s condition for several years, and that this was being supplemented by legal advice.
He said: “This is an ongoing situation – it could go on a little bit longer but we will resolve it as as soon as we can.” He added: “It isn’t easy. I’m totally dissatisfied with the situation myself.”
Cllr Stewart said he and his colleagues had to “proceed with caution” and that they were not trying to be evasive.
“It is a very difficult and frustrating position for us as (elected) members not to say more than we are actually able to at this point in time because we do not want to either undermine the position of any parties or the council itself,” he said.
Another airport user, Bob Oliver, of Swansea Airport Stakeholders Alliance, which wants to operate the facility, asked if cabinet would consider the benefits as well as costs of potential alternative options, and also if there would be a public consultation.
Mr Oliver said the alliance, which has submitted proposals to the council for the running of the airport, was “motivated solely by a genuine desire to help and support the council secure the best outcome for all residents and the wider stakeholder community”.
Cllr Hopkins said there would be further consultation at the appropriate time. The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked the CAA if the airport’s licence remained provisionally suspended but it said it couldn’t provide an answer at the time of going to press.