WORK on erecting vehicle barriers at Sumburgh Airport has been temporarily halted after Shetland Islands Council raised concerns over the road into the car park area.
Airport operator Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) said it is reconfiguring the layout of its plans and still hopes to introduce the £3 a day car park charge from the scheduled 1 July – but if no agreement is reached then there could be a delay.
The concerns are said to focus on the road into the airport car parking area being a public road with a 60mph limit and the positioning of the barriers.
The government owned HIAL believes it does not need planning permission for the works due to permitted development rights as an airport operator, although it has kept the council informed of its plans.
There have also been some concerns over passenger safety and the queuing of vehicles.
Work began recently on the ground at the entrance to the main car park and the parking spaces to its left.
HIAL said it had stopped the work voluntarily, however, as it had discussions with the local authority. It is thought that the barriers will be moved as part of a reconfigured set-up.
A spokesperson said: “We are currently working closely with Shetland Islands Council officials to address design queries that have been raised during the routine consultation process related to the positioning of the car parking equipment at Sumburgh.
“As a result, we have taken steps to reconfigure the layout of the barriers and we are confident matters will be resolved.”
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said the introduction of a car parking charge – which will also be implemented at HIAL’s Kirkwall and Stornoway airports – is now an “utter fiasco”.
“HIAL has attempted to crash through one barrier too many,” he said.
“Having ignored the public, passengers and users of the airport, they planned to put barriers on the public road. The SIC have rightly said no.”
Figures have also been released to the MSP which show that Sumburgh Airport did not require any revenue subsidy from the Scottish Government in 2017/18.
It did, however, receive just over £900,000 in capital subsidy.
The figures show that the revenue subsidy needed at the airport gradually decreased from £2.73 million in 2008/9 to £504,383 in 2016/17, before dropping to zero the following year.
They also show that HIAL’s ten other airports received revenue subsidies in 2017/18, with Inverness for example getting over £5.7 million.
Scott said HIAL’s assertion that it needs to introduce a car parking charge at what was described as a loss-making Sumburgh Airport to raise money to run the facility is now “shown to be false”.
“These government figures show that Sumburgh now makes money,” he said.
“I suspect that Sumburgh is the only airport in the HIAL network that makes money. Yet islanders are going to be taxed for using it. HIAL’s justification has fallen apart. They should be made to stop, conduct a full consultation and explain themselves.”
Speaking after Thursday’s environment and transport committee council meeting, chairman Ryan Thomson said “this island tax is looking less and less appealing by the minute”.
He added: “This flies in the face of everything they have told us so far.
“The more information Tavish Scott is getting out of HIAL the more murky the affair becomes. All this would have come out in the beginning if they had acted properly and done a proper impact assessment.”
A spokesperson for HIAL said that it believes a “fair and proportionate car parking charge will help us achieve [keeping subsidies at a minimum] while also enabling continued investment and improvements at the airport”.
“The performance at Sumburgh is a success story and this is down in part to the hard work of the local team and government subsidy,” they said.
“The subsidy has enabled us to improve and enhance the airport for all our customers and future proof it for years to come.
“Since 2012 Sumburgh has received £53 million in capital and revenue funding, substantially more than other airports in the HIAL portfolio.
“This money has been used in part to upgrade the terminal and airport infrastructure and the results are there for all to see. However, we must keep subsidies at a minimum.”