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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 July, 2004, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
RAF cuts may hit airport's future
Newquay Airport
The airport handles about 250,000 passengers a year
The owners of a Cornwall airport are reassuring business and tourism leaders they are doing all they can to secure its future after armed services cuts.

Newquay Airport relies on RAF St Mawgan for its runway and facilities such as fire cover and air traffic control.

The announcement that 200 jobs will go at the base, along with the relocation of its only flying squadron, is now raising doubts about its future.

Cornwall County Council says it is to work with the MoD to keep it open.

The problem becomes one of operating and maintaining the airfield
Group Captain Mike Trace

The council currently pays a fee to the MoD for the use of fire cover and air traffic control at the airport, but this could end after 2006.

This is because Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced on Wednesday that training and headquarters units for St Mawgan's 203 Squadron are to move to Anglesey and engineering work is to be put out to commercial tender.

The chief executive of Cornwall County Council, Peter Stetheridge, said they were doing all they could to make sure this did not happen.

He said: "The council's policy is not only to keep it open because of its importance to the local economy, but to reduce its deficit and put it more on a joint partnership in working with the private sector."

The airport currently handles nearly 250,000 passengers a year and is served by Ryanair and Air Southwest.

RAF St Mawgan
About 200 jobs are to go at the RAF base
Air Southwest said: "Newquay plays a vital role in sustaining the region's air links to London and is a valuable part of our route network. We remain wholly committed to it."

But former base commander Group Captain Mike Trace said there was no doubt St Mawgan's changes would impact on the airport.

He said: "The problem then becomes one of operating and maintaining the airfield for the civilian authorities themselves.

"That's a challenge they haven't been willing to take over the last few years, it seems to me.

"It's certainly one they'll have to pick up in the next 12 months or so if they are going to continue to operate the airfield."

Flights will carry on as normal to and from the airport. In the meantime, the council said it was finding out more details about the defence cuts.

Meanwhile, plans are also being considered which could see more than one third of the American military staff working at RAF St Mawgan withdrawn.

About 350 service personnel are currently stationed there in the Joint Maritime Facility which tracks submarines and surface ships.

A spokesman for the base said an on-going review of staffing was under way as a result of new technology and the end of the Cold War.

An option being considered is to cut the number of US personnel by up to 140, a reduction of 40%.

Squadron Leader David Webster said: "The JIC is a joint facility. Both the UK and US governments have been examining methods at possibly reducing the number of staff there on both the American and British sides.

"It is a review, one of many that take place to work out best practice in the military."

The RAF insists the move is not related to Wednesday's announced defence cuts.




SEE ALSO:
Forces chief backs defence cuts
22 Jul 04  |  Politics
20,000 posts go in defence cuts
21 Jul 04  |  Politics
MP demands Ryanair rethink
04 Feb 04  |  Cornwall
Council takes on airport debt
27 Jan 04  |  Cornwall


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