Page last updated at 14:49 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Ex-council chief chairs inquiry

Newquay Airport sign
The airport was without a licence for three weeks

The independent inquiry into the recent closure of Cornwall's Newquay Airport will be chaired by the former chief executive of Cornwall County Council.

John Mills CBE was appointed by the current council leader David Whalley.

He will examine why the airport failed to stay open when it transferred from military to county council control in December.

All flights in and out of Newquay were suspended for three weeks, disrupting up to 7,000 passengers.

This inquiry now needs to get on and establish what went wrong
Dan Rogerson MP

Mr Mills denied his former role at Cornwall County Council could compromise his independence:

"It's nearly 10 years since I left my post there as chief executive," he said.

"I've been away from the council long enough for that not to be an issue."

Dan Rogerson, the Lib Dem MP for North Cornwall, said: "We welcome this inquiry.

"It now needs to get on and establish what went wrong."

'Early warnings'

Cornwall County Council, which owns Newquay airport, had been due to take over operations from the RAF on 1 December.

But as the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) did not grant it a licence in time it had to cancel all flights in and out until 20 December, when a licence was granted.

The inquiry will look at a range of issues including the financial impact of the closure and the council's relationship with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and airlines.

It will also try to establish whether there were any "early warnings" the airport was facing temporary closure.

Mr Mills, who is also currently the acting chairman of the Royal Cornwall Hospital's NHS Trust, plans to release his inquiry report in March.

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