The oldest airport in the UK could be sold off to a private company as a council considers surrendering its stake in the face of austerity measures.

For more than 100 years, planes have been taking off from Brighton Shoreham Airport which is on the banks of the River Adur.

With operators Albemarle (Shoreham Airport) Limited looking to improve the 1930s Art Deco buildings, The Argus can reveal Brighton and Hove City Council is considering transferring its two-thirds of the freehold to the firm.

A similar agreement could also be struck with Worthing Borough Council, which holds the remaining third.

If agreed, it would see all public liability for the airport surrendered to the private firm.

Ric Belfield, general manager of the airport, said: “We have been trying for the last five or six years to get the freehold.

“We have got plans to refurbish the [Grade II* listed] terminal building and the [Grade II listed] municipal hanger. That is long overdue.

“Obviously if we do not have to pay for the lease that will make it more attractive for investors but whether or not it’s going ahead, I do not know.”

Mr Belfield added: “I cannot comment on council business.”


Control of the airport passed to a private firm, the Erinaceous Group, in 2006.

However, two years later the airport went into administration as records showed its owners had debts totalling more than £250 million.

Control was then sold to current owners, Albemarle.

At the time it was said the airport was running at a loss of £500,000 a year.

Tony Mernagh, of Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership, said: “I do not think it is a bad idea. The thing is councils do not like to sell their land as it generally leads to accusations they are selling off the family silver. But we are living through extraordinary times.

“I think councils will be tempted to feel money generated from the sale of things like Shoreham Airport, which cannot guarantee huge amounts of profit, could be better used in building homes, schools and other facilities.”

A council spokeswoman said: “We have been approached by the leaseholders of Shoreham Airport to ask if we would consider selling them the freehold of the airport.

“We are considering their request but have not yet reached a conclusion.

“We plan to bring a report to the council’s Policy and Resources Committee on July 11 if we have enough information by that point on which to make a decision.”