COUNCILLORS have agreed plans to hand troubled Shoreham Airport to a new operator following months of negotiations.

Under the deal, airport operator Albemarle will surrender the lease to Brighton City Airport Ltd (BCAL).

Members of Brighton and Hove City Council, which has a two-thirds stake in the airport, agreed to postpone a £1 million fee owed by Albemarle for failing to renovate the airport’s crumbling grade II listed terminal building and hangar.

Official new operator BCAL, which has been running the airport since August 2013, said the deal safeguarded the airport’s future and committed to start improvement works within six months.

Jonathan Candelon, managing director of BCAL, said: “BCAL works closely with the airport stakeholders and we have implemented numerous, positive changes to improve efficiency and safeguard the future of the airport.

“With key investments planned for the main grade II listed terminal building and the municipal hangar, we plan to commence work within six months of contracts being signed.”

Geoff Raw, executive director for environment, development and housing at Brighton and Hove City Council, said: “This is a superb opportunity to see the airport at Shoreham grow into a sustainable business which creates jobs and realises the site’s potential while protecting its heritage.”

But tenants called for the decision to be deferred and independently reviewed amid uncertainty over rising operating charges.

Andrew Edie, chairman of the Shoreham Airport Operators and Tenants Association, said: “It is clear BCAL are pursuing a self-interest policy at a cost to other users. We cannot forecast what will happen if this proposal ultimately does not proceed. However approving the proposal if it is flawed would be detrimental to the future of the airport. This time we do not want a decision to be made today that will be regretted tomorrow.”

Jemima Bland, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for East Worthing and Shoreham, launched a petition earlier this week as part of her Friends of Shoreham Airport (FOSA) campaign.

She said: “I am glad that the airport will continue to operate as an airport. But emergency repairs of the terminal building must happen now, not in six months.

“BCAL have a lot of work to do to earn the trust of the businesses operating on the airport, and of the wider community.

“Myself and FOSA will continue to campaign for urgent refurbishment of the terminal building.”

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