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Revealed: Norwich Airport’s 30-year vision to treble passenger numbers and forge worldwide links

PUBLISHED: 15:11 06 July 2017 | UPDATED: 18:42 06 July 2017

Generic views of Norwich Airport. An Eastern Airways aircaft. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Generic views of Norwich Airport. An Eastern Airways aircaft. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2017

A vision setting out how Norwich Airport will almost treble passenger numbers and fly to many more global destinations over the next generation can today be exclusively revealed.

Richard Pace, managing director at Norwich Airport. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYRichard Pace, managing director at Norwich Airport. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The masterplan, which covers its anticipated development up to 2045, looks to cement the airport’s position as a key economic player in the region and raise the profile of Norwich and Norfolk around the world.

Its ambitions include:

• Increasing annual passengers numbers from 520,000 to 930,000 by 2030, and more than 1.4 million by 2045;

• Forging new links with Paris and Dublin to boost the choice of worldwide destinations;

Richard Pace, managing director at Norwich Airport. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYRichard Pace, managing director at Norwich Airport. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

• Making Norwich a centre of excellence for aircraft maintenance and the offshore energy industry;

• Building a 100-acre business park for aviation and non-aviation companies;

• Supporting education and training through the International Aviation Academy to develop a future workforce;

• Extending the runway and building new taxiways to boost capacity and allow heavier planes to land;

Generic views of Norwich Airport. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYGeneric views of Norwich Airport. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norwich Airport managing director Richard Pace said: “The masterplan sets out the vision for the future development of Norwich Airport and its continued vital role in supporting our region’s economy.

“As well as projected passenger growth, the aim is to continue to be the transport hub for the offshore oil, gas and renewable industries for the Southern North Sea, and a centre of excellence for the maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft, closely linked to the International Aviation Academy Norwich in which we are a founding partner.”

The draft masterplan opens for consultation today and is split into two phases – the first to 2030 and the second on to 2045 - with the focus on achieving sustainable long-term growth.

The airport estimates that 2.25 million people live within an hour’s drive of the airport, and its plan to drive up passenger numbers revolves around convincing them to jet off from Norwich instead of London’s airports.

Generic views of Norwich Airport. Departures. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYGeneric views of Norwich Airport. Departures. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

As well as emphasising the convenience and short transfer times, it wants to offer more choice by steadily expanding the number of direct connections from Norwich, and forging new links with so-called hub airports which offer onward travel to worldwide destinations.

“We are investing in the future of the airport by providing greater hub connectivity, and we are targeting such places as Dublin and Paris to complement our existing Amsterdam connection,” said Mr Pace.

“We also want to increase domestic routes and serve the needs of that market. For instance, bringing back the route to Newcastle would join up with the wind farm and offshore energy industry, which is a key driver of this region.”

The Amsterdam route is served from Norwich by KLM, whose parent group also owns the Air France brand, which could open up the Paris link.

Generic views of Norwich Airport. The café area. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYGeneric views of Norwich Airport. The café area. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Passenger numbers have slumped since their peak of 2007, when they reached 773,000, and only last year topped the half-million mark again.

“We had 10% passenger number growth last year on the back of the new routes to Exeter and year-round flights to Malaga and Alicante,” said Mr Pace.

“But the airport will only grow with the support of the local business and leisure community.

“We know that there’s more demand than we can satisfy, and our objective is to capture more of the market that leaks to bigger airports - but we know we have to offer more choice.”

Generic views of Norwich Airport. Departures. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYGeneric views of Norwich Airport. Departures. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

More passengers will call for more infrastructure, and the airport is already looking at the adjoining park-and-ride site as a possible car park extension, which could be completed in two phases.

Beyond 2030, it also has a long-term ambition to move the control tower from the north to the south, closer to the terminal, and build new taxiways to allow large aircraft to clear the runway faster – opening up further capacity at the airport.

Land has also been earmarked for a potential 500-metre extension to the eastern end of the runway to accommodate larger aircraft capable of reaching medium-haul destinations, which could then mean flying hours being extended.

New stands for a greater number of large aircraft will also need to be built, as well as facilities for Air Livery and KLM UK Engineering to carry out their painting, engine testing and maintenance work.

The draft masterplan can be seen at www.norwichairport.co.uk/masterplan
Aeropark dream revived

One of the first major changes at the airport will be the creation of a 100-acre business park on the north of the site, on land accessed by the Northern Distributor Road.

Imperial Park is a revival of plans for an aeropark which were shelved in 2015, and will accommodate new businesses and jobs in the aviation and other sectors.

It will be developed from 2018, after the completion of the £178.5m NDR, and could house firms linked to the airport’s maintenance works or the International Aviation Academy.

“We have a 10-year vision to develop Imperial Park through a combination of aviation and non-aviation employment,” said Mr Pace.

“The road is unlocking the potential for the site to generate growth for the region and the airport.”

Plans for a £15m aviation-linked business park were first suggested in 2012, but were put on ice in 2015 as investors waited for the road’s completion.

Controversial fee is going nowhere

Much is expected to change at Norwich Airport in the coming years – but one feature set to stay is the Airport Development Fee.

Since its introduction in 2007, the £10 tax on passengers aged 16 or over who depart from the airport has proved controversial.

But bosses insist that without greater government support, the seven-figure sum raised by the levy every year is essential to the airport’s future viability.

They pointed to the £1m resurfacing of taxiways this year and a £1.5m security upgrade imposed by regulators as projects which were funded by the fee.

“The airport development fee is important to the future of the airport and its sustainability,” said Mr Pace.

“We’ve also been able to develop routes by having it available as a revenue stream. We’ve been able to offer airlines and tour operators a better commercial arrangement than we could have otherwise, to attract them here in the first place.”

Flying hours could be extended

Operational flying hours at Norwich Airport may have to be extended to cope with its anticipated growth.

Currently, no flights arrive after 11pm – but the airport is likely to seek permission to fly until 1.30am four nights a week.

Managing director Richard Pace said the extension would be necessary so that planes could complete two return trips to holiday destinations further afield in a single day.

“In order to use the holiday flights market to its potential, and to get to destinations further away, we are going to need a slightly longer operating window,” said Mr Pace.

He said any decisions would require “close dialogue” with planning authorities.

“We have a tight framework that we have to work to and we work with our neighbours in the community,” he added.

If granted, permission could be in place by 2020, so that the airport can meet the demands of new airlines and tour operators.

Ambitions to be economic powerhouse

As an international gateway to the county, Norwich Airport has ambitions to become a bigger player in the Norfolk and regional economy.

Around 1,240 jobs are directly supported by the airport – including 400 at KLM Engineering UK – with a further 360 indirect jobs in linked industries. By 2030, that may have risen to 1,950 direct jobs, and 2,590 by 2045.

Its contribution to the economy, measured in gross value added, is currently £70m but its development plans would see that rise to £120m by 2030 and £170m by 2045.

Closely linked will be International Aviation Academy, training the next generation of aircraft technicians and the planned Imperial Park business park.

It is also a key part of East Anglia’s offshore energy industry and is home to the UK’s second busiest heliport. In 2015, more than one-fifth (22pc) of passengers – both on helicopters and scheduled flights to Aberdeen and Amsterdam – had links to the offshore industry.

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