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Airport City vision unveiled

18/03/2012

Ambitious plans to create Scotland’s first ‘airport city’ are taking shape around Aberdeen Airport.

Airport MD Derek Provan has hailed a series of major multi-million pound developments, currently underway or planned for the future, which he says have the potential to transform the local economy.

But with Aberdeen set to grow by more than half a million passengers over the next five years, the airport boss has also warned that future development around the airport could be put at risk by a lack of investment in the already congested road system, compromising the airport’s ability to grow.

In a speech to Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future (ACSEF), Derek Provan set out his ambition to create an Airport City, with Aberdeen Airport at its heart.

The concept of an Airport City has emerged in recent years where the airport acts as a catalyst for commercial, residential and leisure developments and becomes a destination in its own right – a place to work, shop, meet, do business and fly.

Examples include Hong Kong and Singapore in the Far East, and Amsterdam and Frankfurt in Europe. Germany’s main hub, already home to 500 companies employing 70,000 people, has unveiled plans for massive development, including ‘The Squaire,’ a €1.25bn development that will create the largest single roof building in Germany including offices, hotels, restaurants and a high speed rail terminal.

Earlier this year, Manchester Airport also unveiled plans to create its own Airport City - a £659 million business centre, which is expected to create 13,000 jobs, and will be the first of its kind in the UK.

Mr Provan said: “My ambition working in sync with current and proposed developments in and around the airport, and in line with the AWPR project is to help create Scotland’s first Airport City here in Aberdeen
My ambition is to create Scotland’s first Airport City here in Aberdeen - a modern transport hub that serves as a catalyst for future social and economic development. It is not a distant dream. It is already taking shape today.”

He reaffirmed BAA’s plans – recently outlined in the airport’s draft Master Plan – to invest £100 million over the next two decades, including soon to be announced plans to expand the terminal building.

He said: “A successful, expanding airport is good for the business community and the wider economy, supporting employment and economic development. Aberdeen Airport already contributes around £126 million a year to the Scottish economy and supports almost 3,900 jobs across Scotland. By 2030, an additional 1,100 jobs are expected to be created as a result of future development, with more than 900 of those in the City and Shire.”

“But our investment is just part of the story,” he added. “Look around Aberdeen Airport and you’ll see signs of an amazing transformation already underway.”

He pointed to a series of developments currently under construction, or planned for the future, including:

• The new 194 bed Marriot Hotel, due for completion in March next year; and a planned 100 bed Premier Inn.
• The ABZ Business Park – a £100m project that will deliver new office, hotel, industrial and warehousing facilities on a 54 acre site, close to the terminal.
• And the D2 Business Park – an even larger project in terms of scale, this 160 acre development will offer office, industrial and warehouse facilities, and potential hotel and restaurant use.
• Development sites at The Rowett and Craibstone.

“I am confident that our investment, coupled with the ambitious commercial developments now under construction, will deliver a lasting economic legacy for the city and shire. More quality jobs, enhanced facilities for local residents and visitors, the business community better connected through a growing international network of routes, an airport driving the economy forward,” he said.

But he warned that plans to create an Airport City could be undermined by a sharp increase in traffic levels on Dyce Drive and the surrounding airport road network as a result of rising passenger numbers. Within five years, forecasts suggest an extra half a million passengers will be using Aberdeen Airport, with the resulting increase in traffic only further exacerbating the problem of road congestion.

He said: “On the face of it, the return to growth is great news for the airport and the local economy, but it also presents a serious challenge for us as an airport operator, one that is increasingly impacting on our reputation and future ability to grow – the issue of surface access.

“As anyone who uses the airport knows, Dyce Drive is badly congested, particularly at peak times.

“That leads to delays and frustration for passengers. It’s not the first impression we want to give visitors at a time when we’re stepping up our efforts to promote the region as a tourist destination.

“It’s bad for the reputation of an airport that promotes itself as an international gateway for Scotland, and for a city that brands itself as Europe’s energy capital.

“And it’s punishing local businesses on Dyce Drive who, according to recent research by Scottish Enterprise, contribute more than £20 million in rates. Without fit for purpose infrastructure, I believe there is a real and present risk to current and future investment from those businesses.

“So, my message to the business community, to our planners and to our local and national politicians, is that we must work together to deliver a long-term solution that addresses the airport’s surface access needs and allows us to deliver our vision of an Airport City. We are ready and willing to play our part in those discussions because, let’s be clear, if we don’t – or can’t – address the problem, the city and shire will pay a heavy price.

“The visitor experience will suffer. Airlines will lose confidence in the city. Businesses will become less competitive. And, ultimately, our ability as an airport to grow will be compromised.

“This is not the future I envisaged for our airport.”

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