Plans to restore commercial flights to Skye for first time in 30 years
Commercial flights from a small airfield on the Isle of Skye are set to resume for the first time since in more than 30 years.
Councillors have agreed to seek funding for improvements that would get the facility at Ashaig, at the south end of the island, back in service.
However, opponents say the subsidy required to run the airport would take money away from projects such as schools and pothole-free roads.
The airstrip was built in the 1970s by Army engineers and appears briefly in a scene of the 1980 fantasy film Flash Gordon. It is still available for air ambulances making hospital patient transfers.
Skye and Raasay councillors unanimously agreed to seek £170,000-worth of funding from Highland Council coffers to “re-establish” a commercially-run airport at Ashaig.
They will now work with Highlands and Islands Airport Limited (HIAL), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and other partners.
Richard Gerring, Highland Council’s planning transport manager, said the short-life working group that had looked at the airport were now ready to move to a new stage of development, which would be led by HIAL as the partner who had “an incredible amount of knowledge” in operating airports.
In a presentation to the Skye and Raasay committee, Mr Gerring said: “At the moment we are looking at the cost effectiveness of the plan to have a trial of either three or five years to make the figures work.
“The length of the current of the runway at 2,529 feet will not be changed, but there are some infrastructure that will be required to make it work.
“At least five well-paid jobs will be created.”
After the meeting, Tom Stephens, a business owner based next to the aerodrome, said: “The officers failed to answer many questions, and what they did answer was not answered satisfactorily.”
Speaking on behalf of a group of objectors, he continued: “We are against a subsidised airport. If it is commercially run then that is a different case. This airport will not benefit the people we would like it to benefit.
“We don’t think subsidising high-end business users and their customers is correct.”