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Anger in Alderney over idea for ferry to replace runway

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ALDERNEY politicians have reacted fiercely to the Policy & Resources Committee’s argument that a ferry service should have been examined in more detail as a potential alternative to maintenance of an airfield.

Alderney Policy and Finance Committee chairman James Dent said that the 1948 agreement between the island and Guernsey mean that the larger island had to provide an airport by law.

It was made in an amendment to a proposal, to be debated this week, by the States’ Trading and Supervisory Board to spend £12m. on the island’s runway.

The amendment, led by P&R president Gavin St Pier, proposes that in reviewing the final business case for the project the committee should take into account the value for money of the scheme and the ongoing financial obligations to Alderney following the review of the 1948 agreement which outlines for what areas of spending Guernsey is responsible.

The rehabilitation proposal has been going on since 2013 and the submission of the late Paul Arditti’s requete. Five reports have been commissioned to seek the best option.

The current proposal includes resurfacing the asphalt runway, improving lighting and drainage and restoration to the original regulation width of 23 metres.

Alderney Policy and Finance Committee chairman James Dent said rehabilitation of the runway could not be tied to renegotiation of the 1948 agreement or other financial links.

‘The fact of the case is that the 1948 agreement legally requires Guernsey to provide an airfield,’ he said. ‘If people want to be pedantic about it, that is defined as an airport, less the “nice to have” features such as a terminal building. It covers a runway and all the things that keep it safe and serviceable.

‘Any changes to the 1948 agreement need to be agreed between the two parties it involves and who made it law. It is not reasonable to make a precondition of re-negotiating the 1948 agreement before they rehabilitate our runway. They have got to do that, under law. It’s a non-starter. The 1948 agreement does not speak of ferry alternatives.’

As for concerns aired over the £12m. cost of the proposed project Mr Dent retaliated: ‘Guernsey is not short of money’.

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Steve Roberts, one of Alderney’s new representatives in Guernsey’s States, said he would argue strongly against P&R’s amendment.

‘The idea that a ferry service could replace an airport is a joke,’ he said. ‘Alderney would be cut off for six weeks of the year. A ferry service is supplementary to a functional airport and air service. It’s a ridiculous idea.’

Deputy St Pier said the committee was disappointed that the STSB had not given a more rigorous appraisal of a ferry service to replace the current requirement set out in the 1948 agreement to run an airfield.

Such an option was worthy of appraisal, he said, given the subsidies paid out annually from Guernsey’s budget to keep Alderey’s airport running – some £900,000 a year – and to ameliorate the losses made on Aurigny’s Alderney routes.

The option had been ‘dismissed with little or no detailed analysis, based on the requirement of the 1948 agreement for an airfield, along with the conclusion that a public subsidy would likely be needed to run a ferry service’.

Nick Mann

By Nick Mann
author

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