LONDON City Airport could pay up to £100million to take over Southend Airport.

Bosses at the east London terminal are the first to confirm their bid to run Southend Airport, pledging to develop business and passenger flights if their proposal is accepted.

Current airport operator, Regional Airports, put its 99-year lease from Southend Council up for sale last month, in a sealed bid auction which is expected to raise in the region of £100million.

Rupa Haria, spokeswoman for London City, said: "I can confirm London City Airport has put forward a bid to take over Southend.

"Obviously, because of the commercial sensibility and the sealed bid system, we cannot release any details of the figures involved.

"However, I can say that when we are looking towards the future, Southend would be an obvious partner for London City.

"The airports are less than hour away from each other and will be even less with the new rail station.

"We have a track record which shows we can work with local residents which we have done successfully. In addition, London City is involved with Thames Gateway and we know the area.

"Southend is identified as an important part of Thames Gateway South Essex."

Ms Haria said if London City was successful, bosses would look towards developing Southend's passenger services.

"It is clear there is demand in the area for holiday and business flights and it would fit in with our existing operation from London City. There is a shortage of airport capacity in the South East and Southend could be important in the continued development of aviation."

Southend Airport managing director Alastair Welch said he could not comment.

Public relations regarding the sale are being handled by London-based consultants College Hill.

Spokesman Robert Pugsley said: "During this process there will be a lot of speculation about various bids and a lot of talk. The fact is they are in sealed envelopes and we will not know until the summer when they have been studied and evaluated by the brokers."

Southend Council leader Nigel Holdcroft said: "It would be improper for me to comment on any particular bid at the present time.

"We are obviously hoping the succesful firm will give a promising future for the airport."

Lib Dem group leader Graham Longley, who worked at the airport before he became a teacher, said: "It is an interesting development but I would like to have a lot more details on what they would be providing.

"I would have concerns if they were planning to just bring business flights to Southend to make more room for commercial flights at London City."

Reasons this bid could work

LONDON City Airport has nearly reached full capacity.

At the moment, it is fast approaching its limit of 80,000 flights per year and is looking to expand.

A planning application has been submitted to Newham Council to allow an expansion to 120,000 flights a year with the existing facilities, but there are no guarantees this will be approved.

Like Southend, London City is working to a masterplan hoping to serve eight million passengers a year by 2030.

However, there are no guarantees any of the development will be able to proceed before the 2012 Olympics four years away.

It is expected there will be significant demand for air travel to the Olympic site at Stratford.

With Southend the second nearest airport, it could be perfectly possible to take up the overflow capacity from London City.

Southend also has the advantage that its expansion has already been virtually approved, except for the proposed extension to the runway.

The planned new railway station, terminal building and control tower could all easily be in place in time for the Olympics.

There is an extra carrot for any further expansion, London City's proposals to double the number of staff at Southend airport from 1,500 to 3,000.

In its heyday in the 1960s and 70s, Southend was one of the busiest commercial airports in the country with scheduled and charter flights to Europe and the Channel Islands.

Nowadays, this has dwindled to just two flights a week to and from Jersey run by budget airline FlyBe.


A HOST of international companies are believed to be lining up to bid for Southend Airport.

A number of them already have investments in the airport industry. They are:

  • Australian bank Macquarie. The company has stakes in airports from Sydney to Bristol, and is also thought to be keen to bid for Gatwick, if BAA parent group Ferrovial is forced to sell it by the Competition Commission.
  • Spanish company Albertis. It has stakes in Luton, Cardiff and Belfast airports
  • Dawnay Day, which owns Oxford airport
  • Balfour Beatty, which owns Exeter airport
  • Hochtief, an airport management business based in Germany, which owns six airports around the world
  • Other interested bidders are Barclays Capital which has been involved in consortium buys, and Cognetas, a private equity group with investments in Europe and the US.

More than 40 parties were sent information on the airport sale last month.