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Council-owned airports will be released from borrowing controls next year in a move which could slow the pace of ai...
Council-owned airports will be released from borrowing controls next year in a move which could slow the pace of airport sell-offs and partnerships with the private sector.

Transport minister John Reid announced that councils would be allowed to raise development capital on the money markets from

1 April.

'We want to maximise the contribution these airports make to their local economies and to relieve congestion at airports in the south-east,' Dr Reid said. 'Giving financially sound council airports the power to raise private finance for development work will help us to do that.'

Current borrowing restrictions have seen councils struggle to finance plans to develop and expand regional airports to meet the burgeoning demand for air travel services. This has seen some councils either sell their airports or hand over day-to day-running to private consortia.

Earlier this year, Luton BC agreed a£170 million development deal with a US-led consortium to run London Luton Airport (LGC, 3 July). Last November, Bristol City Council announced that FirstBus was its preferred bidder for a 51% stake in Bristol International Airport.

The government's decision to let councils approach the money markets is good news for major council-owned regional airports such as Manchester and Newcastle. Manchester hopes the increased access to private capital will allow its airport to overtake Gatwick as the UK's second largest airport. It expects to double its passengers to 30m a year by 2005.

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