NO FLY ZONE: Uncertainty over council-owned airfields in Skye and Plockton

The airstrip at Ashaig Pic Willie Urquhart

The future of two Highland Council-owned airfields in Skye and Plockton will be discussed at a meeting today (Thursday).

Ashaig airfield in Skye is operated by the council while the airfield at Plockton is leased out on a rolling basis to PDG Helicopters.

A report to the council’s economy and infrastructure committee says the funds committed to the airfields are no longer sufficient to meet maintenance and legal liabilities and decisions need to be taken about their future.

The recommendation is to retain Ashaig, but either sell or long-term lease Plockton.

Loganair operated a scheduled service from Ashaig airfield to Glasgow between 1972 and 1988. It is currently used by a flying club, visiting aircraft and the emergency services. 

A report to committee states: “Extensive work has been undertaken over the past two decades on the business case for scheduled air services from Ashaig by a range of organisations.

“There is a continued appetite both within the local community and among partner agencies such as HIE and HiTrans to develop commercial air services from Skye, and therefore there is a need to maintain the airfield at Ashaig in such a state as to enable this development.”

Previously, Ashaig has generated income through lease to renewable energy companies for turbine storage. 

There are also ongoing discussions with the Met Office about the potential for siting a weather station at the airfield. 

Officials say such income streams could be used to support the site’s future maintenance costs.

However in 2022/23 the airfield had a deficit of £4,163.00 to the council.

The report recommends continuing to operate Ashaig airfield and meeting necessary legal obligations, until such time as further decisions about scheduled air services are made.

Plockton airfield was sold by the National Trust for Scotland to the council in 1980, subject to a condition that it could only be used as an airfield. The trust has a pre-emption right to buy back the airfield if the council wishes to dispose of it.

For the period 2019-2024, the lease agreed with PDG Helicopters provided rental income of £1,694 a year, with PDG paying a further £6,125 in non-domestic rates.

The report recommends exploring either the sale or the long-term lease of the site, “as both represent potential income-generation options for the council”.