Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has written to HIAL and Ministers to urge the company to halt plans to centralise air traffic control, after a tender for the works was issued before an island impact assessment has been completed.
Ms Wishart wrote in the letter that issuing a tender for the remote towers project before an island impact assessment has been completed “makes a mockery of island proofing” and noted that Ministers and HIAL should reassess the case for the project in light of the impact of coronavirus on the aviation industry. Ms Wishart also highlighted that there has been opposition to the move in all three island local authorities.
On 4th May, HIAL announced a tender had been issued to deliver remote towers. Last week Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson, told Orkney MSP Liam McArthur in a written replies that, “HIAL has commissioned an independent draft Islands Impact Assessment and that the “COVID-19 outbreak has not changed the fundamental reasons for modernising Air Traffic Management or the business case for the option being implemented by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd.”
Commenting, Ms Wishart said:
“HIAL’s decision to press ahead with air traffic control centralisation before an island communities impact assessment has been completed makes a mockery of island proofing.
“Whilst modernisation of air traffic control is necessary, remote towers are not. An island impact assessment should have been carried out when those plans were first being developed. With HIAL actively tendering for works for the project, I have little confidence that the report commissioned will say anything other than press ahead. What kind of meaningful consultation can there be during the coronavirus pandemic?
“Work on centralisation should be halted immediately so proper community consultation can be carried out and so that Ministers and HIAL can take stock of the impact of coronavirus on the aviation industry.”