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Row over RAF St Athan's civilian future.

THE Welsh Government plans to turn RAF St Athan into a civilian airfield - but already stands accused of messing the project up.

The RAF is due to hand over operational control of the air-field to private contractors Serco in December, when it will operate seven days a week from 9am to 5pm.

But Tory MP David Davies says a letter he has received from a UK Government Minister suggests all is not well at St Athan, which forms part of the St Athan-Cardiff Airport Enterprise Zone.

Yesterday the Welsh Government issued a statement saying that Serco had been appointed "to meet the exacting demands of the diverse and growing client base operating from St Athan".

The statement said: "In operating the Airfield Operating Service (AOS), all aspects of running the airfield are included, from the issue of aviation fuel to the provision of fire cover, ensuring the vehicles are serviceable and able to safely execute the transmission of Air Traffic Control instructions with all its constituent parts."

Some 28 jobs are being created, including a number for ex-RAF personnel.

But Mr Davies, who represents Monmouth, released a letter he has received from Defence Minister Anna Soubry, which says: "Welsh Government officials' intent was that Serco, their appointed contractor, would provide seven-day airfield operating services from July 1, full vesting day. However, as Serco was unable to provide sufficient Air Traffic Control personnel by July 1, the RAF is providing additional control services to enable limited seven-day airfield operations."

Ms Soubry goes on to say that an Instrument Landing System bought by the Welsh Government "can only be fully commissioned once a number of houses and buildings are demolished, as they infringe the Instrument Landing System safety footprint". The airfield will be functional by 2019.

Monmouth Conservative MP Mr Davies said: "The Welsh Government has a lot of explaining to do.

"I am aware that they have been going round air shows promising companies they will be able to use St Athan virtually 24/7, yet that is far from the case."

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: "We are working with the Ministry of Defence to develop the commercial potential of St Athan airfield. The long-term intention is for St Athan to operate as a civilian airfield from 2019."

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 21, 2014
Words:378
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