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History of Lydd Airport

Lydd Airport, located just north east of Lydd, opened in July 1954. Until then, Silver City Airways Ltd had used the airport at Lympne in Kent to offer an air ferry service for vehicles to Le Touquet in France. But Lympne Airport was only a  small grass airfield, often fog bound and becoming increasingly inadequate. The search for a suitable location to site a new, purpose-built airport began in 1953 and ended with the selection of an area covered by grazing land on the edge of the Dungeness shingle desert close to the village of Lydd. This site would host Britain's first newly constructed post-war and first privately owned airport. It would feature two runways, a control tower, passenger terminal with a restaurant, maintenance area and petrol station.

The new airport named Ferryfield opened on 14 July 1954, after six months' work costing 400,000 and offered services to Le Touquet, Calais, Ostend, Cherbourg and Southampton.

The cross channel air ferry service from Lydd initially prospered. By 1959 it was one of the busiest airports in the UK, with over 250,000 passengers annually but the rapid expansion of the roll-on, roll-off ships operating from Dover and Folkestone led to its demise in the early 1970s.

During the 1980s the airport was bought by Hards Travel from Solihull, who used the airport as its base for its holiday operations to Spain, Italy and Austria. During this time Hards operated 14 flights a day from the airport, and used the large fields surrounding the airport for car parking.


Lydd Airport 1975
Lydd Airport 1975 (ack 26.)

The airport at Lydd became run down and, although it continued to operate with other passenger and freight services, it has yet to recaptured the heady days of the 1950s/60s.

Poor rail and road services, together with the proximity of two nuclear power stations and a large bird reserve at Dungeness, mitigated against Lydd's aspirations to become Kent's premier airport. This led to Silver City, Dan Air, Skyways and Janus Airways going into decline and they eventually moved elsewhere.

Present

Currently (2014) the airport, now known as London Ashford Airport, is home to Lydd Air, who provide regular services to Le Touquet in France, leisure flights, flying with a fighter and charter flights. There are also many private planes.

Future

In 2000 the current owners, London Ashford Airport Ltd, a subsidiary of FAL Holdings, applied for planning permission to extend the runway by 249m with a 150m starter extension and a new passenger terminal. Shepway District Council had originally voted overwhelmingly in favour of the plans in March 2010 but, the decision was called in for Public Inquiry which ran from February to September 2011. These were finally given the go-ahead by the Secretaries of State for Transport and Communities and Local Government on 10th April 2013 following a 7 year planning process. 

The proposed developments aim to modernise the airport so it is capable of handling passenger flights by aircraft up to the size of Boeing 737 or Airbus 319 but no larger. At the moment, the runway is long enough to operate these types of aircraft, but not for carrying fare-paying passengers only for private use or maintenance.

Further Information

For further information about Lydd Airport, please visit the Lydd Airport and Lydd Air websites.

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