EXCLUSIVE: boss of Gloucestershire Airport resigns
By Simon Hacker | 29th June 2023
The boss of Gloucestershire Airport Limited (GAL) has exited in the wake of a row between management and tenants.
The news of Karen Taylor's departure comes in the wake of a turbulent meeting between bosses of the airport and key Gloucestershire firms and industries who are tenants at the transport gateway.
Ms Taylor's resignation followed accusations of bad communication and not being listened to when tenants met on June 6th. The airport plans a further meeting, to discuss progress on many issues, tomorrow (Friday).
Tenants raised a range of issues at the initial meeting when Martin Courage, director of Aerodynamics Leasing, accused the airport of "a lack of consultation and communication."
The minutes said Mr Courage "gave the following examples – selling the land, limiting the runway, closing one runway, Superbike v Supercar event and the speed humps."
Mike Morton, non-executive chairman for GAL, admitted "the airport has failed at communication," but added he would "endeavour to communicate and consult more going forward."
He also confirmed the speed humps were "rather excessive" and would soon be removed at the airport's cost, an action Punchline understands has already begun.
Addressing the Superbike v Supercar event, Mr Morton said: "this was done to lift the profile of the airport. It was communicated at the Fixed Wing/Rotary Group meetings in February... However, it was acknowledged that not everyone was able to attend the meetings in February, and that going forward more consultation will take place."
The issue of work needed on the airport's taxiways was also raised. The minutes confirmed: "The airport is aware that work needs to be done on these, and the quotes are currently being sought."
But raising the issue of high staff turnover, Ian Cooper, chief operating officer of Skyborne Airline Academy, said he was unhappy over "the fact the hours [of operation] don't work, lack of radar" and added he was "considering expanding elsewhere unless some things change."
Mr Morton said that the new runway was "a big project, we had invested over £10m. The commitment to invest in the airport was there for all to see. The Voice Switch (VCCS) project is underway, and that it takes time to create and procure radar. (Mr Cooper) said that the radar was promised two years ago and has still not been done."
The minutes added that Mr Morton "reiterated the investment in the runway was fundamental in providing better facilities at the airport."
But according to Robin Gibson, head of training at Castle Air Group, the airport was "in the worst state it has ever been. The safety issue on the Tower needs resolving. Getting slots is proving difficult, and they are considering looking elsewhere to expand their business." Mr Gibson felt, the minutes added, "there are a lot of small issues that could be fixed, but they are not being addressed."
In response, Mr Morton "acknowledged that the tower apron is a hazard and confirmed that the Board has given approval for the feasibility study to be conducted to either build two new helipads or a new taxiway as soon as possible."
Despite reasurances, Peter Earp, director of braid and rope business English Braids, said he felt the airport's reputation "has gone down the pan" while Skypark Flight Centre's boss Steve Williams suggested that "change is needed" and called for a new interim managing director.
Mr Williams pointed out that while Harry Harad, GAL's director of operations, had attended, managing director Karen Taylor had been absent.
He also said: "the managing director was often absent but had time to do a non-Executive role at Blackpool Airport."
The minutes show a confidence vote on Ms Taylor's position was voiced, although none was held.
Calling for greater focus on airside operations, Mr Gibson said: "The speed humps should not have been a priority. Instead, we should focus on the apron, runway, and the slots. There is a lack of management here, with no steer and this needs to change."
Management also acknowledged that "it is taking longer than anticipated to sell the CGX site, due to a downturn in the market following the pandemic. There have been quite a few enquiries, 10 in total and we now have three serious offers for the site, which we hope to move forward ASAP. This accounts for nearly half of the 15-acre site."
Vitruvius Management Services' development of the £15m 30,000 sq m non-aviation CGX Connect Business Park at the airport was reported on in Punchline as being ready for sale in May last year after a new access road was opened.
In February, it was revealed that Gloucestershire Airport had suffered a £4.7million loss in 2022, which was largely attributed to runway upgrades. While writing off old assets as part of its capital replacement programme, the runway work also saw a dip in the airport's traffic, taking it from the position of fifth busiest airport in the UK down to 13th. Figures from the Civil Aviation Authority's Annual Airport Data indicated the airport saw 56,707 movements in 2022, compared to 65,009 in 2021.
● In a statement to Punchline, a spokesperson said: "Karen Taylor has resigned as Managing Director of Gloucestershire Airport as of 27 June after over two years in the role. Gloucestershire airport would like to thank Karen for her time as Managing Director, where she oversaw transformational projects including the runway upgrades and the development of CGX connect."
Ms Taylor's role has been filled by Mike Morton, GAL's non-executive chairman, pending the appointment of a new managing director. Operations at the airport, says GAL, will continue as usual.
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