People about Airport Twente

Sustainable driving force for a strong Twente

Since mid-2007, the Vliegwiel Twente Maatschappij has made every effort to develop a solid plan for the airport site. The aim was to realise something that would stimulate the regional economy and benefit the natural environment. The VTM report can be seen as both the end of a turbulent period and the beginning of the active development of the site.

Most of the Twente parties involved are familiar with the basic history. At the beginning of 2003, the Ministry of Defence announced its intention to close Twenthe (yes with an h!) Airport. Protests and lobbies were to no avail.

The region’s ‘answer’ followed in September 2004. With Chamber of Commerce director Wilma van Ingen as mouthpiece, the employers’ organisation of Twente presented a report containing a number of viable suggestions for a relaunch. Contact had already been made with potential investors.

However, this plan failed as a result of demonstrations in the region – most of them arguing environmental burden and noise pollution – and financial difficulties. The Municipality of Enschede wanted to purchase the site for a sum of EUR 20 million; Defence wanted EUR 50 million. Part of the population was vehemently opposed to the plans, whereas another group operated on the premise of ‘what would be best for Twente’. The employers’ plan was unable to give a decisive answer in that regard.

The site was subsequently handed over to the Ministry of Finance. The airport remained open for civil aviation for the time being, but this ended on 1 January 2008 along with all other activities. Despite great pressure from the region, minister Bos proved unwilling to earmark sufficient funds to keep the airport operational.

Driving force

Another area of possibility had since opened up. Minister Zalm proposed that the regional development of the airport site be executed in a public-public-public partnership. The national government, the province and the municipality of Enschede had to formulate a joint plan in which all parties would meet a number of criteria in the field of the environment, employment and financial feasibility. The Vliegwiel Twente Maatschappij was born. The Province and the municipality of Enschede joined forced and appointed one of the implementing parties: Peter Kuenzli. The government’s joint development company (GOB) nominated Leo Kramer. Together they form the board of the VTM. Top-ranking Enschede official Wout Vochteloo was elected secretary to the board and Amersfoort was chosen as location. Amersfoort was selected because of its central location for the three members, as it lies in the centre of the Enschede-The Hague-Zwolle triangle.

The VTM’s executive board was placed under the guidance of mayor Peter den Oudsten and consisted of alderman Helder from the Municipality of Enschede, Theo Rietkerk from the Province of Overijssel and Edo Arnoldussen from the GOB.

Strong and sustainable

Based on the mission of ‘a driving force for an economically stronger and more sustainable Twente’, the VTM developed four plans; two with and two without an airport. Partly at the initiative of the VTM, a large number of civil society organisations cooperated on the development of a firth model that placed particular focus on care, cure, leisure and wellness. Both parties for and those against an airport formed part of this organisation. In mid-2008, the board of VTM recommended that this fifth plan and the plan for a compact airport be worked out in further details. The subsequent recommendations were adopted by the municipal council of Enschede, the provincial council and the central government at the end of 2008. This led to two detailed spatial development strategies and a comparison on the basis of three elements: economy (i.e. employment), the environment and ecology, and finance. Peter Kuenzli recalls: “We had the two plans assessed within terms of quality and quantity. In other words, with a comprehensive environmental impact assessment and a cost-benefit analysis. The financial aspects weighed 20%, and the other two components 40% each.” The cohesion with neighbouring municipalities and prevention the region from cannibalising the rest of Twente were also important factors.

Kuenzli and Kramer concluded their report in mid-June 2009 and presented it to the VTM board. Publication took place at the end of June.

Source: VIT Newsletter July 2009

Text: Niko Wind

Photo: Harmen de Jong

Vliegwiel Twente Maatschappij