Paros airport plans look set for quick take-off
Andy Cornish: September 2014
Greek minister pledges that flights will take off from a new Paros airport early in 2015.
The Greek island of Paros looks set to open a new airport next year after the Greek government stepped in to speed up the project.
Work on the new airport for Paros first started in 2012 and the project should be finished early next year. Full services of domestic flights from Athens and from airports on other Greek islands could be in operation at the new Paros airport as early as April 2015.
But, at only 1,400 metres long, the new runway is still too short to take international charter flights direct from the UK so holidaymakers will still only be able to reach Paros by ferry or on a domestic flight.
Nevertheless, the new airport will give a shot in the arm to the local economy on the island of Paros and hopefully help to boost the annual tourist numbers.
The current airport, near Alyki, in the south of Paros, which opened in 1982 will be abandoned and its future remains uncertain.
The original Paros runway was designated a national airport in 1989 following a number of upgrades.
Plans to build a large military airport at Kambos in the late 1950s were abandoned because of local opposition and the airport was eventually built at Santorini.
As a result, Paros was left behind in the tourist boom of the 1060's and 1970's as charter planes flew in thousands of holidaymakers to Santorini each year.
Paros remained off the tourist trail until the 1980's when tourists began to look for more independent holiday islands, off the main tourist trail and relatively unspoilt by cheap package holiday flights.
A firm favourite of more discerning tourists, combines a beautiful interior with a succession of dune-backed sandy beaches, picture postcard hill villages and a capital port at Parikia that, although busy, has kept tourist development low key.
The new Paros airport scheme has not been without its problems. Plans for a runway big enough to take charter planes had to be scaled back in the wake of fierce local opposition.
The scheme ground to a halt in 2000 when local residents demanded an environmental study to safeguard a nearby butterfly colony. Further efforts suffered a setback in 2011 when Greece missed the chance to get European funding for the €23 million project
Special laws to appropriate the land got through parliament eventually in October 2011, just in time tfor the airport scheme to qualify for funding from the Greek government.
The new airport will certainly mean increased capacity for domestic flights but it will not be able to accommodate large jet airliners from major charter companies which need a minimum of 2,000 metre of runway for take-off and landing.
This is welcome news to opponents who say an international airport would threaten the traditional character of the island but bad news for those who point out the huge benefits to be gained from increased tourism on Paros.
It's not all over yet. Opponents of the new airport are still pressing to get the project halted, even at this late stage.
Formal complaints have been lodged over the potential harmful environmental impact with demands for a new environmental study to meet recent environmental legislation introduced in 2011.
Anti-airport campaigners warn of the danger of polluted run-off water being channeled into nearby Voutakos Bay despite assurances that the water will be properly treated.
Now the Greek government has stated it plans to open the new airport on the island of Paros in early 2015 even if temporary structures need to be used,
Greece 's Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Michalis Chryssochoidis has given assurances on the project in a series of meetings with Paros island officials.
Photographs and videos of the work on the new airport can be seen on the official website of the Paros island council here.