From the Bexhill Observer

TOURISM chiefs have revealed Airbourne will take place this summer — and it will be free.

The four-day airshow will be on August 13 to 16. There had been uncertainty as to whether the air spectacular would take place after last year’s disaster when Eastbourne Borough Council tried to charge spectators to watch displays from a seafront enclosure.

Only a small number of people did pay and the exercise left a £360,000 hole in the council’s budget as well as red faces among tourism chiefs and councillors who made the misguided decision to charge.
Yesterday (Thursday) Eastbourne Borough Council leader David Tutt confirmed Airbourne would take place and appealed to the public to support it.

Admission to the event will be free and a business plan drawn up will look to the event being self financing. It will be underwritten by the council’s contigency budget. But the Liberal Democrat warned if people did not support the various fundraising initiatives like a retiring collection, a question mark would certainly hang over its future.

“We will be meeting the cost from the contingency fund but we can only do that once,” said Councillor Tutt, “and if Airbourne 2009 doesn’t work and isn’t self financing, the following year’s event will be in doubt.”

This week’s announcement marks the end of the uncertainty surrounding the airshow. Earlier this week the council’s Conservatives said they were being kept in the dark over Airbourne. Sandie Howlett, the Tory spokesperson for tourism, said it was high time residents and hoteliers were told whether Airbourne would be taking place.

She said she had already had two conversations — the latest one on Monday afternoon — with tourism boss Norman Kinnish, who told her no firm decision had been made.

Councillor Howlett said, “The controlling LibDems have had ample time to make a decision and have given the impression of dithering over what to do. Council officers need to know — not least so the necessary planes can be definitely booked and with Bournemouth staging a free airshow in August as well, we run the risk of not getting a good display due to indecisiveness. Tourism is a vital part of Eastbourne’s economy and the LibDems have run the risk of spoiling our reputation as a premier resort by not being decisive when they need to be. The recently printed Eastbourne Guide, upon which hoteliers and guest house owners alike advertise, shows Airbourne ‘to be confirmed’. Only recently have other events been confirmed and one has to question, why? In an economic slowdown it is ridiculous that Airbourne and other events are shown as not confirmed which could cause holidaymakers to choose a different resort altogether. As an ex-hotelier I am acutely aware of the value of the guide to attract holidaymakers to Eastbourne. Airbourne itself has been a wonderful part of the events programme and last year’s disastrous decision by the LibDems to charge an entry fee may well yet have sounded the death knell for this fantastic showpiece airshow.”