800m extension of Maribor airport runway planned
The the ministries of environment and infrastructure are planning the extension to allow for the take-offs and landings of larger aircraft on intercontinental flights.
Mirko Komac, the head of the Aviation Directorate, said that the airport was stagnating even though the state had already invested quite a lot of money in its modernisation.
Maribor Edvard Rusjan Airport is managed by Aerodrom Maribor, which in turn is managed by SHS Aviation, a company controlled by Chinese capital.
"The lessee's plans are a good opportunity for the region and the country in terms of business development," Komac said.
He added that Aerodrom Maribor had paid back lease payments, which meant the investors had proved they were serious about their development plans.
SHS Aviation said in late-2017 it would secure investments worth EUR 660m and add numerous new routes to develop Maribor into a strong regional airport, but the airport has since been left without scheduled flights.
Since the airport infrastructure is owned by the state, the government will see to the extension of the runway, but it also expects the private partner to chip in.
If the current lessee does not fulfil its plans, a new call would have to be published to award a concession or lease the airport, or the airport could even be closed down or sold.
An environmental impact report found that the planned extension would have limited impact on the environment, but only when taking into account extensive limiting measures.
The report was criticised by Leo Kremžar, the mayor of the municipality of Miklavž, who said that the impact would not be limited to the airport zoning area.
"The noise and particles of dust cannot be stopped at the airport's boundaries," said Kremžar, adding that the impact on the entire north-eastern part of Slovenia should be taken into account.
Simona Marko, a representative of a civil initiative, raised concerns about alleged plans to establish an intercontinental cargo airport with a capacity three times those of Zagreb, Graz and Ljubljana airports combined.
Hoče Mayor Marko Soršak said that environmental standards should be respected but that the airport runway needed an extension.
He believes concerns about noise and pollution are exaggerated, noting that pilot training under way at the airport saw up to 22 takeoffs and landings on some days, while a million passengers planned a year meant seven aircraft.