FINLAND: 50.000 PEOPLE SIGN PETITION TO KEEP HELSINKI-MALMI AIRPORT IN OPERATION
In less than two months, 50,000 people from across Finland have endorsed a legislative initiative to preserve Helsinki-Malmi Airport, listed among the 7 Most Endangered heritage sites in Europe in 2016 by Europa Nostra and the European Investment Bank Institute. The Lex Malmi initiative, which aims to ensure the continued use of the airport, as well as safeguard its cultural heritage values while developing auxiliary activities, was submitted to the Finnish Parliament at the beginning of October 2016. Given the widespread public support for this initiative and the current political will in Parliament, it is quite possible that the bill will pass.
Built in the mid-1930s in the functionalist architectural style, Helsinki-Malmi Airport is one of the best‐preserved operational pre‐World War II international airports in the world. With about 40,000 aircrafts departing and landing each year, Malmi is by far the busiest airport in Finland after Helsinki‐Vantaa International. Complete with the original hangar, terminal and runways, the Malmi site has been declared a cultural environment of national significance by Finland’s National Board of Antiquities. However, the City of Helsinki's General Plan proposes to replace the airport with apartment blocks, with construction set to begin around 2020, while the State of Finland is to withdraw its operations from the airport by the end of 2016.
“The decision-makers of the City of Helsinki should finally accept the fact that within the city there is an airport that has strong public support and is valuable to citizens from all over Finland. The City should collaborate with all stakeholders to come up with the best solution that combines the preservation of the airport with residential development and other business opportunities,” stated Juha Krapinoja from the Lex Malmi initiative.
Kim Korkkula, who is charge of the legislative content of the initiative, added: “The City of Helsinki should no longer have the authority to continue its planning before Lex Malmi has been processed in Parliament”.
Lex Malmi does not limit the development of the airport’s surrounding areas more than what is necessary to ensure the continuation of the aviation activities. A recently updated environmental noise model shows that the noise impact area of the airport has significantly diminished since the situation in 2003, which the City of Helsinki based its plans on. This means that substantial areas in the vicinity are suitable to housing construction, taking away the need to shut the airport down.
Malmi offers significant benefits to the capital region’s business life, especially in terms of accessibility, noting that proper domestic traffic connections are necessary to connect the various regions of Finland. “In the future, smooth and practical air connections will be of ever greater importance to provincial businesses too”, affirmed Mika Horelli, author of the report “Flying Future of Malmi”. “One Finnish engineering company has stated that Malmi’s existence affects whether they will make their next investments in Finland or elsewhere in Europe. It’s impossible to conduct business if the clients can’t reach us”, emphasised Horelli.
Lex Malmi is supported by a number of well-known people from the fields of culture, industry, aviation and politics. All the patrons and their comments are listed at https://lexmalmi.fi/kummit/ (in Finnish). The initiative remains open for declarations of support on the Ministry of Justice’s website kansalaisaloite.fi.
Helsinki-Malmi Airport was visited by a delegation of European experts on 2-3 June 2016, less than three months after being listed among ‘The 7 Most Endangered’ heritage sites in Europe in 2016 by Europa Nostra and the European Investment Bank Institute. “Given Malmi Airport's outstanding architecture, which is of international significance, and the very strong public support for its preservation, the City of Helsinki should implement its residential plan in an alternative area without impairing the function of the airport as it is,” advocated the European delegation.