Bodø is to get a new airport and a whole new city district as part of a major new urban redevelopment project in Northern Norway.
Government funding of NOK 3.1 billion ($363.8 million) has been announced in the National Transport Plan. The money will support the relocation of Bodø airport, as part of one of the biggest ever urban redevelopments in Norway.
NOK 2.5 billion goes to the new airport with NOK 350 million earmarked for the relocation of the rescue helicopter base. Finally, NOK 274 million will go on a road to the new airport.
The plans are impressive, but do they make economic sense? Not everyone thinks so. Let's take a look at the plans for the future of Bodø.
Major development in Bodø
While much of Northern Norway is struggling with population decline, Bodø is gearing up for quite the opposite. Bodø is a critical transport hub for the north and city bosses expect significant population growth in the years to come.
With the city set to become a European Capital of Culture in 2024, city bosses want to make the most of their time in the spotlight by pushing through a radical redevelopment plan.
A brand new runway and terminal is to be built less than a kilometre from the existing airport.
The NOK 5.7 billion ($672 million) airport relocation project will free up about as much space as the current city centre of Bodø, making room for a substantial expansion of the city and the creation of an entirely new district.
Life after the Air Force
The plans came after the government announced the relocation of the Norwegian Air Force from Bodø to Evenes and Ørland.
“There was a vacuum then. Over a thousand government jobs would be lost and we had to find new solutions. The idea of moving the runway had been there several years earlier. We spend a lot of energy on maintaining the old concrete runway, and even if the fighter base had remained in Bodø, we would probably have had to build a new runway,” said project manager Håvard Breivik to TU back in 2018.
Anyone landing at Bodø airport will have seen the land between the present airport and the ocean devoted to the air base. The move will leave a lot of this valuable space unused. But because the runway essentially cuts off this land from the rest of the city, the only realistic option for development is to move the airport.
An entire new district for Bodø
Local developers have outlined plans for housing, business and industry on the site of the present airport.
“Here we have the chance to build a smart and compact city, with short distances, self-propelled transport and good living environments, plus exciting business areas,” said Venstre's Ida Gudding Johnsen to VG.
The municipality's ambition is for the first neighbourhood in the new district to become a zero-emission area.
The new airport project is a partner and pilot area in the national research centre FME ZEN. Funded by the Norwegian Research Council, FME ZEN researches zero-emission neighbourhoods in smart cities.
Research work involves building solid expertise on energy and climate, as well as on the interaction between the energy system, buildings and the transport sector.
Criticism of ‘unrealistic' project
Last week, the government announced funding of NOK 3.1 billion ($363.8 million) for the airport project.
But a recent report from Holte Consulting state that none of the options for relocating the airport would come close to being socio-economically profitable. The same report called the base forecast for population growth not realistic.
Skjalg Fjellheim is the political editor for Nordlys, a Norwegian newspaper based in Tromsø. He told NRK that the forecasts of population growth are “probably the closest we get to science fiction in northern Norway in the post-war period.”
To Nettavisen, he elaborated that the project will lead to “massive centralisation” in Nordland: “Instead of wasting so much money on moving a 900-metre runway, it should be easy to find alternative benefits for society. For example, you can put this money into Husbanken to make it attractive for young people to establish themselves all over Nordland.”