Preliminary results of a referendum on the future of Berlin’s historic Tempelhof Airport show that only 21.7% of registered voters in the capital favoured keeping the downtown facility open.
Tempelhof, the focal point of the Berlin Airlift in 1948-49, is unprofitable and the city’s governors are closing it as part of the effort to develop a single hub for the capital, Berlin Brandenburg International Airport, which will open in 2011.
Interest group Interessengemeinschaft City-Airport Tempelhof put the closure to a public vote yesterday, claiming the governing authorities had "no useful concept" for a disused airport and that the closure threatened to destroy a Berlin landmark.
The motion called for the Berlin authorities to "abandon immediately" their intention to close the airport and to repeal the withdrawal of its operating licence, on the basis that Tempelhof would "complement and relieve" the new Berlin airport.
Berlin’s national election office recorded a 36% turnout, with 60% voting in favour, but this meant the overall support fell short of the 25% level needed for validation.
In any case the result would have been non-binding. Courts have already ruled that Tempelhof is to shut on 31 October this year and the referendum was a desperate attempt to use public pressure to reverse the decision.
Initial results show that one of the 12 voting regions, Steglitz-Zehlendorf, posted a turnout of nearly 51%. More than 37% of registered voters in the region supported retaining Tempelhof. But this support was heavily offset in other areas, with turnout as low as 23%.
Local airlines campaigned against the closure but lost a final legal battle earlier this year. Brandenburg International will be constructed on the site of Berlin Schonefeld Airport. Along with Tempelhof, the city’s current main airport, Berlin Tegel, will also be shut.