FLIGHTS across Europe could soon be a reality from London Oxford Airport - but only if it is allowed to expand into the Green Belt.

The airport’s operators said short-haul flights to Edinburgh, Dublin, Belfast, Amsterdam and Glasgow as well as weekend charters to skiing holiday destinations were viable.

But Oxford Aviation Services conceded the Oxford-Edinburgh route was the only one likely to be re-instated unless passenger facilities were allowed to expand in the longer term.

Oxfordshire Growth Board chairman Bob Price said it was time Oxford had an airport to match its ‘global significance’ and backed the expansion.

A Green Belt study has already permitted the airport to be expanded into protected land but the boundaries of any expansion will be revealed in Cherwell District Council’s Local Plan part two next year.

Speaking on behalf of airport operators Oxford Aviation Ltd, director of Bilfinger GVA Nick Alston argued for the expansion and said it needed better passenger facilities and was currently limited by the size of its runway.

He said: “It is quite clear there is a market to serve on the most viable routes - typically flights an hour or so with a strong business need bias such as Edinburgh, Dublin, Belfast, Amsterdam and Glasgow - if small regional airliners with day-return services were facilitated.

“Seasonal weekend charters to holiday destinations also have some viability - skiing in winter, Channel Islands and other near-Europe holiday destinations.

“However the catchment size and our runway length dictate the routes can only practically be served by smaller regional aircraft types, the smaller the aircraft the higher the seat-mile costs and hence higher ticket prices.”

But Mr Alston said while there was a strong desire to get back into the commercial sector, this would not be at any cost, conceding in the short term the Oxford-Edinburgh route was the most likely to be re-instated.

He added: “Longer term, any evolution on the commercial side will require expanded passenger facilities as the current VIP business terminal is designed for very small passenger throughput.”

From a business aviation point of view he said its runway length meant four fifths of the common business aircraft type could not land on it when it is wet.

Commercial services to Jersey, Dublin and Edinburgh have all flown from Oxford over the past decade but proved unsuccessful in the long term.

Oxford Airport is roughly the same size as London City Airport, which not only flies short-haul journeys to Amsterdam, Zurich, Geneva and Dublin but also takes passengers as far as New York.

Oxford City Council leader Bob Price said there was a great opportunity to expand the airport and Oxford’s global connections.

He said: “We have a very international economy in Oxford and certainly the airport has the capacity for short-haul flights to Europe.

“It would be a significant addition to the city and something we would very much support.

“With the improved rail links and road routes planned north of Oxford having an airport to match the city’s global significance would be great.”

Mr Price said electrifying the railway between Didcot and Oxford and linking Heathrow Airport was crucial to unlocking the county’s potential growth.