Councillors have pledged to protect Plymouth's former airport from future development by using planning powers and by lobbying the government.
Tudor Evans, leader of the Labour-run council said he would write to the prime minister asking for government intervention.
Sutton Harbour Holdings closed the airport in December, saying it was no longer financially viable.
A 37,000-signature petition calling for it to be reopened was debated.
The petition was organised by Viable, a group of businesspeople who believe the airport has a commercial future.
Mr Evans said while he wants the city to have an airport, the council does not have the money to subsidise it.
The airport site is protected until 2021, but earlier this month Sutton Harbour issued its "vision" for an urban centre which includes housing, shops, a primary school and nursing home, public spaces and a theatre venue.
The developer holds a 150-year lease for the site.
But Mr Evans said the council would work on the basis that the site would remain an airport "until every possible opportunity has been exhausted".
He said: "We are asking people in Plymouth to show their support for government intervention to make the airport a national asset to help it open again for commercial air services.
"I will be sending a letter to the prime minister on behalf of the people of Plymouth asking him to make this happen.
"We recognise that it is not possible to protect the airport land for ever, but we will use our planning powers to protect the airport from development for as long as legally possible."
Viable, which claims an airport is vital for transport and business links, said the number of signatures on the petition proved the people of Plymouth also wanted one.
The group said it had "credible and workable" proposals for the airport, which will be announced soon.
Flights to and from the airport stopped in July 2011.
- 23 August 2012
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- 23 December 2011
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- 31 January 2011