A £40 million public acquisition of Durham Tees Valley Airport has been approved by the Tees Valley Combined Authority.
The combined authority – Darlington Borough Council, Hartlepool Borough Council, Middlesborough Council, Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council and Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council – voted to approve a ten year investment plan, which included the acquisition, on Thursday 24 January.
Having campaigned heavily for the airport to be brought back under public ownership, Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, tweeted: It’s official: Teeside Airport will now return to public ownership. Promise delivered.”
Robert Hough CBE and chair of Peel Airports Group (which owned Tees Valley Airport, alongside Doncaster Sheffield and Liverpool John Lennon airports) had declared earlier in the year that if the deal wasn’t approved the airport could be at risk of closing, with “the future operations of the airport extremely uncertain after 2021.”
Ahead of the vote and reiterating Hough’s concerns for the airport’s future, Mayor Houchen said: “It is no secret that beyond 2021 – just 24 months away – Peel have no obligation to keep our airport open.
“Public ownership is the only way to stop our airport from closing in 2021. There is no other option, and no other deal on the table,” a statement read on his campaign website – Back Ben’s Plan.
With reports that the Darlington-based company DeepOcean UK had warned that the airport’s closure would mean it may need to “revaluate its decision to stay in the Darlington area”. Houchen also argued that taking back control of our airport has always been about so much more than getting flights to the Costa del Sol.
“Regional airports are important catalysts to attract and retain economic growth.
“Inward investment doesn’t come on a bus, it comes through an airport terminal. So to see a major employer like DeepOcean threaten to leave the area if our airport closes is heart-breaking.”
A total of £35million will be invested in acquiring the former airport owner’s (Peel Airports) shareholding in Durham Tees Valley. The shareholding includes over 819 acres of surrounding land, which had been earmarked for a housing development.
Mayor Houchen said the public ownership deal would put a “stop to the planned 350-home development right outside the terminal, and we’ll change the airport’s name back to a brand people recognise world over: Teesside International.”
This land will be developed for commercial space. “This is where the real jobs and growth will come from. The land alone is worth the price we are paying,” he said.
He also stressed that the deal will not cost taxpayers “a penny”. Instead the deal will be financed from the investment fund provided as part of Teesside’s devolution deal.
In another bold move, Mayor Houchen has also revealed that in order to make the airport the success we know it can be, we’ll scrap the hated £6 passenger fee, which deters airlines and puts off passengers.
However, the deal has been met with universal approval. Mr McDonald, MP for Middlesborough offered his concerns about the deal saying:
“I totally get the emotional case for Tees Valley having its own airport. In the wider sense, there is also a powerful economic case.
“Undoubtedly there is a case for saying that it makes us more attractive for investment. I want us to have an airport and I want it to succeed.
“That is what my heart says, but I would be failing in my duty if I did not voice my concerns, not only at the deal itself in terms of the commercial and financial case, but also how the deal has been fashioned by Mayor Ben Houchen.
“Indeed, I was extremely disappointed that Ben Houchen, on taking up office as Tees Valley Mayor, saw fit to block the proposed support of the airport that was agreed by the Tees Valley Combined Authority Labour Leaders to the tune of £500,000 to bring additional flights to Teesside. Had he done so, we could have had those additional flights by now.
“Looking closely at the proposed airport deal, I don’t think we can simply suspend proper scrutiny and due diligence here.”