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04.12.18

Mayor of Tees Valley ploughs ahead with controversial airport buyout despite local council fightback

Mayor of the Tees Valley Combined Authority Ben Houchen has today announced a £40m deal to bring Durham Tees Valley Airport back into public ownership and a £45m investment to “dramatically overhaul” the two biggest stations in the region using money devolved from central government.

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen announced the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to buy out the airport and 819 acres of land from the current owners, Peel, using the investment fund devolved to the combined authority.

But all five councils that make up the combined authority still need to approve the airport deal, which is reported to currently be losing around £2m a year, and the proposal has been described as a “vanity project” by council leaders.

Leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council, Sue Jeffrey, criticised Houchen’s lack of experience and said: “You don’t need to be an economic expert to see the risk here. Spending perhaps £40m on an airport that was sold for half a million and loses around £2m a year is the sort of business deal that should set alarm bells ringing.

“It is vital that Ben Houchen’s airport deal is placed under forensic scrutiny.”

The Tees Valley mayor announced the deal saying: “I know some politicians promise the world and walk away from their responsibilities, but I won’t be that type of politician.

“Taking back control of our airport presents a once in a generation opportunity for the Tees Valley to find its voice again.”

“Using the money devolved to our area from central government, I am proposing to use just over 6% of that – £35m – to acquire Peel’s shareholding in our airport and 819 acres of land.”

Houchen has also approved a £45m investment in the region’s railway stations, again using money devolved to the authority – this time through the Transforming Cities Fund.

Darlington station will use £25m funding to create new platforms which will unlock greater capacity across the area and provide faster, more frequent, and better-quality services.

Once completed, the combined authority says the station will “futureproof the gateway for HS2 services” as well as allow for better freight connections from Teesport, preparing the station for high-speed and Northern Powerhouse Rail services.

A total of £20m for Middlesbrough will see additional platform capacity to accommodate existing and increased future services, including services to London.

Houchen stated: “Our £75.5m transport fund has only been devolved to the Tees Valley because we have a directly-elected mayor. Using this pot of money, I’m delighted we’re able to commit £45m of this for Middlesbrough and Darlington rail stations.”

“The people of the Tees Valley rightly demand high-quality rail links connecting them with the whole region and the rest of the country,” Houchen added.

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