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24.01.19

Tees Valley votes in favour of mayor Houchen’s airport purchase as £588m investment plan approved

The five local authority leaders in Tees Valley and mayor Ben Houchen have officially approved a £588m investment plan for the region, giving the go-ahead for Houchen’s bid to bring its local airport back into public ownership.

Houchen’s £40m transformation of Durham Tees Valley Airport, previously described as “risky” and a “vanity project” by local leaders, means the airport will no longer face closure in 2021 as the mayor had warned.

The Labour leaders of the five councils unanimously voted in support of the proposals, which will see a total of £588m spent between 2019 and 2029, which Tees Valley Combined Authority said will lead to the creation of 16,800 jobs and an additional £1.5bn to the area’s economic output.

Using money devolved to the authority, the investment plan sets out strategies and investments to transform the local economy - such as a growth fund of £50m to improve and revitalise towns, and £20m for a transformational project in each of the five boroughs.

Tees Valley’s 10-year plan will use nearly £150m to support business growth and unlock sites for development, including the purchase of the South Tees Development Corporation site.

This will see the combined authority purchase 89% of shareholding in Durham Tees Valley Airport and an adjacent piece of land with planning permission for 350 homes from the owners Peel Group.

Mayor Houchen said Teesside was taking back control of its own destiny, stating: “This is a truly the start of a new era, everyone should go away from here with a more positive outlook for the Tees Valley.”

Speaking to Northern Echo, Houchen added: “We’ve now finally convinced the leaders that this is the right thing to do, that we’ve served our airport and now we’ve got that long 10-year vision to put it into practice and make sure that airport is the big success we all know it can be.”

The local authority leaders have been far from supportive during Houchen’s campaign, with Middlesbrough mayor David Budd calling the airport project “the single biggest risk the combined authority has, and which will not be a source of project for many years.”

Sue Jeffrey said the business deal for an airport reportedly losing £2m a year “set alarm bells ringing,” but earlier this week it emerged that all of the council leaders were ready to vote in support of the plans.

Peel Group welcomed the vote a week after it warned the airport’s future was “extremely uncertain” past 2021, and stated that it would continue working with the mayor and Tees Valley Combined Authority to ensure a smooth transition.

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