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Business leaders back Houchen’s airport deal as Tees Valley mayor announces name change

Mayor Ben Houchen has announced that he will change the Durham Tees Valley Airport’s name back to its pre-2004 title as part of a major buyout which has now attracted the backing of business leaders in the region, despite continuing political opposition.

Around 40 Teesside business leaders have signed a letter to the Labour council leaders who will be required to vote on the deal in January next year.

Earlier this month, Houchen agreed a £40m deal with the airport owner, Peel, to bring the asset back into public ownership but has faced fierce criticism from the five councils that make up the combined authority.

The proposal has been described as a “vanity project,” and Redcar and Cleveland Council leader has Sue Jeffrey criticised Houchen’s lack of experience. “You don’t need to be an economic expert to see the risk here,” she said.

“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.”

Now the heads of 40 companies have said they want to change their mind, writing: “We understand the reasons, both political and pragmatic, why you may oppose the deal Mr Houchen has reached with Peel for the return of Durham Tees Valley Airport to public ownership.

“As business people, we know a good deal when we see it and we hope to persuade you of the value in this one.”

Jeffrey responded to the letter saying council leaders had always wanted a “viable, functioning airport” but stressed that “basic fundamentals” about the plan had been made clear.

Houchen today announced that the Durham Tees Valley Airport would revert to its previous name of Teesside International Airport if he is successful in his bid. More than 14,000 people have voted in Houchen’s online poll, with 93% backing the pre-2004 name.

He said last week that “if the people get to own this airport, it's only fair they decide what it should be called.”


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