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14.01.19

Durham Tees Valley Airport likely to close without council backing of mayor Houchen’s £40m ‘vanity project’

Ben Houchen and the owner of Durham Tees Valley Airport have warned it will likely close if the Tees Valley mayor’s takeover plan is rejected in two weeks’ time.

In launching a bid to gather support for the controversial proposed £40m purchase of the airport, Ben Houchen has warned that the airport will likely close in 2021 if the five Tees Valley council leaders vote against the plan.

He stated: “It is no secret that beyond 2021 – just 24 months away – Peel have no obligation to keep our airport open.

“The sobering reality is that the vote on the 24 January is a vote to either keep the airport open, or to close it. It’s as simple as that and there is no other option.”

Owners Peel Group echoed that the airport’s future would be “extremely uncertain” with the company only in agreement with the airport’s local authority shareholders to keep it open until 2021, but chairman Robert Hough said it welcomed Houchen’s plan.

Hough said: “Without that conclusion, the future operations of the airport are extremely uncertain after 2021.”

He admitted that the company had been unable to make the progress it would have liked to with the airport, which is reportedly losing around £2m a year, and said “these are clearly uncertain times for the future of the airport.”

Hough added: “We recognise and welcome the efforts made by the Tees Valley mayor to create a business plan designed to return the airport to growth collaboratively and to safeguard the economic benefits to the regional economy and its communities.”

Houchen’s plan will be published in full later this week and councillors are expected to vote on it on 24 January, but it has received widespread backlash, even from some of the council leaders he needs to vote for the deal, with one calling it a “vanity project.”

Redcar and Cleverland Council leader Sue Jeffery 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.”

Darlington-based company Deep Ocean UK has also warned that it may need to relocate if the Tees Valley airport closes.

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