STRUGGLING Durham Tees Valley Airport has been put up for sale this lunchtime.

Peel Airports Limited has made the announcement today saying the airport "no longer fits its strategic plans".

In a statement, Peel said: "Peel Airports Limited has decided to sell the majority shareholding it holds in Durham Tees Valley Airport.

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"As a consequence, PwC have been appointed to actively seek a buyer for these shares and to oversee any subsequent sale process.

"Peel Airports has made this decision as Durham Tees Valley Airport no longer fits within the company’s strategic plans for its portfolio of airports.

"Durham Tees Valley Airport will continue to operate as normal during this process with passengers due to travel over the coming weeks and employees based at the Airport unaffected by this decision. "

Peel Airports, which also runs Liverpool John Lennon and Robin Hood, at Doncaster, owns 75 per cent of the airport, with the six local authorities owning the remaining 25 per cent.

Stockton South MP James Wharton said: “Peel have a track record, having presided over the closure of Sheffield Airport which has since been turned into an industrial estate, we must ensure our local airport cannot be cast aside in the same way.

“When I raised concerns about the airport’s future earlier this week Peel refused to comment; now it is clear they have been planning this for some time.

“We want a vibrant and successful airport, Peel have failed to deliver that but it is important they are not allowed to cut and run. It is time for new investment and for the future success of this important facility to be taken seriously.”

Councillor Doris Jones, Darlington Borough councillor for Middleton St George, said: “People will be worried that it could become an industrial estate or even housing, we need urgent assurances that this is not going to happen.”

Today's announcement comes just days after the airport demanded the six local councils which hold a total 25 per cent share of the airport, for more funds or face a reduction in their shareholdings. It prompted fears the airport could close.

The airport has been plagued by the departure of many of its operators during the past five years. As a result, passenger numbers have dropped since 2006 when they peaked at 917,963 to a 35-year-low last year. Vancouver, which bought a controlling share in Peel Airports only 18 months ago, said increasing figures was one of its priorities since it came in.

Last year a £6 passenger facility fee was introduced in a bid to save it from closure and help to reduce losses.

In July, director Mike Morton left to “pursue new challenges”. He was replaced in September by Steve Gill.