MAJOR plans for new housing and services will be considered for Durham Tees Valley Airport next week, in a development which one local councillor said "sounded the death knell for the airport".

While airport owners Peel Holdings describe the plan as scheme which will enable it to gather funds to invest in the future of the airport, Middleton St George councillor Doris Jones said the planned homes were "practically on the runway" and said it almost made a functioning airport unfeasible.

Darlington Borough Council will consider the proposals at a special planning committee meeting next Wednesday and the scheme has been recommended for approval. More than 400 objections have been received.

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The development site incorporates land immediately to the north of the airport and east of land currently used as playing fields, and to the south of existing housing at Oak Tree in Middleton St George.

The site includes the airport's existing car park, the St George hotel complex, a temporary caravan storage park, and agricultural land and would include 350 homes, a local services centre which will include retail and offices, a cafe, restaurant, pub, gym, car showroom, parking and community facilities.

Those would possibly include a health centre, dentist, nursery and an extension to the St George Hotel.

However, the application clearly states: "The proposals would not affect the operational infrastructure of the airport and would retain sufficient passenger and car parking to accommodate the current needs and future growth of the airport."

Even if councillors approve the plans, the secretary of state will "call in" the application for consideration by government.

One objector said: "Peel is deliberately running down the airport unlike their site at Liverpool which is flourishing, even with the nearby presence of Manchester.

"This is the beginning of the end for the airport. Peel has run down passenger services for this purpose. Who would want to live so close to a thriving airport? If you want to see an airport on this site in ten years' time then the only answer is to reject this application."

Another said: "Peel will be the death of this airport. How can you have one million passengers in 2006 to just over 140,000 in 2015?"

Others said the airport was a vital asset which needed support, not housing next to it which would prevent any extension to the terminal in the future.

One asked for an independent review into the handling of the airport by Peel and the local authorities.

However, Peel cites declining demand for passenger services from the airport which led to airlines pulling out, leaving the airport less viable. The company says it has to look for other sources of capital to enable investment the airport needs to function over the short to medium term.

Bosses say the proposals for land on the north side of the site are a key element in implementing the Airport Master Plan, which aims to establish a "viable airport business model and investment strategy for the long term".

But Cllr Jones said: "It's time that Peel Holdings came clean on their plans. Either they want to develop the entire site for housing, or they want to make the airport viable. Those homes are practically on the runway – who is going to want to buy a house right next to a functioning airport? They owe it to us to be upfront about what they are doing. I think this application is the death knell for the airport."

She urged as many residents as possible to attend the meeting, at 1.30pm on Wednesday at Darlington town hall.