ARE the owners of Durham Tees Valley Airport the right people to make it soar again?

If Peel had control of say, Middlesbrough FC and had overseen the kind of results at the Riverside as they’ve delivered for the region’s airport then you might expect to see protests at every home game calling for them to sling their hook. Too harsh?

A fairer comparison might be up the A19 where Sunderland AFC owner Ellis Short has overseen a steady decline despite ploughing his own funds into the flagging enterprise. Peel could similarly defend its record by saying it props up a failing businesses by covering hefty annual losses. The difference here is that Mr Short is desperate to sell the Black Cats whereas Peel seems determined to cling to an asset which has been losing £2m a year.

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There is clearly a longer game in play which involves developing houses and businesses on the sprawling airport site to eventually make Peel's investment pay off. In the meantime the aviation operation i.e. flights to the kind of destinations local businesses and holidaymakers want to visit, remains a low key affair. The failure to land any new major scheduled flights on top of the existing Amsterdam and Aberdeen services suggest DTVA simply lacks the pulling power to attract airline operators, or else Peel hasn’t been working hard enough to bring them here.

Waiting in the wings is Ben Houchen, who insists his pledge to buy back the airport ‘for the people’ was more than a populist stunt to win the Tees Valley Mayor election.

Peel has offered local people reassurance, if that’s the right word, they are in it for the long haul. It is pleasing to hear a business commit itself to our region but Peel needs to act like a custodian of a precious regional transport asset not just a landowner. When airport chiefs declared at today's PR event "we are going nowhere" it was supposed to sound positive but it could just as easily sum up Peel's ineffective stewardship.