A POWER struggle over a controversy-hit airport has intensified after a leading politician accused bosses of a “cynical and desperate” attempt to use him to cover their failures following an airline’s departure.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has ordered Durham Tees Valley Airport officials to ‘put up or shut up’ following the loss of Scottish services and reiterated an election pledge to overthrow operator Peel and buy the site.

However, Peel has hit back, accusing Mr Houchen of “damaging confidence in the airport.”

The war of words was ratcheted up after it was revealed airline Loganair is shelving Aberdeen services next month.

The flights, aimed predominantly at offshore workers, were only introduced to DTVA in October, but Loganair says it is “unable to make the commercial case to lease the required aircraft” to continue its Granite City offering.

The decision means it was a very short-lived tenure for Loganair at DTVA, having already seen flights to Norwich fall by the wayside.

The carrier’s departure comes amid an ongoing a stand-off between airport bosses and Mr Houchen over a proposed £500,000 funding boost.

Airport officials want the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) development organisation to release the cash to support route and passenger growth.

Tees Valley council leaders had previously agreed to provide Peel with financial help after it pledged the airport would remain open until at least 2021 while a five-year masterplan was developed.

However, Mr Houchen, who swept to election victory last year following a vow to return the airport to public ownership, has suggested he will veto any plan that he feels doesn’t give taxpayers’ value for money.

And he accused Peel bosses of trying to cover their own failures with Loganair’s departure, while mocking the Flying for the Future slogan used by the operator in promotional campaigns.

He said: “This is yet another disappointing announcement and bad news for our industry and workers who have lost an important link to Aberdeen.

“Far from Flying for the Future, under Peel’s ownership our airport is Flying for Failure.

“Peel either need to up their game or sell the airport to someone who will.

“Peel’s cynical attempt to divert attention away from their years of failure by pinning a commercial decision by Loganair on me is desperate.

“I have never provided nor been asked to provide public funding to support the Loganair service.

“The people sent Peel a clear message in May last year that they were unhappy with the way our airport is being run.

“I will be presenting my proposal to bring our airport back into public ownership in the coming months.

“It has taken time, but the public expect me to get this right.

“Only in local hands can we guarantee our airport won’t close.”

However, a Peel spokesman said the Mayor’s stance was frustrating efforts to revive the base, which has toiled in recent years after the departure of charter flights significantly dented passenger numbers.

He said: “We are disappointed the Mayor is intending to block these proposals as we believe we have a shared ambition to bring growth in passenger services.

“The proposals are made against funds already earmarked to DTVA development by TVCA and are to help strengthen the commercial offer to bring new leisure and business routes to the airport, delivering economic benefit and important connectivity to the region. “They are made in the best interests of Tees Valley and its airport.”

The spokesman also said Mr Houchen’s position was hindering the site’s progress, accusing the Mayor of failing to back up his words with action.

He added: “We have no plans to sell our stake in the airport and nine months since the Mayor’s election, we have still not received any form of proposal from the Mayor nor have we discussed any initiatives that might help the airport grow.

“With this all hanging over the airport, opportunities are being missed and confidence is being damaged.

“We are very disappointed that Loganair are withdrawing their Aberdeen service and would urge any available funding allocated by TVCA to the airport should be used to support passenger growth and attracting businesses.”

Loganair, which unveiled its Aberdeen and Norwich flights to much fanfare last summer, and previously said it had seen good passenger growth, with latest Civil Aviation Authority figures suggesting so.

According to the most recent data, covering December, traveller numbers between DTVA and Aberdeen increased 92 per cent on a year ago to 2,383, which suggests Loganair’s arrival, alongside rival Eastern Airways, which also flies to the Scottish city from the airport, did have an impact.

However, a spokesman said the carrier faced challenges it couldn’t surmount, with its final flights scheduled for Friday, March 16.

He added: “It’s with deep regret that we have taken the decision to cease our operation, due to broader considerations within our network.

“The management team at DTVA have done all possible to make the service viable, however, changes within our aircraft fleet from the middle of March meant we would have had to lease-in another aircraft to continue the service.

“Although we’ve made good progress and have proven beyond all doubt the market’s need for reliable and cost-effective services on this route, our evaluation showed this would not be economically viable.

“We intend to continue our strong relationship with DTVA and would welcome the proposals put forward to TVCA in considering alternative routes in the future.”

A spokesperson for Tees Valley Combined Authority added: “We are committed to the long-term growth of DTVA and disappointed the Loganair service has not proven commercially viable.

“TVCA has never provided, nor been asked to provide, public funding to support the Loganair service.”