LOCAL authority leaders have given a cautious welcome to a rescue plan for Durham Tees Valley Airport (DTVA).

Business and regeneration chiefs have also backed Peel Holdings’ apparent commitment to stand by the ailing airport.

The Northern Echo revealed yesterday how Peel would shortly publish a master plan setting out how DTVA could have a sustainable future.

It is hoped the turnaround plan could protect scheduled flights from the airport, although it is understood holiday charter flights could be sacrificed to reduce costs.

Darlington Borough Council leader Bill Dixon, one of several councillors which sit on the DTVA board to represent the interests of the six local authorities with a minority shareholding in the airport, said he supported the work on the master plan.

“The plan appears to deliver what we’re all after which is an airport which is self-sustaining.

“From a local authority and economic point of view, I would be extremely keen to see the retention of the air links to Schiphol and the oil fields.”

George Dunning, leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, also a DTVA board member, added: “Scaling down the airport may well keep the airport viable and flexible enough to take advantage of any substantial upturn in the commercial flight part of the airport business.

“One can understand fears that the airport shouldn't turn into an industrial estate. That's why we need local authority directors on the board of the airport to scrutinise plans etc, however one should not be frightened to allow some diversity.”

Councillor Mike Smith, Stockton Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and transport, said economic conditions had been tough for regional airports in recent years.

“We recognise that Peel Holdings have been working hard to secure a sustainable future for Durham Tees Valley Airport,” he added.

Last night, North East Chamber of Commerce infrastructure policy specialist, Mark Stephenson, said it was “reassuring” that Peel remained committed to maintaining the link to Schiphol.

He added: “The airport is an important part of the region’s connectivity mix and, as such efforts must be made to secure its future and help it realise its potential as a regional transport hub.”

Tees Valley Unlimited said it was important that DTVA had a vision for a successful future.

The local enterprise partnership said it would maintain an “open dialogue” with Peel as the master plan progressed.