A SUCCESSFUL offshore company has warned it may have to relocate away from the Tees Valley area if the airport's future is not secured.

As the chair of Peel Airports, Robert Hough CBE, warned that the future operations of Durham Tees Valley Airport were 'extremely uncertain' after 2021, Darlington-based Deep Ocean warned it would have to relocate if there was not an airport there.

Conservative Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen's plan to bring the airport back into public ownership will go to a crunch vote by the area's five Labour council leaders on January 4.

Stockton Council leader Bob Cook told The Northern Echo last night that he wanted the airport to succeed.

But said there was not currently enough information to cast a vote on the airport. Papers giving more details about the plans are expected to be released by Mr Houchen in a week's time.

Mr Hough, the current chairman of Durham Tees Valley Airport and also of Peel Airports Group, said: "Despite our best efforts single-handedly, we have been unable to make the progress that we would have liked at Durham Tees Valley Airport in recent years.

"These are clearly uncertain and challenging times for the future of the airport, but since the sale announcement we have been working steadfastly with the Mayor to ensure a smooth transition should a deal be concluded.

“We recognise and welcome the efforts made by Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, to create a business plan designed to return the airport to growth collaboratively and to safeguard the economic benefits to the regional economy and its communities. Without that conclusion, the future operations of the airport are extremely uncertain after 2021.”

A ‘Keep Open Commitment’ up until 2021 was agreed between Peel Group and the local authority shareholders in Durham Tees Valley Airport in 2016.

It was agreed as part of a package of measures to secure the airport’s future, which included a decision that Tees councils would take on the pension liabilities of airport workers from Peel.

Mr Houchen said: “It is no secret that beyond 2021 – just 24 months away - Peel have no obligation to keep our airport open.

“The sobering reality is that the vote on the 24th January is a vote to either keep the airport open, or to close it. It’s as simple as that and there is no other option.”

But Cllr Cook said the council leaders had a responsibility to ensure they knew how the funding would work before they voted it through.

He said: "We don't want to see the airport close, no matter who you talk to, but until we get the full costs it is hard to comment on the plan Ben Houchen has got.

"Because the airport is losing money at the moment we want to see how those costs are going to be absorbed into the running costs.

"We know it is not going to be successful overnight."

In a letter to the Mayor and Tees council leaders in December, Deep Ocean's Managing Director Pierre Boyde argued that “without a secure long-term presence of a local airport, DeepOcean may need to revaluate our decision to stay in the Darlington area.”

Mr Boyde went on to say that the proximity to Durham Tees Valley Airport was a “determining factor to stay in Darlington”.

In 2018 alone, the company – which provides subsea services related to offshore construction – purchased 250 return flights from the airport.

Mr Houchen added: “Taking back control of our airport has always been so much more than getting flights back to Alicante. Regional airports are important catalysts to attract and retain economic growth. They enhance the performance of local industry and connect people, products and services to global opportunities.

“Inward investment doesn’t come on a bus, it comes through an airport terminal. So to see a major employer like DeepOcean threaten to leave the area if our airport closes is heart-breaking.

“Failure to secure the future of this airport will deprive the region of a significant economic asset.

Mr Houchen’s £40million plan to acquire Peel Group’s 89 per cent shareholding in Durham Tees Valley Airport and 819 acres of land – including the site with planning permission for 350 homes - will require the approval of the Tees Valley Combined Authority Cabinet at a special meeting on 24 January.

Mr Houchen has said the plan for public ownership will be fully-funded through the money devolved to the Tees Valley from central government.