TEES Valley Mayor Ben Houchen today reveals ambitious plans to boost passenger numbers at Durham Tees Valley Airport to 1.4m within ten years as he unveils his turnaround plan ahead of a key vote.

One of the Conservative Mayor’s election pledges was to bring the airport back into public ownership, and he announced last year he had secured a deal to buy it for £40m.

The whole Tees Valley Investment Plan - which includes the £40m plus on the airport and the redevelopment of the former steelworks site at Redcar - goes before the five Tees council leaders next week.

The Northern Echo:

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen announced plans to take Durham Tees Valley Airport from this to 1.4 million passengers a year. Picture: Sarah Caldecott

If Labour leaders vote against it on the basis of the airport plans it leaves the whole plan, including Redcar, in doubt.

And Mr Houchen said he was ‘100 per cent certain’ that the airport would close with the loss of over 1,000 jobs if his plan was not approved this month.

Peel Airports said last week that it could not guarantee the future of the current Durham Tees Valley Airport after 2021 as it is losing about £2m a year.

The Mayor today publishes his business case and ten-year turnaround plan for the site.

Low-cost carriers such as Easyjet and Flybe will be targeted in a bid to secure 1.4m passengers and return the airport to profit.

And the Mayor said if fully developed, the airport could add £421m a year to the local economy and support the creation of 7,682 jobs by 2027.

The Northern Echo:

The arrivals board at Durham Tees Valley Airport on the same day Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen announced plans to boost passenger numbers to 1.4 million

He has also confirmed that plans for 350 homes will be stopped, the hated £6 passenger tax will be scrapped, the airport name would change back to Teesside International, and hundreds of acres would be developed as commercial space.

The ambitious plan is to:

  • Buy the airport by the end of March 2019;
  • Recruit a commercial operator by March 2019;
  • Attract a low-cost carrier by 2022;
  • Attract ten additional routes by 2022, 50 per cent chartered and 50 per cent scheduled;
  • See a tenfold increase in passenger numbers by 2022, of which 25 per cent are business passengers;
  • Bring in £421m extra into the Tees Valley economy and create 7,682 jobs by 2027;
  • Increase freight tonnage by up to 500 tonnes each year by 2023;
  • Encourage Tees Valley residents to take up to the national average of 3.41 flights each year.

Mr Houchen said: “Throughout this entire process, I am yet to see a single valid reason why our airport cannot be a success.

“We have one of the longest runways in the country, a catchment area bigger than Newcastle and Leeds Bradford, we’re right next to the A66 and the A1, and we have a local population sick to death of travelling elsewhere when we have a perfectly good airport right on our doorstep.

“With this plan, we will stop our airport from closing in 2021. With our new operator, with their experience and relationships with major airlines, we will land a low-cost carrier, hit £1.4m passengers in the next ten years, and generate potentially thousands of jobs for local people.

“Public ownership is the only way to stop our airport from closing in 2021. There is no other option and no other deal on the table.”

He said if the deal was rejected next week then Tees Valley would be the only major urban area in the UK without an international airport.

“We are not the poor relation of Newcastle and Manchester, and we deserve to have our own international airport,” he added.

The plan is to fund public ownership through the money devolved to the Tees Vallley from central government, which Mr Houchen said meant there would be ‘zero impact’ on council tax bills, local authority budgets and businesses.

The ‘real jobs and growth’ would come from the acquisition of 819 acres of land around the airport and development of it as commercial space, he said.

The airport’s passenger numbers have dropped from 900,000 in 2006 to just 131,000 in 2017, a decline of 85 per cent when Newcastle and Leeds Bradford have seen growth of one per cent and six per cent respectively.

Mr Houchen said the airport was at imminent risk of closure, meaning the loss of about 712 direct and indirect jobs.

Current owner Peel agreed to sell the airport in December on the proviso that agreement was reached by the Tees Valley Combined Authority’s Cabinet on January 31.

If the deal is not approved this month, it is feared Peel will press ahead with plans to develop the site for non aviation purposes.

Planning permission for 350 homes will also lapse in early February, meaning it will have to be renewed and go ahead, with Miller Homes ready to move on to the site.

In the worst-case scenario, if the plan is approved and the airport ultimately fails, the Mayor said there would still be 819 acres of land there for commercial development, and if there was a decision to develop the site to recoup the initial investment the beneficiaries would be Tees Valley and not a private landowner.