ANOTHER Labour council leader has confirmed his intention to support a mayor's ambitious plan to buy one of the region's airports.

Darlington Borough Council's Stephen Harker has joined his fellow Labour council leader from Hartlepool, Cllr Christopher Akers-Belcher, in publicly supporting the £40m scheme.

Earlier this week, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen faced a series of meetings where his plan was scrutinised by councillors from across the region.

The Tory Mayor faces a crunch vote next week and needs the support of all five Labour Council leaders, who make up the Tees Valley Combined Authority, to approve his investment strategy for the region.

Revealing his support for the Mayor, Cllr Harker said: "When the Mayor first put forward his sketchy outline to buy the airport a couple of months ago, I was asked for my views.

“I said, quite categorically, at the time, that I would love to see a successful local airport. But, at that time the Mayor gave no further details – no details of how much public money was to be spent, no business case, no details of risk – so I couldn’t say whether the plan could be supported. This is public money – it is only right and proper that I have sight of the full facts before making a decision.

“Over several weeks I, along with the other Tees Valley Leaders, have been asking the Mayor for documentation that details the plan. Only in the past week has sufficient documentation finally been released.

“I am now clearer about what’s being proposed, what it is likely to cost, what risks there are, and crucially what’s intended with regards to actual flights.

“I am satisfied that the economic case for purchasing the airport is worth the level of investment and risk. Everyone does need to know that this is still not without risk, and that further investment will certainly be needed for years to come. While the airport can bring economic and employment benefits, and hopefully greater options for leisure, the airport itself will still need financial support.

“Various long term scenarios are highlighted in the Mayor’s plan for the airport. Naturally, I hope the more ambitious of those come about. But nothing is guaranteed.

“So yes, I will be supporting the airport proposals. There is risk, but on balance the potential benefits outweigh those risks. Let’s wish the airport success.

“Finally, let’s not forget at next week’s Cabinet the airport is only one part Investment Plan that is discussed. There are many more schemes being proposed – supporting better transport across the Tess Valley, supporting new businesses, investing in education and training to name a few. It would be good to talk about those too – but perhaps another day.”